December 26, 2005

Packin' Heat in the Bible Belt

It's nice to know that the homogenizing effects of modernity haven't quite reached every nook & hollow of the good ol' U.S. of A.. This was recently confirmed by my brother's experiences with his in-laws, who live on the other side of civilization in Tennessee not far from the Kentucky border in a town with a population in the hundreds. As my sister-in-law says, "you have to want to get there".

I was jealous of his visit because of the trip log it would've sparked but his offer to trade places fell, I thought anyway, way too discordantly on my sister-in-law's ears.

To give you an example of the culture shock, one of our family Christmas parties this year will be held at a local racetrack where drinking and gambling will ensue -- two absolute no-no's in my sister-in-law's hamlet in the bible belt. But my brother's experience of being a fish out of water story swam much deeper than that...

The roomfull of factory workers weren't watching football. On Thanksgiving. This was his first clue that he wasn't in Kansas anymore. The next was when they began pulling out weaponry and passing it along in a quaint version of show 'n tell. One guy thoughtfully unloaded the bullets which made my sister-in-law nervous in the re-telling: she said she'd never again allow him to hold her infant with a loaded weapon in his pocket. Later one of them went and got his banjo and played really well. Scenes from "Deliverance" flashed through my head.

They regaled tales of giving knives to near infants. "Yeah I gave my nephew a switchblade when he was three." Something like that. They talked of the fine points (pun intended of course) of knives. Uncle Ernie shoots bumblebees. And it turns out some of them were inveterate preachers who had contests that sounded like the rap battle - they would make up endless prayers on the spot and whoever held on the longest without stumbling for words won. My sister-in-law said it made her ears hurt.

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