Growing up Southern

Patricia Bradley Strictly Southern 14 Comments

photo (9)It’s been my belief all my life that growing up Southern is different from growing up anywhere else in the world. Then I got to wondering if that was true. So, I thought I’d mention a few Southern activities from my youth and see if people in the other parts did something similar.

Like catfish grabbling. You have to go to the river and look for an old log, or a rock ledge under the water where catfish can hole up. Often people grabble in the spring when catfish spawn. The female lays the egg and the male hangs around to keep the eggs aerated and to protect them from predators. But I’ve known people who grabble all year…although I don’t understand why anyone would want to wade out in the river in December or January and stick their hand under the water and feel around for a 50 pound catfish. Now, this isn’t anything I’ve ever done, but I’ve known a few people who loved to do this. I admire their courage, but question their sanity. And that’s okay in the South.

Another game we played was hunting for snipe. It was played around midnight, usually by kids at camp. Several older kids would get up a snipe hunt and reluctantly agree to take along some of the younger ones. The younger ones were given a bag (usually a tow sack) and a stick and led out into the woods where they were instructed to beat the ground and whistle for the snipe and they would run into the bag. While the younger kids were beating the ground and whistling or calling the snipe, the older kids would disappear, leaving the others to find their way back to camp.  Yeah, I know. That was just plain mean.

Of course there is also food of the South. If you order Iced Tea (and yes it’s capitalized) in the South, it will come sweetened. You have to ask for unsweet tea and endure the raised eyebrow of your waitress. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is. Then there are grits. There is no such thing as a grit–it’s grits and always swimming in butter. It is a corn product and was not a staple of my diet until I was grown. My mother hated grits and therefore we never tasted the delicacy until after we left home. I don’t know why my mother hated grits. She just did.

I don’t know what you call soft drinks where you live, but in the South any soft drink is a Coke initially…as in, “Y’all want a Coke?” “Yeah, gimme a Dr. Pepper.”

And the language. I will save the language for another blog post, but there is one word that seems to really bother the Yankees who move south. Directly. I’m not sure what that word means to you, but to me, it means something will happen later, as in “I’ll get to cleaning the barn stalls directly, maybe tomorrow.” I really don’t understand why there should be any confusion about the meaning of the word directly.

So, that’s my first post on Strictly Southern. Are these things I’ve described strictly Southern or am I just a little delusional? Leave a comment with things peculiar to your region of the world.


Comments 14

  1. Michelle Lim

    Pat, I absolutely love this! So fun to learn about the south, being from Minnessota and all. Crazy though it is there are some in Minnesota who jump in the lake in the winter…like February. Some also eat lutefisk. Blech. We have lumberjack days with contests for sawing down trees, balancing on a log in water, etc. Catfish days, Wild Rice Days, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Days, Spam Fest, Corn Fest, and so many others.

    What a fun post, Pat! Thanks for giving me a slice of the south.

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  2. Delores Topliff

    Great idea and post. Why, this is as sweet as a slice of pecan pie, and I hope you’ll write about decadent unforgettable Southern desserts soon.
    Thanks for your unique genuine been-there spin on this. It makes me want to come visit! As a Pacific Northwesterner, and also a Canadian by marriage, we have some pretty unique spins on things, too. I’ll be giving some fun thought to those . . .

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      Patricia Bradley

      Yes, Dee, I’ll talk about pies made with sugar, butter, kayro syrup and pecans, with pecan being pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable and the 2nd syllable rhyming with don and not can. 🙂

  3. Michelle Weidenbenner

    Hi Pat – This is exactly why I wouldn’t write a novel with the setting in the south. I had no idea about any of these things. Directly. None. Thanks for sharing. I love seeing the differences between regions. Did you play Kick the Can as a kid? Do you roast marshmallows down there? Certainly that’s universal, isn’t it? Smores?

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  4. Cheryl Meints

    Also known as catfish noodling, this insane manner of fishing is practiced as well in the Midwest. Gee, there are a number of Nebraska family members who would just love to share their experiences. However, an ancestor met his demise when his hand was caught in the hole and the water whirled around him.

    Now about that Iced Tea! McDonald’s sweet tea pleases many a palate from around the country, but I would probably agree southern sweet tea the best.

    Save your grits, but bring on the sauerkraut. On that note, I’m headed over directly to experience your Southern Hospitality, hoping to imbibe in one of those glasses of unsweetened Iced Tea.

  5. Elaine Stock

    Great insight to southern living, Pat. I couldn’t have imagined! My childhood–growing up in Brooklyn–centered around playing in parks, backyards, or closed-to-traffic streets during “Block Parties.” We kids were creative out of necessity!

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  7. Johnnie Alexander Donley

    Pat, I love your post. I was a victim of a snipe hunt as a kid but I’ve never gone catfish grabbing. And Coke is pop where I come from (Ohio). Here’s something I find really cool–though Florida is south of Tennessee, Memphis is definitely way more southern than Orlando!

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  8. Renee O.

    Sweet Tea was the only way to drink it growing up here in NC, sweet as syrup. Carolina BBQ is another regional thing…nobody makes pulled pork bbq like the eastern part of North Carolina. It’s vinegar based, rather than red sauce. The red sauce, preferably brown, actually, was in a bottle on the table to add afterward. YUM. Another food I figured was only from down South is fried pork skins. Bojangles is a Southern restaurant. I don’t think they have Bojangles outside of Dixie. Here’s another one: salting your slices of watermelon and cantaloupe.

    How about catching lightning bugs (fireflies) in mason jars? Is that only a Southern thing? Or maybe just an Eastern thing?

    Also, I’ve heard folks say that women wearing long fingernails is only common down here. Is that true? My granny always had long nails.

    1. Patricia Bradley

      I’ve never had Carolina BBQ, but will have to try it when I come to Greensboro in September. Not sure about the fried pork skins and Bojangles, either. I do know catching lightning bugs happens up North. And not sure about the long nails…of course, that wouldn’t apply to my stubby nails. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Renee.

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