A Redneck Education in 10 Lessons

A Redneck Education in 10 Lessons

Let me share with you a redneck education in 10 lessons but first a confession…I’m half redneck!

You see, Dad is a country boy.  He’s the son of a depression era farmer turned businessman and Dad grew up in a small town where he made extra money by hiring himself out to the local farmers during school breaks.  As a young man, Dad’s neck was definitely a shade of red but he fell in love with a city girl.  After getting married and dragging Mama Jackson around the world for a few years as a Navy wife he chose to settle the Jackson clan in a major Midwestern city not too far from his hometown.  We’ve never discussed it but I’ve always assumed that he settled in the city because that’s where the job opportunities were that would let him keep Mama Jackson in the manner to which she was accustomed (before her starving Navy wife days).

The nice thing about growing up in the Midwest is that even if you live in the city you are just a short drive to the country and growing up I spent a lot of time in and around Dad’s hometown.  We’d fish the farm ponds and hunt quail out of the draws that all the farms had in those days.  I grew up knowing my grandparent’s friends and my Dad’s hunting buddies.  I always felt that I was at least a part of Dad’s hometown.

While Dad married the city girl and moved to the concrete jungle suburbs…I went the other way and married a country girl.  Rachel spent her formative years deep in the Ozarks with a pair of resourceful parents that scraped a living out of those harsh, hillbilly highlands.  That living included numerous odd jobs, more than a little poaching and some creative culinary leaps including the invention of carp chili and a recipe for preparing groundhog.  When my bride and I returned home from my second Army tour we decided that the country life was for us and promptly moved to the country…in fact we moved back to my Dad’s hometown.

The nice thing about moving to a town where I had family roots was that the locals treated me like a local…they knew my people and I thought I knew theirs…did I mention that I was only half redneck?  We’ve been here over two decades now and when I think back to how young, naive and yes…ignorant I was… it’s a little embarrassing.

If you’re considering going ‘back to the land,’ want to develop ‘year round retreat’ or plan on ‘escaping the rat race’ you may be considering a move to the country as well.  I’m not assuming that the community you move into will be exactly like my home but I thought I’d share the Top 10 lessons of my redneck education so hopefully you don’t have to learn them the hard way like I did.

After you’ve identified the rural community you’re interested in joining make sure you not only to do your research, but also do some reconnaissance to make sure that your community is welcoming to outsiders.  Avoid any community that you think has a third generation rule.  If you’re not familiar with the ‘third generation rule’ that’s the rule that says it takes three generations to be considered a local… avoid these communities.  If you’re also buying or relocating a small business to your new rural home all these lessons will apply, if you’re just looking for a place to lay your head or ride out an economic meltdown you can choose to apply those lessons in other parts of your new rural life like the  community based volunteerism that you’re going to want to take up.

A Redneck Education in 10 Lessons

  1. Don’t Dis The Locals:  The sense of humor that was common in the city where I grew up and in the Army units I’d served in included clever banter about mutual acquaintances’ odd habits or behaviors.  The type of thing you might say about the odd duck who sits at your lunch table in high school.  You can’t do this in a small town.  Even poking harmless fun can be misinterpreted as negative and EVERYONE is related in a small town…well not everyone, but I guarantee that Murphy’s Law will assure that the recipient of your witticism will be the cousin, ex-husband or high school coach (maybe all three) of the target of your witticism.  When I first moved to town we had a local doctor who was a Vietnamese refugee… his most often prescribed treatment was “keep your chest warm” and he prescribed it with a rather humorous accent…which I could nail!  My wife appreciated my imitation but the second time I got the evil eye from a local over the imitation (what can I say, I was a slow learner in those days) I put it away for good.
  2. Learn The Infrastructure:  There are some infrastructure differences in the country and you need to learn what they are and adjust your behavior accordingly.  One of the differences in my neck of the woods is septic tanks and coming from the city I was used to using antibacterial soap…with a septic tank, bacteria is your friend and antibacterial soap is a sure way to create a pretty crappy situation.
  3. Be Careful Who You Hire:  Whether you’re hiring someone for your small business or to help you around your place be very careful who you hire.  Hiring locals is a great idea but if you’re prone to hire those who ‘know everybody’ it can backfire if they’re also a gossip.  We had an employee at the office that knew everybody and had the gift of gab…I thought she’d bring in lots of local business but many of the locals avoided our business while she worked for us.  You see, they were afraid that their private business wouldn’t stay private.  You should have similar concerns for those you have working for you at your home or homestead as well…some of your preps just can’t be hidden and you don’t want everyone in the county knowing that you have resources if times become tough…remember to be a Stealth Prepper.
  4. Get Involved:  Man is a social creature and can’t be happy without companionship.  It can also be difficult to survive without a personal network.  Get involved in group activities that interest you and you’ll meet like minded people.  Some good places to start are your Church, your children’s school, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Lions Club, a local social fraternity or an informal group like the men of a certain age that have coffee together every morning in my town.
  5. Don’t Talk About Religion:  Robert A. Heinlein from little ole Butler, MO said it best…’one man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.’  Hilarity aside, living in a small community in close proximity you want to tolerate others’ beliefs because if you piss someone off…there’s no escaping them and you’ll see them every time you buy groceries, fill up your tank with gas or go watch the high school team play.  This spirit of religious tolerance plays out on an organizational level in many towns where churches of different denominations often band together to accomplish charitable goals and undertake share missions.
  6. Buy American Cars:  When I first moved to the country there was an unwritten rule that the union crowd wouldn’t do business with you if you drove a foreign car.  Over the past two decades this particular ‘rule’ has disappeared in my community but every community has unwritten ‘rules’ that can sometimes be difficult for the outsider to decipher.  The best practice is to watch what and mimic what the locals buy, build, wear and do…and if in doubt find yourself a redneck whisperer that can facilitate your training and assimilation.
  7. Lend A Hand:  Give freely of your time to individuals and organizations.  Putting others before yourself will demonstrate that you deserve inclusion in the redneck collective.  Lend a hand, help out with community event, stop and help…you’re a good guy or gal…don’t be afraid to demonstrate it for your new friends.
  8. Promises Not Lawyers:  Unfortunately the ‘compliance culture’ is making inroads into our rural sanctuaries but out here a promise and a handshake still means something to many folks.  Be careful bringing lawyers into minor routine transactions as you might alienate your new friends.  My rule is that I always give the other guy the benefit of the doubt if he’s got a good reputation and the consequences of his failure won’t endanger my family or finances.  Additionally, when I do use a lawyer I use a country lawyer that’s well known, liked and respected…we tend to get to agreement much easier and with less cost.
  9. Wave:  Another unwritten rule in my neck of the woods is that you wave.  In town and on paved roads you wave at those you know, on gravel roads you wave at each person you pass.  The rules may vary in your rural paradise but as a prepper you want to maintain an awareness of those around you and a friendly attitude so comply with the local waving mores…like Dalton said “I want you to be nice.. until it’s time..to not be nice.”
  10. Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover:  In the country status, education, and wealth aren’t readily identifiable by clothes, cars, housing and diction like in the city.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the old guy with the three day growth of beard and muddy overalls can’t afford to buy the fancy import car you’re selling so that you can ‘buy American’… he may be the county commissioner, a retired PHD, the Methodist Pastor or the richest guy in three counties.
  11. Bonus Lesson…Don’t Let Your Dogs Run Loose:  In my neighborhood we welcome folks moving out from the city…but the quickest way to alienate the locals is to buy that place on acreage and think that you’ve got to populate it with three or four dogs that you let run loose.  Dogs running lose will pack up and revert to their predator behaviors.  Allowing your dog or dogs to join a pack that kills your neighbor’s livestock is not a good way to ingratiate yourself to your new neighbors.  Our local sheriff’s deputies counsel a solution for these situations…they call it “the 3 S’s.”  The 3 S’s is a procedure where you first ‘shoot’ the offending dog(s), then ‘shovel’ the carcasses underground and finally ‘shut up’ and never mention it again.

This was my redneck education in 10 lessons (and two bonus lessons) and your community’s values and mores are sure to vary from my community’s but hopefully these lessons I learned will help you avoid some of the uncomfortable situations and steep learning curve that I went through…yea, I learned six of these the hard way.

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One Response to “A Redneck Education in 10 Lessons”

  1. Love it, Andrew! Growing up in a one-horse town in GA, I can verify the list of rules you’ve stated. Especially the unwritten rules. It takes time to build relationships and bridges into a community. Your rules ought to help new folks setting up shop.

    BTW, I’m inherited Redneck genes from both parents. 🙂

    Keep Doing the Stuff!

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