Aside from the simple pleasures of traveling and visiting old friends, I was keen on visiting some of the more extreme “Deliverance type” areas in America’s redneck South. Mr. Downing had tried to prepare me for the type of environment we were headed into, but words simply cannot prepare one for the experience.
One of the first areas Mr. Downing suggested we visit was Rabun County, Georgia where the movie Deliverance was actually filmed with ample help from the locals serving as extras in the film. Locals who, shall we say, jumped off the high dive into the shallow end of the gene pool. So, needless to say, I was in full support of starting operations there.
Upon leaving Atlanta, I was stunned at how quickly we transitioned into the land of turducken and Confederate flags. Oh, and for the uninitiated (and you should not feel bad if you are not), turducken is a dish consisting of chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey and is uniquely Southern in nature.
For the first few hours of driving around, things like this are pretty funny and one spends much of their time getting a good laugh out of things.
And at signs like Coon Dog Auto Parts or Big Daddy’s Boot Outlet or Dave’s Goody Barn.
One thing that soon becomes evident and is also amusing is the fact that there are absolutely no abstract names in the South. For example: I grew up on Quintera Way. However, you’ll never see a sign like that in the South. Instead the sign describes exactly what is on the road. So, guess what is on Up Big Hill Road? Or Muddy Creek Road? Or Way Up Way? Or Downhill Road? Or Buford Dam Road? By the way, none of the names mentioned in this series are made up. They were all written down in my notebook as we drove past these various locations.
However, after a few hours of fun, the humor in the situation starts to wear thin. The naked hostility of the locals to outsiders and things like overt racism or a fascination with killing things all become a little fatiguing. Mix this in with the living conditions and the genuine pride the locals feel for their lifestyle and it all becomes a little overwhelming – a type of sensory overload.
On the topic of living conditions, which was alluded to above, we were continually amazed by the conditions in which people lived. As unbelievable as it may seem, all of these structures were occupied:
Not many places have running water which, of course, necessitates an outhouse:
And we were also amazed by the amount of crap people always had in their yards:
Or on their front porch:
And adorned with things like this:
This is a typical scene in a gas station – which serves as the cultural center (I’m not joking) in most of the small towns we passed through… Note the scrawny guy with the mullet purchasing the Bud Light and the fat woman on the right. This is a representative sampling of something we observed over and over again. Everyone in the population was either overweight or meth-addict scrawny. No one looked healthy. There was no in-between.
I told you the gas station was the cultural center of these towns… People would congregate outside and converse for hours.
Being the center of culture, the interior of the convenience stores at the gas stations would be covered in pictures like this:
This particular gas station (which we did not patronize), The Dixie Depot, stands out for its embrace of the values of the Confederacy…
We both loved how it reads “Confederate owned.” No it isn’t… To whom do you pay your taxes? To the Yankees… And notice how it says “Entering Civilization”. Having been inside, I can assure you that few things are further from the truth…
I’d be willing to bet that most readers of this site would not have guessed that such treasures could be purchased.
This was one of the charming customers inside.
These names were painted on the side of house… Seriously, where do they get names like “Idgy” or “Jesse Jewell” or “Buford Cumming” or Lee Dixon or Jess Kinney from?
Religion is everywhere. We found churches down old dirt logging roads miles from anywhere, in trailer parks and even one in the middle of a wildlife refuge.
Isn’t Primitive Baptist Church redundant though?
Here we have granny mowing the dirt in a typical trailer park. I strongly encourage you to click on the pictures to bring them to full size, so you can really appreciate the expressions on the faces of the individuals pictured below. And don’t miss the writing on the trailer granny is mowing in front of either.
This pig-faced child was dumbfounded by our arrival in his small trailer park. Leaving the county is a big deal for these people and so our arrival in a vehicle with Florida license plates and dressed as obvious outsiders must have been akin to what we would feel if aliens landed in our front yards.
While dining in a family restaurant, we were amazed by this man’s mullet and I felt compelled to document it. It wasn’t until reviewing the pictures later that I noticed the gun on the table in front of him – a not uncommon occurrence in such parts.
On this day, we fortunately stumbled across Harold Grant Black with his goats just as we were about to be overwhelmed.
The South is more than decay and crumbling infrastructure though…
And more than trailer parks…
With surly residents…
Something that struck us repeatedly was the natural beauty of the area and the capacity of humans to spoil and pollute such an environment…
This natural beauty is something I will expand on in future “Southern Exposure” posts along with, of course, more pictures of depravity and stories to shock and titillate you, my dear readers.
Southerners do love their signs…you didn’t note the “WASP owned” sign, I didn’t realize that was something to be proud of. The South will rise again!
Wow, I was so overwhelmed by the rest of the scene that I completely overlooked the “WASP owned” sign. I’m glad you caught that. Imagine, our country fought a Civil War to keep this region with us. Unbelievable.
Ruth and Idgy are the names of two lesbians from the movie fried green tomatoes but I might have my info wrong but its s good movie. Very heart felt hallmark kind of movie
Well, that at least explains where a name like “Idgy” would come from. However, painted on the side of a house in rural Georgia somehow makes it worse.
OK. I give up. Why is “Primitive Baptist Church” an ozymoron?
And by the way: I hope you get a chance to see, and tell, that not everyone in the South is poor and collects junk in their yards; and that they are not all racist.
I was being sarcastic in regard to the church – I feel that “primitive” and “Baptist Church” certainly belong in the same sentence.
While it is true that there are some people in the South that are not poor, one must work quite hard to find those in the population (black or white) that are not racist. And one will have to work even harder to find people without junk in their yards.
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I have never read any of your blogs before this one. However, as a native of Georgia, I don’t think I could read anymore. This is not only because you are insulting, but because it was very cherry picked and sterotyped. I didn’t feel like you did an accurate job of describing GA as a whole, but the 5% of Georgia that you could make fun of the most. Did you visit Atlanta? Or Savannah? Tybee Island? I did not think so.
As someone who has spent a great deal of time out West, as well as in almost every other state in the US. I would say that the people who live there are just as racist, prejudice, and simple-minded; it is simply expressed in different ways.
While I realize you likely won’t be back to this site, I’d like to reply to your comment.
First, from the Census report released on Dec. 14, 2010, have some fun facts:
In the U.S., there were 62 counties where less than 10 percent of the adult
population had a bachelor’s degree. Fourteen of these counties were in
Georgia, nine in Tennessee, eight in Kentucky and five each in Florida
and West Virginia. In other words, nearly 25 percent of the least educated counties in the U.S. are located in Georgia, and 66 percent of the least educated counties in the U.S. are located in the South.
While I am no sociologist, I submit to you the following hypothesis: there is a preponderance of the “racist, prejudic[ial], and simple-minded” where there is a preponderance of uneducated people, and thus there is a greater concentration of racism, prejudice, and “simple-minded” perspective where there is a greater concentration of uneducated people.
In other words, this wasn’t “cherry-picked”: the South is a veritable orchard of cherry trees. And it’s not a mere matter of expression, but rather an expression of a viewpoint that is more widely held in the South than in more civilized, more educated places. Of course there are people who share this perspective in every part of the nation, but what we’re talking about is the difference between the five percent or so of the population (as you suggest) and the much greater percentage that’s reflected in what we witnessed (and what the numbers actually support) throughout Georgia (and yes, that includes Atlanta) and the rest of the South.
Thank you for your response, Mr. Downing.
Wow! What a waste of time. You’re an ass, who ONLY highlighted WHAT YOU THOUGHT WOULD BE AMUSING. I am not sure how my husband even came about this site…seein’ how us-ins cain’t figger out this teknology stuff. Why don’t you use your time for something more productive? You’ll be shocked to know I have all of my teeth, have a college education under my belt, am former military, (why don’t you try that?..or hell works) and was born in Rabun Co.. Justin, you’re just another weak minded imbecile who is entitled to your opinion, I suppose. (note the word “imbelice”…it sounds so much less trashier than “twat”.) Just some “wisdom” for you.You’re welcome!
Thank you very much for your comment, Rebecca, and for sharing your “wisdom” with me. I do love feedback from my dear readers. And you’ll notice that I have now enabled you to leave comments directly without them being moderated.
With that said, I do hope you will indulge me in clarifying a few points that I was slightly puzzled by in your comment.
Toward the beginning of your comment, you declared that I only highlighted what I thought would be amusing. Well, that is absolutely true. I did post what I found amusing and interesting. Does not anyone that makes a movie or writes an article or even just sends an email to a friend endeavor to do so? If you, Rebecca, don’t find it interesting or amusing, is no one else allowed to either? That seems somewhat limiting, but I probably misunderstood you.
The next detail I struggled with was the section in which you shared the autobiographical information with me. Now, my first job was as a bagger at a supermarket when I was in high school. Also while in high school, I played baseball, football and track and even broke a school record on the pole vault that had stood since 1973 (unfortunately my record was broken two weeks later by a friend of mine, but whatever). You mentioned being in the military… I’ve had the Taliban shoot at me in Afghanistan as well and I’ve probably been to more war zones than most people on the planet. If you’re confused by the relevance in my mentioning these details of my life, you may understand the confusion I felt when reading your details as well. I suppose what I am struggling to express is that I really wondered the point of your sharing anything about yourself, and why any of it was supposed to be relevant vis-a-vis my post.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed having you share these details about your life and I hope that you will share more because I always find such things interesting. However, such details as I shared about my life don’t prevent me from seeing the area I grew up in objectively. I grew up in a poor, rural county (Yuba County, California) and it is unfortunately full of ugliness, ignorance, bureaucracy and corruption. I would not take offense should you draw attention to these facts. After all, they are exactly that – facts. There are certainly areas of great natural beauty to be found in Yuba County and some fine individuals, but the overall character of the county is not one that can be easily defended. I found the same to be true of Rabun County, Georgia. I highlighted fine individuals such as Harold Grant Black and also (in Part 1 and Part 2) touch on the natural beauty of the area, but I find the overall character of Rabun County to be indefensible. Are you as hurt and offended by my critical comments about Yuba County as you were by my assessment of Rabun County? It would seem inconsistent and illogical were you not to be.
Lastly, I found your message to be somewhat lacking in class. Now, whether you intended this or not, it unfortunately only serves to reinforce the stereotype you are so desperately seeking to avoid.
Hope you and your husband have a great weekend…
Oh, I’d love to know what an “imbelice” is. Is that a word used in Rabun County?
I’m looking forward to your analysis of Southern Exposure – Part 2… And given your familiarity with Rabun County, perhaps you can shed some light on the mysteries presented in Part 2?
Lol. Fair enough. Thanks for the reply. I suppose you are partially correct..(if you really need to be.) I just spent a hell of a lot of time getting out of this place…(we were gone 11 years), just to come back to it. Honestly, it was amusing to an extent…(the parts that weren’t downright offensive to the ones of us that aren’t completely ignorant imbreds.) I just felt that it was not a fair assessment of the entire county. I am sorry I have failed to read the parts of your blog in which you had something kind to say. (I use the word “kind” loosely. As far as the relevance to the story of my life, I thought it was an important detail to add that some of us have strived to be better people than the stereo-typed idea that people like you have, I am sorry you missed the point, and God Bless you for your time served. Lacking is class is a matter of opinion, but it’s your to have. I will make sure I read up on your other sections I missed. I’ll be gushing with anxiousness until I do!
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All you did was show a trailer park and make fun of people. What you didn’t show is all the rich people that own thousands of acres of land out there. There are a lot of wealthy people in the south and so what if they don’t all dress like their trying to be on reality tv. Their just not idiots who spend five hundred dollars on a handbag. I grew up on the Tennessee Mississippi line and half of my family live in Pittsburg Pennsylvania. So I’m pretty familiar with both worlds and I can defiantly say the south is much better. There’s more freedom. People are better and the food is better. all the Dixie and confederate stuff isn’t racist, it’s just heritage. The civil war really wasn’t that long ago if you think about it and older people just grew up hearing about it. My grandfather told me he remembers his grandmother telling him stories about the civil war. It’s just what they know. Just like northerners know pickled eggs and hot tea. So people reading this don’t believe any of it. He just found a trailer park festering off some town or city of regular southern people.
Nice try, Chris.
For someone who purports to have traveled around the world, you haven’t learned much about building rapport or avoiding outright insults to people you meet and photograph.
It’s a wonder you haven’t been hung by the gonads in your own country.
Learn to appreciate different cultures and values.
Who suggested I was trying to build rapport with everyone or to avoid insulting anyone? I’m quite selective in my building of rapport, James.
Also, James, do you appreciate different cultures and values? It doesn’t seem as if you appreciate my values… Should my feelings be hurt by this seeming hypocrisy on your part?
Way to build rapport with your readers, Mr. Ames…
I know Southerners have a tough time with reading, so I’ll repeat myself… I make no effort to build rapport or to charm my dear readers. I just tell them the truth. Some can handle the truth and some can’t.
I’m greatly insulated with what I just saw.
You take a few pictures in Georgia and this somehow supports the very stereotypical view that the whole south is like this?
How could you be anymore ignorant of our southern culture or be a bigger bigot.
Insulated? Haha, you clowns just can’t help yourselves, can you? Every time you try to write something down or to speak, you just confirm everyone’s stereotypes about you. If I ever receive a coherent comment from a Southerner that isn’t filled with grammar and spelling errors, I’m probably going to collapse from shock.
Justin isn’t the only one to come travel to the south with all it’s intellectually crippled, mouth-breathing, half-wits. Here in Australia a guy called John Safran wrote a book called
“Murder in Mississipi”, a true account of the murder of a white supremacist.
It’s quite hilarious how he describes the people there much like Justin has, how they were proud being illiterate, racist etc. Safran was researching this book when he befriended a black man from Mississippi who had been imprisoned for murder. The person he had killed was a white supremacist who Safran had, in the past, proven was part African. hahaha (stupid moron racists)….
It’s really worth listening to the Audio of an interview with him as he describes his southern odyssey, it really is, here is the link
obviously click on the “download audio” link or go directly to it here
[audio src="http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2013/10/bia_20131014_2005.mp3" /]
This is the most self-serving, elitist, insultingly voyeuristic piece of shit “reporting” I’ve ever read. You might as well rename it: “Asshole who thinks he understand the South by demeaning its people for living in poverty.” You ought to get fired for such crass, carelessness…