Andy, Opie Aunt Bee

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2005

What is it like to live in the South? One quick thought comes to mind – life is as slow as molasses in the winter.

Yes, we are the brunt of various jokes as repeated by our fellow U.S. citizens to the north, mid-west and out on the &uot;other&uot; coast. But are those jokes simply a way to say that they are envious of our take-it-easy, neighbor-helping-neighbor lifestyle?

Yep, we talk a bit slower down here in old Dixie. Yes, we are a bit more methodical in our movements, but where else can you find friendlier folks that will share their last morsel of food or give the very shirt off their back to a total stranger?

How about earlier this year when an out-of-state woman was traveling through the Roanoke-Chowan area. She stopped at Wendy’s in Ahoskie for a bite to eat. After finishing her meal, she continued along her journey, only to later discover she had inadvertently left her pocketbook beside her table at the fast food restaurant.

Not to worry. When she returned a few days later to retrieve what she most assuredly thought would be an empty pocketbook, she was surprised to learn nothing had been touched. All her cash and credit cards remained. Would that same happy ending be found in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles? Don’t bet the farm on it.

There are plenty of other stories similar to that one – stranded out-of-state motorists befriended by local residents or auto supply stores opening their doors after hours for a part that will send a total stranger along his or her merry way.

It’s just our nature to be caring and friendly. We were taught those good-natured characteristics by the time we were able to take our first steps.

Yes, life in the South is a lot like Andy, Opie and Aunt Bee.

It’s sitting on the front porch on a lazy weekend and saying &uot;howdy&uot; to your neighbors as they stroll by – much unlike the big metropolitan areas where no one takes the time to even get to know their neighbors.

Life in the South is a tall, cold glass of homemade lemonade on a sweltering summer day.

Here, barbecue is a noun, not a verb. We do not &uot;barbeque&uot; steaks on a grill, rather we fire-up a grill, complete with red-hot embers, and slowly roast a whole hog ’til the meat nearly falls off the bone. Then we smother it in our secret sauce, chop it ’til it’s fine and chow down with seasoned ‘taters, cole slaw and golden-fried hushpuppies as the only side dishes. We wash it down with tea so sweet that it makes a candy bar blush. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a nice, big bowl of ‘nanna pudding for dessert.

The South means a piping hot, made-from-scratch biscuit, one perfectly kneaded by the gentle knuckles of a true southern lady dressed in a well-worn apron. If you’re real lucky, there’ll be a small Mason jar full of lip-smacking homemade jelly (or &uot;preserves&uot; as some folks like to call them) to spread on that biscuit.

Down here below the Mason-Dixon Line, we love to &uot;wet a line&uot; – better known as fishing to our fellow Americans. A perfect day would be one inside a Carolina boat, lazily drifting along a creek in search of a scaled creature that becomes a meal fit for a king when fried just right. If the fish are as lazy as we feel while dropping a line and refuse to cooperate by biting our hook, then that’s okay….we’ll just join ’em by taking a refreshing dip in the place they call home.

‘Rasslin and racing are our favorite sports. We get goose bumps at the mention of the two &uot;R’s&uot; – Ric (Flair) and Richard (Petty).

There are three seasons in the South – the college football season, spring practice and high school recruiting.

Life in the South means kids, eyes as big and bright as silver dollars, scurrying after fireflies just after sunset. A jar full of these interesting little creatures becomes a prized possession of their owner.

Southern living is grits, bacon and eggs for breakfast, an ice-cold Pepsi complete with a pack of nabs and a honey bun for lunch and country-fried steak, mashed ‘taters and corn-on-the-cob for supper.

Our idea of a snack is a &uot;short bottle&uot; Coke and a small bag of salted peanuts – all mixed together.

Yes, life in the South encompasses all these things and much, much more. It’s a place where you’ll never meet a stranger and never be alone. We’re a friendly sort of people, raised to say &uot;no sir&uot; and &uot;yes mam.&uot; We hold the door open for all women and are highly trained in the words – &uot;please&uot; and &uot;thank-you.&uot;

And when you hear us say – &uot;Ya’ll come back now, you hear&uot; – we really mean it.