I know rednecks. I should. I am one generation removed from hillbillies. Around these parts people who are one generation removed must go through the redneck phase – and sometimes that phase lasts a couple of generations. I am known as a half-breed because I obtained a formal university education. Even my redneck friends will note the arrogant pride of the over use of the pronoun ‘I’. I. I. I. So what exactly is a redneck?
Jeff Foxworthy made a fortune by simply observing his friends and neighbors. People around here laugh at Foxworthy’s jokes because each of the jokes tells a simple truth about one of our neighbors. Rednecks seldom take these jokes personally. When we go to family reunions looking for girls we make sure they are at least second cousins – we do have our social boundaries. We know that Foxworthy is just kidding.
But what is a redneck? Rednecks generally shun boring formal education – they don’t see much use for understanding why a one legged sailor would want to chase a big white whale. But if asked, just about every redneck could produce something from their shed that could be used to harness the whale if caught.
See, it is like this, Foxworthy makes fun of someone mowing the lawn and finding an old car, resting on concrete blocks rather than wheels. But us rednecks know that there is some part of that old car that we will one day have use for. The back seat might one day make a very nice bench for hot summer nights on our front porch.
That old washer and dryer out by the shed have some good electrical switches and motors. Even the frame of the appliances are seen as perfectly good sheet metal. Who knows, we might need to repair the rusted floor board of our truck one day. The sheet metal from an old washing machine works perfectly.
We have to understand that Rednecks have very low comfort levels. Rednecks don’t require separate bedrooms for everyone. The kitchen table is preferred to a formal dining room. People don’t have to spend money for a new barbecue grill at Walmart – A few good concrete blocks from the old storm shelter with a few re-bars, enclosed in the well formed dryer sheet metal and we have a perfect outdoor grill. We generally boil a raccoon for a couple of hours before we roast it on the grill.
I remember about twenty-five years ago when the Space Shuttle was sent up to retrieve a satellite that needed repairs. The astronauts had about a two hour struggle getting the ten million dollar docking mechanism to hook up with the satellite. One of my redneck friends said, “They could tie a ten dollar rope around that thing and haul it in.” That is how people around here think – look for the simple solution first – anyone can have an expensive idea.
Life is not about what you have – it is about what you do with what you have. I had a fender bender with my truck last summer. Three thousand dollars at the body shop. The truck is only worth two thousand dollars. The formally educated insurance agent would ‘total’ the truck and send it to the truck dump. So I took the truck to my Redneck son-in-law. “You think we can make this work?”
I marveled at his ingenuity. He opened the hood and studied the situation. A strong grip from powerful arms tested the structural integrity of the fenders, radiator, bumper, hood, and anything else that might have been damaged. In less than half an hour two more folks showed up and readily began their own integrity testing. The garage produced a couple of various sized pry bars, some channel lock pliers, a regular hammer, and a rubber mallet. Crumpled fenders were ignored – these three men were fascinated with the engineering problem of returning the truck to the road as a safe and dependable vehicle. And they did. Total cost – two hours of marvelous engineering and some hearty laughs. (I did have to purchase a light bulb for the headlight).
The photograph at the top represents the difference between a real redneck and a redneck with a formal education. A redneck would say the tree has crooked timber – I call it tree sculpting. It seems that the difference between rednecks and real engineers is defined by whether one applies for a patent or not. If you give your creation a fancy name and sell it on the shopping network then you are an inventor. If you just use your invention for yourself and your family – you are a redneck. You can see at the right that my truck is thief proof. But we did not apply for a patent.
The flag pole lawn mower is a great example of redneck inventiveness. The neighbors were jealous because they did not think of this first. The idea is clearly entertaining, if not very practical. But practical is not always the objective. A good redneck just wants to see if his idea works. He is not interested in patents and money. He is very interested in ideas and experiments. He is interested in making do with what he has – rather than whining around about what he does not have.
There are generally many children in redneck families – perhaps the results of experiments gone wrong. But do not despair. Having many children just creates more opportunities to find better ways of managing life problems. Check out this hot dog roaster. All of the children can be fed with no rivalries about who goes first.
So here it is: You might be a redneck if you have little use for material wealth, you find value in old things, you enjoy inventing new gadgets, you welcome others to participate in brainstorming mechanical problems, you love your family and your country, you don’t judge others for what they either have or have not, and everyone is welcome at the hot dog roast.