“This seems like such a nice town. So rustic and quiet.”
I’ve heard this a lot. We moved into town about ten years ago because it did seem like a nice place to raise kids. Was quiet, and you couldn’t beat the cost of living. I really can’t complain about it, the kids seemed to have adapted well. No one really bothers us much. So what’s the problem?
You hear about “Southern Hospitality” all the time when you live “up north”. How people are just as friendly as friendly could be. You see it on TV or at the movies, read about it in books. Maybe that is the problem, the expectations that us “Yankees” have of living in the South. I remember when I was a kid and my parents brought me and my little sister to Palmersville, TN to visit my Dad’s relatives. I guess that was the South that I thought about. Living in a big old farm-house, not much indoor plumbing. When I asked my Dad where I would go to the bathroom, he told me out back behind the shed. There was a Folgers can hanging on the tree with a roll of toilet paper in it, just make sure to let Aunt Maydell know if we needed to put another roll out.
I remember getting to Uncle Mitchell and Aunt Maydell’s house in the morning and she had prepared an absolute feast for us. She told my Dad that they had just slaughtered a pig so all the bacon and sausage was really fresh. There was fried chicken and potatoes, grits, eggs, biscuits…..and that was just breakfast. Uncle Mitchell taught us how to milk a cow and let us feed the chickens, but not the pigs because they were just too mean and he had to take care of that himself. There was a big old red barn down a dirt path in front of fields that went on forever. There was a pond next to the farm where we could go fishing if we wanted, I remember seeing the lily pads floating on the pond and hearing the frogs croaking. Other than the indoor plumbing thing, this seemed like a great place to live.
We went around town to visit all of Dad’s relatives, and I am pretty sure that everyone in that town was related. Everywhere we went we were greeted and “fussed over”, I remember my sister and I would usually sit on the front porch after all the introductions were done and the grown-ups started talking. It seemed that every house had at least 5 dogs hanging around and we would sit and play with them. After a while some of them looked real familiar, like they had followed us from one house to another just to play fetch or get their bellies rubbed. That was my perception of the South, and it was a good one.
Then we moved down South from our home near Chicago, but it wasn’t to Palmersville. It was to Memphis. With all due respect to the good people who live in Memphis, and there are a lot of them, this is not a place where you would want to define hospitality of any kind. It is an old city and there are parts that are nice. Love the zoo, have enjoyed concerts down on the river front (Mississippi River). Been to Graceland once, just to say that we went there. Have no plans of returning. If people visit Memphis expecting a bunch of smiles and friendly “Hello’s”, they will be sorely disappointed. You will get some, because like I said, there are some good people here, just like everywhere else. The problem here is that they are outnumbered by people who just do not have respect for anything or anyone.
We lived in Memphis for a little while and moved down to Mississippi to get away from it. We did not feel safe there, our kids were not safe there. And it has gotten worse since we moved out of the city. Watch the news or Google Memphis and there is a good chance you will see a report about gangs of young people just walking around the city terrorizing people, and when they interviewed some of these kids, their reason for doing it was that it “was fun”. Why should they work somewhere to make $300 in a week, when they can make $300 in one night stealing and beating up innocent people? They have no fear of going to jail because they are all minors and the court system can’t touch them, or won’t touch them. Going to jail doesn’t faze them because they’ll get fed 3 meals a day and hang out with a bunch of people that they already know, just to be let out to do it all over again.
This is the mentality that seems to be growing here, and spreading into towns surrounding the city. Corrupt politicians seem to be the norm, so nothing ever gets done. Racial tensions are extremely high in this part of the country to where it feels like it is an Us vs Them no matter what you are talking about, and it goes both ways. I have managed hundreds of people at work since I moved down here, and on more than one occasion I have been told, when I asked someone about their performance, that if “they got paid more, THEN they would work harder.” I was brought up thinking that if one worked harder, then they might get paid more. I’ve had people absolutely beg me for a job, sometimes in tears because they were about to get kicked out of their apartment or the light bill was going to be turned off, only to work a couple of hours and just leave because the work was too hard, or that the hours didn’t fit their schedule, or they didn’t like following the rules that we had in place so they would quit. More often than not they would head straight to the unemployment office to try to collect unemployment and sometimes would get it, which just absolutely blew my mind.
Sorry for the rant, guess the daily prompt struck a chord with me this morning. The weather is great here and it really is true that Home is where the heart is. It is not a place, it is a feeling inside. My heart is with my family and wherever we are is going to be home. I am sure that I could write another blog post going on about how nice things are here in Mississippi, but that will be for another day. So to answer the question posed to us this morning, “What would be the strangest thing about this place for a first-time visitor?” I guess my answer would be that if you are coming here from “Up North”, then this place will not be what you expected when you think of Southern Hospitality.