Grateful to be a Son of the Rural South

Nov. 24, 2012 @ 10:29 PM


My lifetime friend, David Motsinger, and I were having breakfast at Hardee’s. I find Hardee’s has as good a gravy biscuit as one can get anywhere and I appreciate the fifty cent senior coffee. We were about to leave when a gentleman a little older than me approached us. He began the conversation with what a nice day it was and, within a minute, I realized he just wanted to talk to us for the sake of talking. After exchanging pleasantries, Horace Conner told us he just liked to talk to people. It just so happens, I have the same hobby.
Horace told us he was originally from Kinston and that he moved to Mississippi and he’d sold Lance crackers for a living. This piqued my interest. I am an aficionado of Lance crackers, more commonly called Nabs here in the greater Ledford area. Horace informed us that he was in the top 100 Lance cracker salesmen for his entire career and that his route around Lexington was one of the most productive in the state. Now that Horace is retired, seven sales people cover the same area he covered by himself.
We discussed our favorite Lance flavors and I found Horace and I shared the same favorite cracker, the Toast-chee. I learned that the Toast-chee is the number one seller and that another of my favorites, the Toasty, is number three. At some point, I asked Horace how old he was. “Eighty seven,” he replied and I could tell he was proud of his age.
“You look really good for 87,” I said.
“Well, I take care of myself, I’ve cut down to three or four packs a day, and really, I just can’t eat as many crackers as I used to, anyway,” he laughed. Horace was an example of a Southern gentleman. He was polite. He was friendly. He was generous. Horace was a Lance Cracker man for life. As we parted ways, he shook my hand and handed me a pack of Toast-chees. “You might get hungry, later.”
This is Thanksgiving week and I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what makes me thankful. My granddaughter, Mia, and I went to McDonald’s for breakfast Thanksgiving Day and on the way home, we discussed our blessings. We decided we had so many things to be thankful for that it would take all day to list them. I think most of us come in this category, though we don’t often consider the fact. When the conversation fell silent for a few minutes, something that doesn’t happen often with Mia, I thought about one of the things I’m most thankful for. I love how Southern folks are willing, and many times, eager to talk to strangers.
In my life, I’ve traveled a lot and something I’ve noticed is that the more people are around a place, the less they want to talk. I’ve been in foreign countries, I’ve been in almost every state, and I’ve spent time in Los Angeles and New York City. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings if they’re from one of those places but I’d just as soon live in Hell with a broke back as to live in New York City or Los Angeles. People in big cities don’t like to talk to strangers. I don’t know why, it’s not like they don’t have time to talk to strangers while waiting in line or riding the subway. It’s like they’re afraid of each other or maybe just don’t trust each other. It seems the social aspect of urban humanity has regressed to distrust of their fellow man.
On the other hand if I had to ride a subway to Wallburg every day to work, I’d be talking to everybody and everybody would be talking to me. I love Alabama. I don’t think the most urban Alabama native would be reluctant to talk. Go into a McDonald’s in Tuscumbia to order a Quarter Pounder and by the time you get your burger, the lady behind the counter will know your kid’s names and you’ll know about how much her grandmother liked crappie fishing. Rural folk in the North, Midwest, and West are friendly but Southern folk just seem to have a talent for hospitality and conversation with strangers. This thrills me. It is an exchange of humanity. Social behavior is what society is; one word comes from the other.
There are those who think large urban areas like Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles are the paramount example of human evolution. Personally, I disagree; I like the more socially developed folks of Tuscumbia better. Long live the Gentle South.
Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several NC newspapers as well as national magazines and websites.  He just finished his first book, Off the Porch and he can be reached at