If you say the word grits, everyone knows its going to be about something southern, whether it’s about eating them, or kissing them. There are so many rich, amusing, and wonderful things about the southern culture till one’s mind does ponder them often. I think of those hot summer days of childhood, filled with outside adventures, watermelon, and friends. I can remember waking up to the smell of bacon cooking, country music playing on the radio, and family chattering away about the plans of the day…
In thinking about those good ol’ southern things, I like to focus on the positives, maybe that’s another southern thing, anyways, my thoughts this morning have been on the southern things that have been strong influences in my life.
Music – This was mostly country, I later added some variety to my listening like Dean Martin, The Beach Boys, Bing Crosby, and even some Bach. Very eclectic, yes, but I think the south is very eclectic.
Food – Grits of course, but good down home southern cooking also included many other foods such as fried chicken, hamburgers, salmon patties, and whatever vegetables you grew in the garden (or found at the market) that year.
Manners – We were taught respect for others from infancy, so it almost seemed that everyone knew how you were supposed to deport yourself in whatever situation you were in. Rudeness was never tolerated, the old saying, if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all, was the expected norm.
Friendly – Upon meeting new people one was expected to smile, shake hands (firmly), and be friendly. Upon meeting people you already knew, whether you liked them or not, you were expected to do the same.
Hospitality – Southern hospitality, is or should be one of the most famous things about the south. When company comes, they are always greeted warmly. Whether they are friends or family they are invited in and offered food and beverage. A southern home when and where I grew up was always a very welcoming place.
With all this in mind how could I not make my main characters from the south? I also love the western culture, so being me, I had to have the two cultures collide. You’ll find these collisions often in my book New Parish, and soon, Return to New Parish.
Excerpt from New Parish:
Chapter 3 – New Parish
“Michael!” shouted a lady’s voice from across the park.
They all looked as a herd of cows came into view at the edge of the park. The cows progressed toward the party with speed and destruction.
“Head’em off! Head’em off!” Brother Michael shouted as he recruited several of the men at the party to help direct the cows away from the party.
Sarah was quite impressed at the cowboy aptitude of Brother Michael and the other men present. They were able to drive most of the cows toward the entrance of the park and contain them there, but there were three cows that would not cooperate with Brother Michael’s agenda, they were still stubbornly rampaging through the park. Then Sarah saw something she had to do a double take to realize was really happening. It was so surreal, a man on a horse came quickly and proficiently riding into the park after the cows and was expertly gathering them up. The man looked every bit like a cowboy right out of a western movie and immediately made Sarah think of Tom Selleck sitting on his horse, he was tall and tan, with dark hair and mustache with a three or four day showing of whiskers on his face. His hair was a little long and shaggy for this community, where every guy she’d met was sporting short very controlled hair. He was wearing a dingy grey cowboy hat, faded blue button up shirt, a blue paisley bandanna, jeans covered with shotgun chaps, and worn cowboy boots and gloves.
Sarah had been so mesmerized by the cowboy and what he was doing that she stood there in a stunned daze… she didn’t see the cow coming toward the table she was standing near. Brother Michael shouted to the cowboy, “What’s going on here Max?”
The man on the horse shouted back, “I had a few heifers break down a fence and get out, sometime last night. I didn’t know it till this mornin and was rounding ‘em up when some stray dog started yippin at ‘em and they got ahead of me.”
Brother Michael smiled and said, “Max I’d like to introduce you to, Sarah, from Georgia.”
Max pulled on the reins of his horse and stopped a few feet away, he smiled and drawled, “Howdy, ma’am.”
Sarah was completely captivated by this cowboy, she thought his smile was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, his deep blue eyes sparkled – she felt like her head was filled with something sweet and gooey which was slowing her thought processes down. Her brain was stuck on, “Oh my gosh, he’s so gorgeous…”
Before she could reply to the cowboy’s greeting she heard someone shout, “NO!” The next sound she heard was a dog barking… This inspired the cow that was getting near her to jump, and run, bumping into the table and with a sort of bounce, trip, and run action. It landed on the table with a bang collapsing the legs of the table. At the same time of the table collision the cow bumped into Sarah knocking her to the ground as it ran off toward the playground. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but what happened next made Sarah think of a sitcom situation on a TV show, because this sort of thing doesn’t happen in real life… not in her life.
Sitting on the ground where the cow had knocked her, Sarah saw the table legs fold under as the table hit the ground with a thud from the weight of the cow and very large metal container that held the hot chocolate – it instantly poured out all over the ground where she was sitting. But Sarah’s main focus was on the punch bowl that had been catapulted into the air from the other end of the table, it was coming right at her with all the red punch it held. The step ladder that had been placed underneath the table for support had worked as a fulcrum to create the catapult for the punch bowl.
Sarah’s mental faculties returned to her in time for her to put her hands up to prevent the large plastic punch bowl from hitting her head… she was drenched in red punch and the hot chocolate had soaked into the skirt of her dress along with turning her shoes a new color of brown. She felt as though everything had been turned off for a few seconds or slowed to a slow motion state and now it was all back on in vivid living color. She was completely soaked through with hot chocolate on the bottom of her and red punch from her head down to her feet. She was shivering from the cold, and becoming more and more angry, and humiliated, by the second. Sarah couldn’t comprehend what, why, or how something like this could happen. She thought, “Of course, Max the cowboy had taken off after the cow incident without a word of apology.” Sarah was processing this, she’d been so awe struck with his stunningly irresistible, beguiling, captivating appearance, but now she could see him for what he was, “Just another macho, self centered, inconsiderate, blockhead of a man who only thought of himself and what he wanted… Just like so many other ignoramuses that have strolled through my life over the years,” she thought as Mary brought a blanket and wrapped it around her.”
New Parish is out now! Return to New Parish will be out in a few months!!! You can get a copy of New Parish here:
New Parish by Julie Worthington on Amazon.com
Also available at:
Bee’s Grocery (in Centennial Park)
Changing Hands Bookstores in Phoenix and Tempe AZ
Coming soon to many new bookstores!