Arkansas, the Un-Natural State?

ARKANSAS
BY
Richard Mason
Arkansas, the “Un-Natural State?”
Yes, I know that sounds like heresy, since we tag every scrap of tourism advertising we send out with just the opposite. Well, which is it? Don’t get me wrong; I think ‘The Natural State’ is an excellent state motto, but I believe we’re missing a great tourism opportunity by not really being the natural state we could be. In order to be a top tourist destination, we must have a “Natural State” mindset, and only a true Natural State mindset will produce a “wow” natural state. To accomplish that we must look at everything differently, and not just ignore our eyesores, and I don’t need to tell you we have plenty of eyesores. Our focus should be: What can be added to improve a vacant lot, building, or roadway and make them look more natural, and of course, attractive. Curb appeal works when you are trying to sell your house, and it works when you are trying to sell your state or your town.
I know we have the Buffalo, (Unless the hog farm kills it), Petite Jean, cypress-lined Champagnolle Creek, and other great, natural sights, but what about the other 95% of Arkansas; the part most folks see when they visit our state? They see acre after acre of blank, ugly parking lots in virtually every town over 5000. Highway right-of-ways that look a lot like those treeless parking lot and downtowns that are as ugly as homemade sin. Yes, it’s sad to say, but that is the first impression most visitors get when they arrive in our state,
Since many of our visitors spend most of their time in our urban areas, having an attractive entrance to our towns, and the having a green, vibrant downtown is of paramount importance. However, almost every town in our state has an entrance problem. It’s the street or avenue that is lined with fast food joints, ugly overhead utility lines, a blizzard of signs, and usually there’s not a sprig of greenery anywhere. Yes, those are easily the ugliest streets in town. It’s North West Avenue in El Dorado, and every town of any size in the state can substitute their town’s ugly street in that sentence. Of course, cities can easily, and for very little money, do something about those eyesore entrance streets. They can tightening up their zoning ordinances and mandate a certain amount of green space, or do something as simple as planting crepe myrtle trees every 20 feet down those streets. Since the city owns the right-of-way, there is nothing to keep a town from doing that. A 500 crepe myrtle trees in every town in Arkansas would have an immediate uptick in beautification, curb appeal, and would cost very little. And while I’m writing about crepe myrtle trees, just remember; they are trees not bushes, so stop chopping them off. Nothing is as ugly as a chopped of crepe myrtle and nothing will kill them faster.
Planting trees in a community is an excellent return on investment for everyone. That’s right, and as a realtor or IRS agent will tell you, the presence or loss of a major tree in your yard can add to or deduct from the value of your home. Cut down a major tree in your front yard, and you will immediately reduce the resale value of your house. If you have a shopping center and ignore your empty parking lot, you can watch as the landscaped shopping center lot across the street draws 20% more shoppers. Don’t scoff; those are facts supported by independent surveys, not my opinion, and the “lipstick on a pig approach” by putting on a new front on a dead mall won’t help.
There are numerous other items a town can add to build on the natural theme, and trails and bike paths are near the top of the list. Yes, I know we have a few trails in our state—a precious few. We are probably down on the lower end of the trails list with Mississippi and Louisiana instead of being at the top with Washington and Vermont. Trails should link a town together as a way to go from place to place, and not a circle that goes nowhere, like El Dorado’s one trail that circles the fairground. Dr. Glasser of the University of Arkansas Design team linked El Dorado’s downtown and North West Avenue and several residential areas of the city with proposed trails, but as you might guess, his recommendation were ignored. Progressive towns such as Seattle have trails linking their downtown with the residential areas of the city resulting in a good percentage of workers walking or biking to work. Trails should always connect with a good network of sidewalks.
Of course, the most important part of any community is its downtown. I believe, a vibrant, beautiful downtown is of paramount importance to any town. On the other hand, if the center of your town is perceived to be a failure, then your whole town is thought of as a failure. In other words “bricks in the street = a dead downtown = Pine Bluff”. I know that little statement will choke some folks, but it’s true, and that’s why not a week goes by without a newspaper article about an Arkansas town trying to revitalize their downtown
Obviously, Arkansas has the potential to become the real Natural State, and not one in name only, and it can happen. But in order for it to be an authentic Natural State, we must use our taxpayer’s money to enhance our quality of life by building trails, sidewalks, and other needed amenities, which in turn will attract the individuals who will create high-paying jobs. That’s how to grow a community. A state has only a certain amount of resources, and if we spend more time and money on useless endeavors, such as junkets to Europe and Asia than we do on projects that improve our quality of life, then our state will continue to bring up the rear in nearly everything. If you think we’re talking about worthless fluff, and that money should be used to build another industrial park, you need to push your reset button, which is set somewhere in the late 1950s to 2017.

Troublemakers

ARKANSAS
BY
Richard Mason
Troublemakers
Yes, I’ve been called a troublemaker, actually a ****troublemaker, and I know that has a bad ring to it, but maybe the folks who called me a troublemaker needed to hear some words of direction from a troublemaker. Of course, I’ve had more than a few comments worse than just “troublemaker”, and you might think I’d hang my head in shame, but if you believe those comments bothered me, you’d be wrong. Yes, I’ll admit it. I am a chronic troublemaker, and at times, my reactions have been a bit above just a troublemaker. But I believe the world is a better place to live because of troublemakers. If we look back at the early history of our great country, you’ll have to admit troublemakers are the ones who gave us our independence, and I sure don’t mind being put in the same category as those troublemakers who signed the Declaration of Independence. Ever since our countries early beginnings troublemakers have forced us to make changes in inequality, bad laws, slavery, gender discrimination, and a list of other positive things too long to list. In 1920, when women finally received the right to vote, it was the troublemaking women who got the job done, and yes, some of those women actually spent time in jail because they were troublemakers.
Yes, it has been the troublemakers in our country who have made it a better place to live, but the works of troublemakers aren’t finished. In our complicated, polluted world of today, we need troublemakers more than ever.
Since I been tagged ‘troublemaker’ more times than I can remember, let me give you some insights into the life of a chronic troublemaker. Yes, I have shouted down some pompous bureaucrats, carried picket signs, and even took a few shoves and punches because I was “troublemaking”. But let’s get right to the point, why was I out there being a troublemaker? The answer is very simple: I believe a troublemaker only makes trouble for people he or she believes are the root of bad laws or policy. All of us have an inherent nature to oppose things that we perceive are wrong. It’s our Judo-Christian heritage. But the majority of us either try to ignore wrong-headed decisions by our elected officials or just mutter to our friends how bad he or she is. I guess you could consider this column a call for folks to have some backbone, and maybe go to a town hall meeting and yell down one of our worthless politicians, who have a lower approval rating than a cockroach or pond scum. (Several polls have given them that ranking.) Or as I did once, when the state was going to destroy the Diamond Mine State Park near Murphreesboro, by allowing commercial mining, organize a protest and picket the park. Yes, we had a couple of dozen “troublemakers” from around the state picketing the park entrance one Saturday morning when it opened, and numerous families walked away. They wouldn’t cross our picket line. The Park is still a national treasure because of troublemakers.
And today, there are folks in El Dorado’s City Hall who are probably calling me a troublemaker because I’m trying to get proper crosswalk striping painted on Main Street. So there is always work to do for troublemakers, and for example, if the Buffalo National River is kept from being turned into a hog farm sewer, it will be the troublemakers who will stop it from happening, and you should thank the troublemakers who stopped the worthless Corp of Engineers from making the Ouachita River a ditch for barges. Today, because of the work of a large dedicated group of troublemakers from Arkansas and Louisiana the river won’t have 28 bends cuts. Troublemakers saved the river from becoming a ditch. But troublemakers haven’t finished with the river. We need to pull the pins on the Thatcher Lock and Dam and let the river return to its 1960s state where Pete Wilson’s Slough and Wildcat Lake will once again be the best fishing in the Mid-South, and the water-clogging moss will be gone. Yes, that’s a good idea since possible barge traffic on the river is right up there with space travel. Of course, if the river returns to its 1960s state it will be the troublemakers who will make it happen. And it will happen; so when it does, and in the late spring and the pecan worms are falling, and you are up in Pete Wilson’s Slough pulling in those big pan size bream, thank a troublemaker.
So the next time you hear someone being called a “troublemaker”, check out why, and maybe you’ll join the troublemakers and make a difference.
.

A New York Snapshot

ARKANSAS
BY

Richard Mason
A New York City Snapshot
A middle-aged woman pushing a baby carriage passed us as we walked down 51st Street, and I glanced down at the carriage. I looked at Vertis, my wife, with a puzzled look.
“Did you see that?” I whispered.
“Yes, that’s hard to believe.”
It was a rather fancy baby carriage, but the occupant was a little unusual—a fair sized, black poodle with its front hair over its eyes bleached blonde, sitting there in a dress—like a baby—enjoying the ride.
“Well, we’re in New York,” I said to Vertis. She smiled.
We travel to New York because my idea of a vacation is to do something, or be somewhere that is completely different from where we live. New York City fits the bill perfectly.
We left Little Rock at 6:45 a. m. on an American Airlines flight, and arrived in New York’s La Guardia Airport at 12:05. Our flight was smooth and soon we had grabbed our bags and were headed into the City. It was time for a late lunch, so our immediate destination was Grand Central Station to dine at the Grand Central Station Oyster Bar—a great seafood restaurant. A visit to Grand Central Station should be on everyone’s list of to-dos in the city, even if you don’t eat at the Oyster Bar.
After a great lunch, of fresh seafood, we headed for the Michelangelo Hotel, an Italian owned hotel, just a block off Broadway. It advertises itself as the best location in the city—and it is. Two block south of Rockefeller Plaza and a short few blocks to most of the Broadway theaters. You can walk to more of the “must see” and “must eat” places from this hotel than almost any other hotel in the city, and if you want to take a subway, a station is right around the corner. The Michelangelo is a little pricy, but there are hundreds of reasonably priced hotels scattered around Times Square, which seems to be the area that most people gravitate to, and little restaurants with delicious lunch or dinner specials are there by the score. Venture off the main streets and stop in the small restaurants, and you will find restaurants that serve everything from catfish to Afghanistan kabobs—at a reasonable price. However, if you want to splurge, try Le Bernadine, a French three star restaurant that can easily cost $200 per person, or have the best seafood in the city, at Milos, a Greek Restaurant on 56th Street, or if you’re in the mood for an out-of-this-world Italian meal go to Del Posto down on 10th Street. Still hungry? Well, check out the delis, and if you want to save a few bucks, order one entrée and split it. Don’t worry: It will be plenty.
I have found it is always a good idea to have a list of ‘do and don’ts’ when you’re in New York. If you don’t, you’ll waste hours trying to decide where to go and what to do.
Now let’s cover a few of the more obvious dos: (1) Eat a corn-beef sandwich from a deli on Broadway. (2) Go to one of the many concerts at Carnegie Hall. (3) Ditto for Lincoln Center. (4) And if you love Jazz, go to Birdland or Blue Smoke for a live performance. (5) Jog or walk early on a Saturday morning in Central Park and check out the dogs, cute girls, and guys, and marvel how New York managed to keep this beautiful park from being developed. (6) Walk down Broadway to Times Square at night to see the overwhelming light and advertising display signs. (7) Take your walking shoes and window shop up 57th Street until you are tired and then up and down 5th Avenue with a stop at the Plaza Hotel food court. (8) Go to the Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum, and the American Museum of Modern Art—even if you hate museums. (9) If you’re there on Sunday, go to either Calvary Baptist Church on 57th Street or to the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
However, there are a few things I recommend you skip, and I will start by knocking one of the most obvious. (1) Don’t go to the top of the Empire State Building. That is unless you want to stand in line and fight the crowds for several hours just to see the skyline you looked at on your flight in. (2) Don’t buy knock-off goods from the hundreds of street vendors. The stuff they sell is a shoddy imitation and worth almost nothing. (3) Don’t ride the buses that the tour guides on nearly every corner are hawking. It’s a slow way to see the city, and by the time you’ve made the trip you swear to never ride one again. (4) Don’t attempt to actually go up to the top of the Statue of Liberty—(see the Empire State Building above for the reason.)—view it from the Staten Island Ferry. (5) Don’t go in any of the discount electronic stores on Broadway or 7th Avenue—trust me on this one. (6) Don’t rent a bike and try to navigate it through New York traffic—(If the weather is nice, you’ll be hit up on every corner.) You do want to come home, don’t you?
Well, what’s the bottom line on New York City? I think the city can best be described in a statement made by my son when he was 13. We had a family trip planned to New York, and it started the day after Ashley returned from a wilderness trip on the Buffalo River. As soon as we arrived, we walked up to 5th Avenue, and he looked out at the throng of people coming up and down the sidewalk, heard the fire trucks, horns honking, and the general overwhelming noise of the city, and he said to me, “Dad, I think New York is a visiting city, not a living city.” I certainly agree with my son, but I would add one thing to it. You will enjoy a trip to New York, eat a lot of good food, and marvel at Times Square. However, the bonus will be when you return home. You’ll have a new appreciation for the life we have here in Arkansas.

Are You “Of the South?”

ARKANSAS

By
Richard Mason

Are You “Of the South”?

Most people might think just living in the South makes you a Southerner…but they’d be wrong. You are not a true, dyed-in-the-wool Southerner unless you are “Of the South.” Okay, now let me be real upfront with you. My definition of a Southerner and the South is going to hack off some folks, because just living in the South doesn’t make you a Southerner. I lived in Libya for a couple of years, but I sure didn’t think of myself as a Libyan, and if I had lived there another 50 years I still wouldn’t consider myself a Libyan. I’m a Southern because I am “Of the South”. Here’s my definition of a Southerner.
But first, let me give you a quick overview of what is actually the current landmass called the American South. Nope, it’s not the old Confederacy. Certain sections of the South have lost its identify, and can no longer be called part of the South. Just because a 100 years ago a section of land was populated by true Southerners doesn’t make it part of the South today. If the majority of people who now make up its population aren’t “Of the South”, then that place can no longer be part of the South. Yes, we’ve lost some of the South, but it doesn’t mean that some Southerners don’t live there. It means that migration into an area of the South has changed the Southern nature so much that it no longer can be called part of the South. Examples? Northwest Arkansas, Dallas, Houston, and the south half of Florida. (Those places were marginal to begin with.) New Orleans? Actually, New Orleans fits in another category, but I don’t know what to call it. Southerners love New Orleans. It’s a little wicked, dangerous, and the food is great, but Southerners don’t really think of New Orleans as part of the South. It’s really an appendage attached to the South, and we go there as a relief from the boredom, which is the real South. But back to my definition as to who is a Southerner.
As an example, of who can call themselves a Southerner, and who is “Of the South,” let’s go to a typical Southern back porch and listen in to a friendly conversation between neighbors; Billy Ray Davis and his wife Carol and John Ralf Moniz and his wife Laura Lee. The men work at a manufacturing plant in Fairhope, Alabama.
“Say, John where do y’all go to church” (Billy Ray, who asked the question, gets a point for asking a very Southern question and another point for having a Southern name, but that’s not enough to make him “Of the South”.)
John answers, “Well, I was raised Episcopalian, but Laura was brought up Baptist. Laura is still a Baptist, and I show up when the Episcopalian have a social event. (John is off to a slow start. He loses 2 points for having a very un-southern last name and loses another point for not calling his wife Laura Lee, loses another point for being raised Episcopalian.) Laura picks up a couple of points being Baptist, but so far we don’t have enough info to say any of the four are true Southerners. But the next question will shed a lot more light on who is “Of the South”.
Laura Lee, who, in her spare time, works for the local genealogy society, teaches Sunday School at First Baptist, and sings in the choir, asks, “Billy Ray where’s home?”
“Well, I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
“What? You can’t be serious, you sound as Southern as anybody I’ve ever been around,” she replied.
“Well, my dad and his family had always lived in and around Birmingham, but after he met and married my mother, who was from Pennsylvania, my dad tried Pennsylvania for a few years. He couldn’t stand the cold winters, so he moved the family back south.” (You might think being born outside the South would kill any chances of being “Of the South” but no; a true Southerner transcends a physical location. Yes, Billy Ray is “Of the South”—barely, but Carol, his wife, isn’t, even though she has lived in the South for 15 years.)
Now, John speaks up, “I’m a transplanted Yankee. I met Laura during a Spring Break trip to Florida. My family has always lived in New Jersey, but I’ve lived over half my life in the South so you might say I’ve become a Southerner.” (No, John you are not an “Of the South” Southerner.)
“Well, I guess I’m the only true Southerner here,” said Laura Lee. “My family has always lived in Georgia, and my middle name, ‘Lee’ is for General Lee, who my great grandfather served under during the War.” (Laura Lee racks up Southern points right and left. Referring to “The War,” named for a Southern Saint, General Lee, and being part of a family who has always lived in Georgia makes her about as southern as you can be. Topping it off, she teaches Sunday School and sings in the choir. Yes, Laura Lee is a true Southerner. She is “Of the South.” and actually fits into a special category called “Ultra-of the South”. She is about as Southern as you can be.)
Before we close, I think it is imperative that we classify residents who live in the South, and don’t qualify as “Of the South” but have lived in the South for a ‘coon’s age, (for you non-southerners that is about 10 years.) I think the first 10 years a person lives in the South is rather like a person without a physical identity. He or she sure can’t be called a Southerner, but after 10 years or so living in the South that person has picked up enough Southern habits to fit into another category, Southern-Lite. However, “Of the South” can only be bestowed on his or her children’s children. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
But, if now, you understand, that unless you are “Of the South” you are not a full-fledged Southerner, take heart; remember, you live in the South, so enjoy your life in the best part of the good old USA. You might have been born an American, but you’re “Of the South” by the grace of God. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.

Left Lives Matter

ARKANSAS
BY
RICHARD MASON
Left Lives Matter
I know that sounds trite to you righties, but live a day as a lefty, and you’ll at least have a little sympathy for a small segment of our society. Lefties make up about 10% of the population, and we have faced discrimination since the beginning of recorded history. According to some reports, left-handers suffered severe prejudice during the 18th and 19th centuries, and it was often “beaten out” of them. Even the Latin word for “left” has as an alternate meaning, “sinister.”
The trials and tribulations of a lefty start early in school when your teacher places a writing tablet on a right-handed desk, and you have to do a crab claw turn of you left hand to even write..
Discrimination of a lefty goes everywhere. Consider a dining night out. A lefty must drive in a right-handed designed car, and of course even to start the car you have to reach across to the ‘right’ side, and then, drive on the right side of the road. Then when you pull into the restaurant parking lot, your wife will invariable say, “You’re going the wrong way!” Yes, all parking lots are designed for righties. That’s one of the reasons why an estimated 2500 lefties die each year trying to navigate right-hand roads, road signs, and power saws. Of course, all office and shop equipment is designed for a righty, and so are power saws. Lefties who work with table saws and other power equipment rarely have ten fingers.
After a lefty is seated at a restaurant, they must change the place-setting to a left setting, put up with being served from the wrong side, as if they were a righty, and they can’t even butter their bread because there is a right-handed butter knife.
Of course, I do have some satisfaction to know that there are no left-handed Muslim terrorists, (All Muslims are taught to use their right hand, and use their left hand when wiping at the toilet.).And most of the dictators from the beginning of time we’re righties. Vladimir Putin, Hitler, Napoleon, Mussolini, Tojo, Count Dracula, and Stalin are or were righties, and Pope Francis and Billy Graham are lefties.–A coincidence? I don’t think so.
Ah, but we lefties have some built in advantages, and if you have ever tried to return a lefties tennis serve to the add court, you realize lefties can do some things a lot better than a righty, and that’s why 40% of the top tennis pros are lefties. Yes, sports do give lefties a boost and Babe Ruth, Arnold Palmer, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe are proof. Another study of left handed college graduates and right handed graduates show lefties turn out to be 26% richer than righties. And a study from St. Lawrence University in New York finds that more lefties score higher than 140 on an I. Q. test than righties. I guess that mean we lefties are smarter and richer than the rest of the world.
Famous lefties have been responsible for most of what we take for granted in this old world. Just a few come to mind: Benjamin Franklin, Churchill, Mozart, Rembrandt, and Van Gogh, and if you want a little glamor, consider Marilyn Monroe and Angelina Jolie. I do have a good bit of satisfaction knowing that most of the creative items of our society were invented by lefties. When you call on your cell phone or type on a computer, thank a lefty. That’s right Steve Jobs is a lefty, and so is Bill Gates, and don’t forget, if you like Facebook, another lefty, Mark Zuckerberg invented it. And if we look back into almost any of the former creative people that have ever lived, we have a list of notables: Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Picasso, and Albert Einstein; all lefties. Of course, the first and second man on the Moon were lefties; Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin,
And, if we consider presidents for a moment, you will find, of the last four presidents, three, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George Bush Sr. were lefties, and of course George W. Bush was a righty—figures. I know you’re wondering about Hillary—yes she’s a lefty and The Donald is a righty
Well, as in most areas of discrimination, it takes a long time for the majority to recognize a need to right wrongs, and since lefties are a humble, contrite minority of our population, we likely won’t be demonstrating in the streets protesting our plight, but maybe one day on your tax return there will be a box saying, “Check, if you are a lefty and deduct 10% from your tax due.” Actually, as a whole, lefties are the most creative people on earth, and we should honor lefties with a national holiday. August 13 is International Left Hander’s Day, but it should be a national holiday like Christmas, where the righties of the world give gifts of appreciation to lefties in recognition of their creativity.
Yes, Left Lives Matter!

WAR PAINT

ARKANSAS

BY

RICHARD MASON

War Paint

You know, I really like the peace and quiet of South Arkansas and living in El Dorado where I’m 5 minutes away from everywhere I want to be. But after a while, peace and quiet can get to you. That’s when Vertis and I get the urge to fly the coop, and we head for the place where peace and quiet is the furthest thing from your mind. Of course, for us, that’s New York City.
Well, when we started making our plans, Vertis announced she wanted to see the musical War Paint. Yeah, that sounded okay to me. I figured it would be something like the life of Geronimo set to music and dance. I didn’t even get those thoughts out of my mouth when my dear, sweet wife set me straight. Geronimo nor any other Indians weren’t in the picture. You see, Broadway types have this strange way of naming plays, and if you think they would name a play, “A Musical about Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden” which it is, then you probably couldn’t find Broadway from Times Square. So, a musical play about two cosmetic queens was named War Paint.—get it? Two women who started two major cosmetic companies had a heated competition, which was set to song and dance. Wow, I couldn’t wait to snap up those ticket. Okay, that’s my understatement of the year, but after a little negotiating, we bought the tickets. Actually, I settled for two Gladiator type movies to be named at a later date. Well, a few days later we found ourselves in line with a sea of ladies, and that is another understatement. I would venture a guess that ladies outnumbered men by at least 30 to 1. But, you know, a guy surrounded by several thousand women is sure not all bad, and I won’t say any more about that or the very tiny skirts or short shorts that seemed to be everywhere, since Vertis will read this. But I’ll admit I had an almost frozen smile as we waited in line. We took our seats in front of a curtain that covered the entire stage opening, and if you still weren’t sure what the play was about, the picture of gorgeous blonde with four foot high bright red lips sure gave you a hint about the show.
And, just to put us guys in our place, the before the play started lady announcer, after telling everyone to silence their cell phones, said, “Welcome, ladies …and your escorts.” Yeah, that got a good laugh from everyone but us few guys, and then the play started. Well, it seems back in the 20s and 30s only “Ladies of the night” and actors wore what you or I would call makeup. Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden started their own corporations, and they were determined to change how ladies wore makeup. Did they succeed? Just check out any non-cult female over the age of 10. But that’s just part of the story. After a few years these two women became the heads of two major corporations at a time when the corporate executives were virtually all male, and it was tough sledding. Only a few decades had passed since women received the right to vote, and the male only corporate culture was full of discrimination against women. Even during the Second World War, when the two women asked “What can we do to help the War effort? They were told, “Women can’t do anything in a war.” One of the women’s reply brought a roar from the ladies in the audience, “What about Joan of Arc?”
And then another mummer of disapproval swept through the audience, when both women, separately, tried to buy an apartment in an exclusive section of New York. “We’re sorry, but a woman in business is not the type of tenant we desire.” Yes, some of the growls from the audience were more than mummers. Helena Rubinstein, who at that time was one of the richest women in the world, was so infuriated she bought the entire apartment complex.
The stars, Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein and Christina Emersole as Elizabeth Arden were excellent. Both of these Broadway seasoned stars can really belt it out, and when Patti Lupone nailed some of those notes at the top of her range, the audience burst into cheers.
Well, as the two senior ladies, in the last years of their careers were finally together to receive a presentation, a young lady came out to lead them to the podium. She said, “If you’ll just follow me.” Those words were barely out of the young ladies mouth, when Elizabeth Arden belted out, “Young lady, we don’t follow! We lead!”
The ladies in the audience were just waiting for that line, and they leaped to their feet with a roar.
As we left the theater, I noticed several women wiping their eyes and shaking their heads. It wasn’t a sad play, but it did tell the story of two tough-as-nails women, and how they succeeded in spite of discrimination. Yes, the play was a lot more than convincing women to use face cream and lipstick, and…. I did like the play.

Are You “Of the South?”

ARKANSAS

By
Richard Mason

Are You “Of the South”?
Most people might think just living in the South makes you a Southerner…but they’d be wrong. You are not a true, dyed-in-the-wool Southerner unless you are “Of the South.” Okay, now let me be real upfront with you. My definition of a Southerner and the South is going to hack off some folks, because just living in the South doesn’t make you a Southerner. I lived in Libya for a couple of years, but I sure didn’t think of myself as a Libyan, and if I had lived there another 50 years I still wouldn’t consider myself a Libyan. I’m a Southern because I am “Of the South”. Here’s my definition of a Southerner.
But first, let me give you a quick overview of what is actually the current landmass called the American South. Nope, it’s not the old Confederacy. Certain sections of the South have lost their identify, and can no longer be called part of the South. Just because a 100 years ago a section of land was populated by true Southerners doesn’t make it part of the South today. If the majority of people who now make up its population aren’t “Of the South”, then that place can no longer be part of the South. Yes, we’ve lost some of the South, but it doesn’t mean that some Southerners don’t live there. It means that migration into an area of the South has changed the Southern nature so much that it no longer can be called part of the South. Examples? Northwest Arkansas, Dallas, Houston, and the south half of Florida. (Those places were marginal to begin with.) New Orleans? Actually, New Orleans fits in another category, but I don’t know what to call it. Southerners love New Orleans. It’s a little wicked, dangerous, and the food is great, but Southerners don’t really think of New Orleans as part of the South. It’s really an appendage attached to the South, and we go there as a relief from the boredom, which is the real South. But back to my definition as to who is a Southerner.
As an example, of who can call themselves a Southerner, and who is “Of the South,” let’s go to a typical Southern back porch and listen in to a friendly conversation between neighbors; Billy Ray Davis and his wife Carol and John Ralf Moniz and his wife Laura Lee. The men work at a manufacturing plant in Fairhope, Alabama.
“Say, John where do y’all go to church” (Billy Ray, who asked the question, gets a point for asking a very Southern question and another point for having a Southern name, but that’s not enough to make him “Of the South”.)
John answers, “Well, I was raised Episcopalian, but Laura was brought up Baptist. Laura is still a Baptist, and I show up when the Episcopalian have a social event. (John is off to a slow start. He loses 2 points for having a very un-southern last name and loses another point for not calling his wife Laura Lee, loses another point for being raised Episcopalian.) Laura picks up a couple of points being Baptist, but so far we don’t have enough info to say any of the four are true Southerners. But the next question will shed a lot more light on who is “Of the South”.
Laura Lee, who, in her spare time, works for the local genealogy society, teaches Sunday School at First Baptist, and sings in the choir, asks, “Billy Ray where’s home?”
“Well, I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
“What? You can’t be serious, you sound as Southern as anybody I’ve ever been around,” she replied.
“Well, my dad and his family had always lived in and around Birmingham, but after he met and married my mother, who was from Pennsylvania, my dad tried Pennsylvania for a few years. He couldn’t stand the cold winters, so he moved the family back south.” (You might think being born outside the South would kill any chances of being “Of the South” but no; a true Southerner transcends a physical location. Yes, Billy Ray is “Of the South”—barely, but Carol, his wife, isn’t, even though she has lived in the South for 15 years.)
Now, John speaks up, “I’m a transplanted Yankee. I met Laura during a Spring Break trip to Florida. My family has always lived in New Jersey, but I’ve lived over half my life in the South so you might say I’ve become a Southerner.” (No, John you are not an “Of the South” Southerner.)
“Well, I guess I’m the only true Southerner here,” said Laura Lee. “My family has always lived in Georgia, and my middle name, ‘Lee’ is for General Lee, who my great grandfather served under during the War.” (Laura Lee racks up Southern points right and left. Referring to “The War, named for a Southern Saint, General Lee, and being part of a family who has always lived in Georgia makes her about as southern as you can be. Topping it off, she teaches Sunday School and sings in the choir. Yes, Laura Lee is a true Southerner. She is “Of the South.” and actually fits into a special category called “Ultra-of the South”. She is about as Southern as you can be.)
Before we close, I think it is imperative that we classify residents who live in the South, and don’t qualify as “Of the South” but have lived in the South for a ‘coon’s age, (for you non-southerners that is about 10 years.) I think the first 10 years a person lives in the South is rather like a person without a physical identity. He or she sure can’t be called a Southerner, but after 10 years or so living in the South that person has picked up enough Southern habits to fit into another category, Southern-Lite. However, “Of the South” can only be bestowed on his or her children’s children. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
But, if now, you understand, that unless you are “Of the South” you are not a full-fledged Southerner, take heart; remember, you live in the South, so enjoy your life in the best part of the good old USA. You might have been born an American, but you’re “Of the South” by the grace of God. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.