Some months back, my buddy Tom Daniel wrote a piece titled “What Every Southern Man Should be Able to Do.” It is a great list of recommendations, and I concur with all of it, which is why I’m swiping his idea and modifying it slightly (Come to think about it, Tom writes some great stuff, so I really should swipe a lot more ideas from him).
Before Southern Men become “Southern Men”, we are first “Southern Boys”, or “young’uns” as well call them here in the South. So, it seems to me that there should be a list of “givens” that any Southern Boy should likewise have in their arsenal of boyhood. Yankees should feel free to incorporate these things into your own child-rearing exercises, as being that we are stuck with you for the unforeseeable future, it would be nice to have a little common sense being applied to future generations in your region as well. Additionally, it should be remembered that here in the South, we don’t raise boys- we raise men. Mentoring a son, grandson or nephew should be approached with that ultimate goal in mind.
These are in no particular order.
1) How to build a camp fire- Our winters are not as harsh here in the South as they are in the North, but cold is cold. Aside from that, this is just knowledge that every young man needs, whether to cook, stay warm, or just for the heck of it. In the South, a camp fire doesn’t necessarily relate to just camping. We are a very hospitable people and we tend to enjoy each other’s company. A camp fire is a great place to sit around, talk, tell stories, recollect memories and just generally spend a good time. Some of the best food I’ve ever eaten has come from a camp fire as well. My Granddad and I used to bury potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil in a fire and cook them, and a steak, hamburger or pork chop cooked over hickory, pecan or apple wood is just fantastic.
2) How to hunt and fish- Ok, some things do not really even need to be mentioned. But, there are different ways of doing this and Southern boys need to be aware of them. Whether using the most expensive bass rig, a cane pole, a trot line or fishing with jugs, not only does this produce a good time, but it can lead to a variety of eating potential. My PawPaw (That’s a Grandfather, here in the South) used to tie lines to tree branches, put a hook with a minnow on them, place it in the water, and then paddle up and down the bank to see which branches were moving. His love of fishing has been passed down to me, and to my boys as well. The different means of hunting, as well as potential game that can be collected from it, are too numerous to mention here. From various types of birds to deer, it is all certain to produce a good time. Hunting and Fishing are a big part of who we are in the South, and how we spend time together- or what our friends to the North may refer to as “male bonding”.
3) How to clean fish and game- Again, this goes without saying. If you don’t clean’em, you can’t eat’em. As a kid we used to just knock the scales off of fish, remove the fins, heads and entrails, batter them and fry them. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it a lot easier to filet them, either with a filet knife or with (my favorite) an electric knife. The key to skinning a deer is that it starts with a good knife. I’ve seen deer dressed a lot of different ways, but never with a bad knife. Don’t skimp- get your boy a good one and teach him how to use it.
4) How to shoot a gun- There are various types of firearms and they all have their intricacies about them. Southern boys need to be well adapted to all of the above. For instance, not only do they need to know how to fire a shotgun, but they need to know which type of ammunition goes with the appropriate use. 8 Shot is for hunting dove and quail, Buck Shot is for deer or home invaders, and so on. Hands down, the most important aspect of shooting is safety. Teach this first, stress it often and consistently, and always be mindful of what is going on around you when teaching a young man the art of marksmanship. The basics to shooting well are summed up in five general principles of marksmanship- Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, Natural Point of Aim, Trigger Control and Breath Control. Upon mastering these, it is a simple matter of (whether a rifle or pistol) adjusting windage and elevation to suit the distance and conditions. I started my boys out with BB guns, moved them up to a .22 rifle and then on to larger calibers. My oldest son killed his first deer at seven years of age, and my youngest (who is ten) is very comfortable (not to mention deadly) with a .357 Magnum or virtually anything else you put in his hands. Shooting is a fundamental practice of Southern culture, and in addition, it is a lot of fun. Start with the basics, and always remember, safety first.
5) How to throw a punch- One of the aspects of Southern Culture that has endured for centuries, handed down from our ancestors who came here from the border counties of Northern Briton, is the manner with which we view fighting. To Northeasterners, their Puritan trappings tend to teach a view which suggests fighting is “barbaric”, whereas to us here in the South, it is just a fact of life. A young man needs to know how to defend himself, his family, or his family’s honor. It starts with the ability to deliver a sound punch. Preferably, in the nose, the chin or the solar plexus. When our boys are young, we encourage them to wrestle (outside, of course), and instill in them at a young age that they have an inherent right to defend themselves against uninvited aggression. Most Southern boys grow up with the understanding that there are certain boundaries you do not cross, and if you do cross them, there is a better than average chance that another Southern Boy will know how to knock your block off. Far from barbaric, this is one reason the South has long been considered a polite society.
6) Basic Gardening- It has been a lot of years since the South has been truly an agrarian society, but if you go to most rural areas in the South you’ll see that this tradition has been carried on. Food from your own garden is fresher, it tastes better, and equally as important this day and age, you have the luxury of knowing how it was grown. My family and I like to grow various types of squash, pole beans, peppers, cucumbers, and, of course, tomatoes. If you learn how to freeze, dry, or can your vegetables, you can eat them all year long.
7) Barbecuing- Most boys develop a love of barbecuing at an early age by roasting hot dogs over the aforementioned camp fire. This is sort of the training grounds for a people who produce the best barbecue known to man- Pork, Southern style. Later, we teach them to grill burgers, pork chops and steaks as well, but it is all a means to an end for their learning the art of cooking the holy grail of Southern fare- Smoked Chicken, Ribs, Shoulders, Brisket and Pork Butt. If you’re really gutsy, you can learn and pass on the knowledge of cooking “whole hog.” Barbecuing is a real art form that includes the knowledge of making your own “rub”, cook times and temperature, what wood to use with what meat, and of course making your own sauce. I prefer a vinegar based sauce, but have rarely found a Southern style sauce that I didn’t like.
8) Ain’t is a word- I don’t care what our kids are learning from their Yankee textbooks these days, the word “ain’t” came here from the Southern and Western parts of England (making it necessarily “English”), and has been used in the South for over 400 years. Only to Yankees and the successfully indoctrinated Southerner is it “slang”. In fact, I’ve heard linguistic experts suggest that in the olden times, not only was it a word, but it was considered an aristocratic term used by the “upper crust” of Southern society. The fact that Yankees do not recognize it as a word means little to me. By the way, I don’t know what “youse guys” means either, and anyone who has such terminology existent in their region needs to fix their own language problems before they come down here trying to re-arrange ours. I ain’t got anything else to say on that topic.
9) Family history- My Great Grandparents on my Mother’s side lived well into their 90s. I loved them dearly, and would sit and talk with them for hours, both as a kid as well as into adulthood. They loved to tell all about their families, and their own experiences, and I loved to listen to those stories. Both of them were of Scots-Irish descent and they were very proud of this. My Grandmother had numerous family members who fought for the Confederacy, and I could listen to her tell stories about “her people” over and over again. I’ve tried handing as much of this knowledge as I can recall down to my own sons, lest it should be lost to history. The South is rich in tradition and family is at the heart of who we are. In the days when the American South was first settled, the people would settle in communities wherein most of their “kinfolk” were situated nearby. In rural Southern areas, you’ll still see this. The Heritage and traditions stemming from that way of life need to be passed down. There is a certain pride in knowing where and who you came from, and I hope Southern people never lose sight of this.
10) How to Choose their Heroes- From explorers such as Captain John Smith, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, to great statesmen such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, and soldiers like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Sergeant Alvin C. York, Audie Murphy, and beyond, the South has no shortage of real, bona fide heroes. These are men of determination, integrity, gallantry and nobility and yet, they’re rarely if ever even discussed in the modern government school system. To change the future, we have to change the present. To do that we have to reach the minds of our young people and give them knowledge of individuals who are truly worthy of their admiration, and their emulation. Heroes are important because they’ve set precedents for us to follow, and left behind examples of the attributes that we should hope to aspire to. Properly presented, nothing inspires the minds of children like a hero. Today our kids look at entertainers and sports figures as “heroes”, and rarely do these individuals merit such admiration. A great place to start for a look at real heroes is with Brion McClanahan’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes (No, Brion did not ask me to say this). I have two copies of this book (one for each son), and my youngest one loves the Chapter on Daniel Boone.
Above all else, Southern Boys should learn and carry on a reverence and devotion to Almighty God. The future of the South is in our hands, and our culture, traditions and heritage as a people all rest within the lessons that we hand down to our next generation.