Author’s Note: First published in The Moulton Advertiser (Alabama’s oldest weekly newspaper) this little article was intended for our local heros who were out in the community before the wind even died down, pulling their neighbors from the debris and cranking chainsaws to free up access so that emergency vehicles could gain access to the hardest hit areas. The term ‘rednecks’ is used with affection to recognize those unsung hero’s and the acts of kindness and bravery they performed with no thought of ever being applauded for it. Well, although I am humbled and in awe of the response, truthfully I never thought anyone outside our community would ever see it. Then the worst thing imaginable happened and tornado’s swept through other towns and cities in several states - over and over again, bringing with them more and even greater devastation. Yet in each case, those who first came to the aid of the victims was usually a person put in the position of being nearest at the time, or having the necessary equipment to facilitate the excavation of buildings that had caved in, trapping people underneath mountains of debris. Those men and women, no matter what name they are called, be it rednecks, goat ropers, crackers, or swamp rats, are the people who know the value of having a chain saw, a rope, or a pair of jumper cables in the trunk of their car or the back of their pick-up truck. They don’t have to consult a manual to learn how to use them, either. So, dear rednecks, wherever you may be in this great country, this one’s for you! - Loretta Gillespie
Most all of us who hail from the South have born the brunt of remarks from people from other areas of the country about being rednecks. Well, I’m here to tell you right now that I love me some Southern rednecks!
Rednecks have Poulan chainsaws, bulldozers, four-wheelers and big ol’ trucks – and they know how to use ‘em. They aren’t afraid of getting dirty or of hard work, either.
As soon as the wind died down they were the first ones out there clearing the roads for emergency vehicles to get to where they needed to be. They were standing up to their knees in debris so that people could get out of their driveways or be from underneath mountains of rubble. They were checking on neighbors who lived in the hardest hit areas where cars and normal vehicles didn’t stand a chance, and stopping to pull strangers from their mangled cars.
If you were the victim of the storm and found your driveway miraculously cleared, you can thank a redneck. If you have a brush pile a mile high and you didn’t do it yourself, you can thank a redneck. If someone brought you a shirt to put on your back that day, or hauled your furniture to a storage facility, or just tossed you a bottle of water from the cooler on the tailgate of their truck, you can probably thank a redneck.
Those good ol’ boys waded through water filled with gas and glass, nails and torn tin roofs and no telling what else to offer assistance to people stranded in the rubble of their homes. They wore faded camo jackets and John Deere caps, spit tobacco and more than likely did a little cussing, but they got the job done, and they are the ones who are still out there cutting up trees and burning brush long into the night, just as they have been ever since the storms hit.
They didn’t wait to be asked…they just ‘got ‘er done’ in the truest sense of the phrase. They didn’t stand around jawing and waiting for someone else to take charge, they went to work doing what they do best – moving earth, pushing aside massive trees with root systems as big around as a VW, and tossing aside boards with splinters the size of kitchen knives.
And they did all this without any thought of their own comfort or safety. They put their scuffed cowboy boots and worn work boots on the ground and tread across roof beams and unsteady floors to make sure there was no one left inside the wreckage of everything from office buildings and two –story brick houses to mobile home and barns. They already had a flashlight and a pocket knife with them.
They rounded up their neighbor’s cattle and horses and coaxed kittens out of trees where the wind had tossed them and they cried like babies when they found someone’s hunting dog broken and bleeding.
They waded into poultry houses and caught terrified chickens, and tossed mountains of dead ones onto piles to burn. They began to hang tarps and nail plywood over broken windows to save their kin folk’s belongings. They didn’t stop for hours on end, hooking chains to cars, trees and any and everything that had landed helter-skelter as the tornados tore through.
Rednecks just show up when there is work to be done. They drive up and with a silent nod, they just pitch in, salvaging refrigerators and hooking up generators. They don’t care if they look cool and they don’t have to shave before they leave the house. They are tough as nails and love their mamas fiercely. They still say ‘Yes, ma’m’ and ‘No, sir,’ to anyone older than they are. They eat cornbread and pinto beans and drink tea so sweet a spoon will stand straight up in the glass. They sweat and swear and have grease under their nails sometimes. They can change a flat tire or deliver a calf and half an hour later be sitting in church, scrubbed to a fare-the-well. And, boy, did they ever save the day when the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed and the wind knocked down the houses where they were born?
They don’t do it for the glory, and wouldn’t dream of taking a dime for it, and are sometimes even offended if someone asks how much they are owed ‘cause that’s what rednecks do – they drive loud trucks, bobcats and front-end loaders, they crank cantankerous chain saws and they know the feel of rope burns and blistered faces. They get those red necks from the sun beating down relentlessly as they labor in the dust and smoke from all the brush fires. They think sun-screen is for sissies and they don’t worry much about anti-bacterial soap or drink fruit- flavored water. And, contrary to what you might have seen in the media, most of them have a mouth full of teeth.
Give me a Southern redneck any day when trouble comes – when fences get blown over, lightning strikes and the lights go out, when there are trees and houses strewn like matchsticks as far as the eye can see, what in the world would we do without these rednecks?
Thanks to all of you dear rednecks, wherever you are. You deserve medals for what you have done in the past few weeks. And don’t think the world didn’t notice - they did. In fact, somebody is probably writing a country song about you as you read this.