Friday, March 18, 2011

"If you're gonna be stupid, you gotta be tough"

I have just returned from a 5-day jaunt to see Mama at the farm.
My niece is 11 now, 5 months from being 12, and light years from being a kid. She is bright and quirky and occasionally silly. She likes all kinds of people, including a tall and sturdy old widow she sits with sometimes in church at Mt. Gilead. Miz Roz passed the piece of wisdom in the title of this piece to her. I think it might have been a warning to the Niecelet to take care in her disdain of the stupid...

Mama's Farm House
I got there Saturday and we made our grocery list, called Pouncey's, and went to town.
Pouncey's is an institution in Perry; a place for fried mullet, hushpuppies with guava jelly and swamp cabbage. You can't get swamp cabbage just anywhere, you know. This is Pouncey's third incarnation and the closest to the original which makes it the best restaurant I know of without a winelist.
My Aunt Karen whisks around the restaurant like the pro she is, greeting and teasing and cosseting her patrons like they were family. Kay-kay should have been a Diplomat for the US. Her first and second husbands became friends and refer to each other as "husband in law."  
Mama and I picked a booth since it was early, ordered catfish (mullet was all gone) and swamp cabbage and started to inhale some of Taylor County's best food.
It strikes me as humorous that I, with my sophisticated palate, love something as coastal hillbilly as mullet and swamp cabbage.
Keaton Beach Salt Marsh. We used to catch crabs using chicken necks.
We meandered on down to our beaches; our perfectly imperfect beaches with sand that varies between silvery white to golden to pale yellow. We're on a low-energy part of the coastline and it is shallow for a long way out into the gulf from our shore. Some brave souls were laying on the sand in bikinis but we were glad for long sleeves to divert the brisk wind. 72 degrees and windy is too cold for a Southern girl.
From Keaton we drove to Steinhatchee.

 This teeny town sits on the Steinhatchee River which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.

Steinhatchee River

Just so you know, Steinhatchee and its river are pretty amazing from a "pristine" Florida perspective. If you can get there, park and walk around. Find someone to tell you about the fishing, the water, the lifestyle.
I won't be related to any of those folks; the water people are a lot rougher than those of us who live in more forgiving terrain. As we say at home, "you 'bout cain't grow anything in that sand by the river."

This is my mother. That face is made up of Swiss, Dutch, Creek Indian and some other stuff. You see the Swiss and Dutch most:)
Our people live inland with rivers nearby and access to the Gulf so my ancestors had a lot of ways to keep the kids fed. Mama remembers her grandfather ("granddaddy") and uncles taking the sloop out to the Gulf to catch mullet. They'd eat some, salt most down for later. During the winter while she was growing up, her Daddy took the family to live at the hunting camp for the season. He always built camp around a likely-looking candidate for Christmas tree duty. He never cut a Christmas tree even after they moved to town. He'd find a nice tree, carefully dig it up and keep it in a bucket until time to replant.                                                            
Her family weren't big farmers, just grew a kitchen garden and lived off meat they harvested from the wild.They are some of the kindest people you'll meet and will be glad to feed you whether they know much about you or not. My mother's grandmother raised 13 children, not all of them hers, and never spanked one of them. None of them ended up in jail or became bad adults, they grew up to be kind people themselves.
Their faith has always been a large part of how they define themselves. There is a little Baptist church out in the woods on a dirt road that you won't find unless you're looking for it that was founded by 3 or 4 families (including Mama's) in the late 1800's. They aren't the kind of Baptists I usually associate with that term. They're very live and let live, believers in-second-chances, flock-supportive people.
 I told Mama they sound like Methodists.
These little wild lillies pop up near Easter in the wet on either side of State Road 59. Typical of the roads in my home counties, it cuts through low wetlands and hilly farm and pasture lands.
I had forgotten the great importance my mother and family seem to put on Easter. Maybe it has something to do with the renewing of the land, the knowing that tomatoes and cucumbers and fresh corn are coming soon. Maybe it is just the soul-cleansing reminder that their sins are forgiven by a great sacrifice.
I am something of a neo-pagan according to the surveys I've taken. I think of myself as a humanist with wiccan leanings. This visit to my home grounds, where the scent of the land is familiar and always tinged with a little salt, where I see faces that carry traces of my own and I am loved by aunts and uncles and cousins in spite of my oddness and made to feel like some precious gem by my mother, reinforces my version of faith.


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