“She sure is pretty. A fella that gets her is gonna have to do some prancing. He can’t sit around and look glum all the time.” ~ Judge Priest
Old Dixie isn’t strictly the antebellum period.
It refers to a time when Southern culture was the controlling force in the region. It refers to the infrastructure, the establishments, and the social propriety of a time now forgotten by all but the oldest of us. For my generation, we know it only through stories and a few customs that survived, though the stories are almost forgotten and the mores, well they’re a’ change in’.
I’ll give a sad example of how the mores are changing:
It’s not uncommon for blue collar Southern women to claim the title “Southern Belle” while at the same time, spitting, carousing, and using the worst sort of profanity. Cries of “We’re country ya’ll” are heard drawling across Dixie’s nightlife where decades ago similar voices were the pride of their fathers and the jewels of dinner parties. These “belles” have replaced Mary Chesnut with Gretchen Wilson!
I’m picking on the ladies, but it’s just as bad with the men. Their martial virtues are applauded in Dixie on two occasions only: when they’re applied in defense of democracy and Yankee propaganda, or when they’re displayed by Southern women. The new Southern gent is in touch with his feminine side, is submissive (and teaches others to be), and laughs off his domineering wife with a shrug and a “whaddaya gunna do?”
Needless to say, the south has been terraformed.
There are a lot of us who resist the ongoing pillage though. I don’t know how others do it, but I keep from getting discouraged by daydreaming about old Dixie. These daydreams were key to my survival of a negro-dominated elementary school and provided further encouragement later in life, as I traveled the world.
They helped because I always believed that somewhere, maybe through a patch of old woods or around a country bend, I’d find old Dixie again. Maybe I’d find a leftover fragment of civilization where people still live as they did in my daydreams?
Somewhere, there’s a white kid in overalls with a red scarf in his back pocket, balancing himself on a railroad track as he and his dog amble down to the pond to go fishing. Somewhere, there’s a diner filled with Southern patrons, chatting about the weather and that crazy rooster that got loose in town. Somewhere, there’s a tractor pulling a trailer full of hay, with white boys walking tall and working hard, all young and ready to assemble against any threat to their community.
Until I find that place, I try to content myself with movies and books, the most recent of which was a movie called “Judge Priest” starring Will Rogers and directed by John Ford.
I can’t say how good it was without sounding pretentious, but if anyone’s reading this post and loves the old South and feels the need to reconnect, I can’t recommend it enough. To the modern Southern gent, it’ll be repulsive; the modern southern “belle” will scoff and ridicule it.
…I loved every minute.