Thursday, March 10, 2011

You Can't Get There From Here

What a lot of Non-Suthunaz don't understand about living in the South is that the South is not a place, it's a state of mind. It's storied and secreted and it's history and it's now. Yeah, it's complicated.

The South (with the requisite capital 'S') has a history like none other in the US. History plays a big part in living here. You can't go into a conversation without knowing what came before. Confused? So was I when I first got here.

You see, knowing the history of a place means you're part of it and it's a part of you. You're part of the fabric which creates our beloved South. Now I'm sure there are a lot of you NON Suthunaz who believe that by living in your area means you are a part of it and it a part of you in the same manner. And, for the most part, I expect that's true. But the Suthunah takes it much further by making that history a part of everything they do and every thing they say. And they know how to cull out the Non-Suthunaz from the herd quite quickly.

Most notably, giving directions. Non-Suthunaz come along and ask directions. Directions from the locals can get a history lesson thrown in for free.

"Well, you first go down this road a fur piece and take the left right there where old man Jackson had that double sized Barn. The barn burned down in 83, but you can see the burned out logs there on what used to be the foundation. That foundation was laid by the entire town, and has rocks from as far away as Mills Holler. But when you turn, you be sure to stay to the left, cuz you'll head for the crick in a quick way..."

History. It's being a part of the very landscape which makes living here get into your skin. I've found myself asking people if they know a certain landmark before I begin directions. "You know that place, 'McHenry's,' where they had that double murder a few years back?" Yeah, I can't believe I asked that either. These lines that Suthunaz use are a way of basically asking a total stranger, "You from 'round heah?" and "How long you been livin' heah?" all in one innocuous question. To which the response is usually "Well, gee, I just moved in here a few months ago..." thus answering both of the unasked questions. Suthunaz are masters at this.

Me? I'm just learning, after only 20 years.

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