I grew up and spent most of my adult life (not all, I haven't lived it all yet) in Massachusetts. Having lived around the country I can attest that it's the most uptight, democratic, life controlling state I've ever lived in. If it can be legally regulated they do. Imagine living under Mario Cuomo...forever. It's one of the few states the Blue Laws are still clung to with an unbelievable tenacity. The only state I'm aware of with tougher emissions laws is California (not saying I disagree, but it makes owning an older classic difficult). Owning a gun? You'd best be on the nomination list for sainthood if you think of applying for a concealed carry permit. Buy alcohol on a Sunday? HAHAHAHA...
The more I think about it, though, the more I realize that, though we had "MA" after Nantucket on all our mail we were not really part of the state. We were...different.
It took me until this morning to realize that we were...rednecks...probably the only redneck enclave in the state.
So, stuck in traffic on I-85 South this morning, I finally understood what being a redneck truly meant. I understood, also, what rednecks aren't.
Rednecks aren't the backwards, wellfare collecting, baby breeding trailer dwellers we see in movies and "reality television".
Rednecks aren't the beer swilling, road sign shooting, moonshine making hillbillies we hear jokes about.
Rednecks aren't the tobacco chewing/spitting, beer belly showing, beard-to-the-knees yahoos portrayed in movies and, yes, reality television.
Rednecks are not racist, do not hate anyone who, like them, tries to contribute to their community in a positive way.
So that leaves us with the question...What defines a true redneck?
When I lived up North I had nothing for a real comparison. Living here just outside of Atlanta or, as it's referred to here as "The ATL", can be misleading. One does not find rednecks a short distance from where Reese Witherspoon gets herself arrested. Now, before we moved here for work we lived in a small town at the foot of the mountains. Clayton, Georgia is your typical little North Georgia town so the comparison is just perfect.
The similarities to my home and birth place were uncanny.
Weeks after settling in Sarah and I found out which of the local volunteer fire districts we were in and went to sign up. She was taken on as a probationary member. When I had my records faxed down from Massachusetts Josh, the Chief of Station Two, read through it quickly and took me on so quick he didn't have time to blink. Now, small towns don't usually warm quick to strangers, especially an uppity Yankee. We never saw a moment of that. The handshakes were firm and welcoming. The words were open. The questions were honest. The replies to our questions candid. We had stumbled upon a nest of...good people...
...and we could not have felt more at home from minute one.
Over the next weeks I slid in to the roll of unofficial co-training officer. Sarah took to her training with gusto and listened closely to anyone willing to teach her anything. Being a gorgeous woman she drew attention but never in a rude way, always respectful. Often when I show up to sign up at a volunteer station, like happened to me in North Carolina, I ran in to that single curse that hurts many small departments...nepotism. Josh never showed a sign of it. He saw I was there simply because I loved the job and wanted to make a difference. I was never treated like The New Guy and was working calls from day one.
As we got to know the men I started seeing how much like the people from home up North these folks were. At every meeting and drill I felt more and more like I was home. I still can't believe it took me until today see it! These people were my people! Sitting in I-85 traffic I was not only now able to define redneck but learned I had grown up with them and as one. So...what is a redneck?
True Rednecks believe in God and understand that every day you wake up and have the chance to earn your way in this world is a gift from Him.
True Rednecks understand that there is no entitlement, that no one has the right to expect lifes necessities to be handed to them.
True Rednecks not only believe in hard work but take pride in it.
True Rednecks respect any man or woman regardless or race, religion, or nationality who earns their way in the world.
True Rednecks are not afraid to stand up for their country and beliefs.
True Rednecks have an intelligence there is no college degree for but is far more useful than just about anything that comes along with those four or more years and the piece of parchment.
(The next two are most important, will explain below)
True Rednecks are self sufficient and can farm, hunt, fish, build, heat, cool and survive without things those City Slickers take for granted.
True Rednecks make sure theirs is taken care of then will always reach out and do for those that can't. Elderly. Disabled. People with young children.
Imagine my shock when I compared them with the people I grew up with and learned that I had been born in to and served the only Redneck community in all of Massachusetts!
AND I COULD NOT BE MORE PROUD OF IT!
I was born on Nantucket Island and, though I took time away when it was needed (for work and education) I always returned to serve. Living on an island thirty miles out to sea learning to be self sufficient was not an option. The cost of living was so outrageous if you didn't learn to do you learned to live without. I recall many a winter when the ocean turned to ice from our harbor to Hyannis. Nantucket is reliant on its boat service for everything from toilet paper to milk. When things got bad we could go weeks without a boat. The fish we froze in summer and the deer and rabbit we hunted in winter were out staples. As of the day I left Nantucket had two working farms and many utilized what soil they had to grow, and we canned, pickled, and stored. We kept our old trucks running well, and the owner of the local NAPA often gave locals their parts only pennies above cost. We took care of our own and never turned a back on a neighbor.
They, we, are, were, Rednecks...just as we found in Clayton...
I want to thank the people in Clayton, all of them.
I want Josh and all the men and women of Station Two (the NON-uni-brow station!) for opening their door to us and helping Sarah learn the proper, safe way to do The Job. I want to extend my gratitude for being understood for what I am and being allowed to put that knowledge to work to pass on my fourteen years of learning so that these dedicated individuals who gave so much so that their neighbors could feel safe.
...and I want God to know how thankful I am that I grew up in the one place in Eastern Massachusetts that allowed me to learn to respect others, to take care of others, that encouraged me to pursue my career, to be self sufficient and take care of myself and my wife, and be...