Bluegrass Blubber

Bluegrass Blubber

A Story by barleygirl
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true 1980's story . . .

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Having grown up in the boondocks in the 1960’s, I thought I knew all about rednecks.

We drove an hour into town to do our shopping once a week. Eight nearby homes shared a party line that permitted only one person to use the phone at a time. Anyone could eavesdrop as long as heavy breathing or background noise didn’t tip off the other party.

I grew up far from the reach of radio or television signals. Cable and satellite TV were not yet widely available. We were never bored living in the country tending an expansive garden with a scattering of livestock and small farm animals. We butchered our own meat tossing fresh livers in a hot frying pan before such body parts cooled off.

Over time two different neighbors blew their brains out with a shotgun when it became impossible to support their large families on a small rustic farm. The prospect of trying to find one’s first “real job” as a middle-aged hillbilly must’ve felt daunting. Watching raggedy kids file onto our school bus we all respectfully looked away from vacant sad faces.

Local yokels held regular potlucks when anyone scored a fresh roadkill with promptly-butchered venison steaks on the barbeque. Guys didn’t bother to find a restroom -- they just whipped it out anywhere and watered a tree. It wasn’t unusual for someone to blow his nose by holding one nostril and spraying the other into thin air. We may have been hayseeds lacking sophistication, but there was no need to lock our doors.

Later on came the hippie upheaval. Some beatnik carryovers were dirty and scruffy, but most hippies of the California variety donned their bellbottoms and birkenstocks in high fashion. Despite donning fishnets and patent leather go-go boots in the 1970’s, I always felt like a hick deep down inside.

That’s why it was such a jolt when I sniffed out my first bluegrass festival during a brief foray to the Midwest. I never saw such a gathering of unabashed rednecks in all my born days!

Hubert was my devoted friend and avid travelling companion during most of my twenties. Our extensive road trips crisscrossed the United States several times over. Starting in Cincinnati, Ohio we first located a liquor store because we’d heard Kentucky was a “dry state” -- this was a novel concept for Californians where the wine and pot smoke flows like honey.

After crossing the Ohio River we were stunned by the sudden transformation to lush verdant horse spreads of Kentucky Derby fame. The scent of money definitely hung in the air as perfectly-painted slat fences zoomed by for miles. Vast manicured acreage was dotted with oval tracks and fresh-white stables.

Closer to the concert venue dire poverty emerged along rustic backroads. Arriving at the austere grounds a few hours early Hubert and I walked around to check it out. Across a narrow dale we laughed as we took in a preposterous collection of lawn chairs staking claim for absent occupants -- announcing names and towns-of-origin in huge spray-painted lettering on assorted lounge cushions. We saw concert-weary outdoor furniture of every size, description, and state of disrepair circled by vast arrays of sturdy ice chests stuffed full.

At the front of this field a tiny hunk of rickety horse trailer with the side cut away exposed a cramped interior lined with dingy egg-carton acoustic tiles. There was barely enough space on this makeshift stage for a band of six or seven musicians to play very cozily. Later they would call it a sweatbox. The purpose of this trailer was evidently to shield musicians from occasional downpours.

Accustomed to dry California heat with no summer rain, Hubert and I were feeling the unbearable steam cycle in our new locale. Black thunderclouds built up for a few hours every afternoon before bursting into a refreshing downpour. When the rain stopped everyone carried on as a new blast of sunshine cooked up another batch of sticky sweltering humidity.

When the music started we carved out a spot for our shiny new lawn chairs. It was a great concert that lasted twelve hours each day throughout the weekend. But it was the audience that created the show for me. Despite my hillbilly childhood this was my first exposure to true redneck culture.

Some living in the heartland have a label for coastals: “elites” -- as if the extensive agricultural machine in the biggest state of this nation could be defined by Hollywood snobbery -- as if we rural folks in California don’t have the same social divides and unfairness as can be found in the so-called “rust belt.”

This Kentucky bluegrass festival felt like sitting in the living rooms of your basic couch potatoes (admittedly a health-nut California bias). Folks at this concert dressed the same for any special occasion as they would for sitting at home in front of their television -- unshaved stubble, rumpled stretchy clothing and uncombed hair. Most men sported a bulging wad of tobacco in their cheek or lower lip, spitting here and there periodically.

I don’t want to criticize others for being overweight. I’ve been plump most of my life and some of my siblings are in the three- to four-hundred-pound range. So I’ve seen up close and personal how fat shaming can damage a person’s heart and self-esteem. I don’t want my next revelation to be a condemnation of this bluegrass crowd, but it was a shocking sight to see the sheer volume of exposed flesh glistening with oily sweat. There wasn’t a thin person in sight and I felt svelte at this gathering.

Half these concert-goers were heavy and the other half grossly obese. They were steadily stuffing their faces with fried chicken and butter-slathered potato wedges throughout the weekend. Here was a collection of thick blubbery bumpers hanging in every direction and sometimes dragging on the dirt below.

But the thing that blew my mind: nobody was one bit self-conscious! Men plopped down into reclining chairs that strained under the load and finally bottomed out. Shirtless dudes ogled the bazoombas of ladies with tube tops drowning in curves.  Yet there wasn’t a hint of self-consciousness . . . and here I was roasting in the heat with long pants rather than let my thunder thighs roll!

Looking back on this experience from years ago it sheds some light on the cultural chaos in our country nowadays. Most Californians are NOT “elites” but there’s a definite fussy perspective when it comes to the way others present themselves to the world. It was inconceivable to me (then and now) how these bluegrass bumpkins were so comfortable in their own vast skin, so utterly uninhibited about their presence and everyone else’s.

This bluegrass throng (for me) was a microcosm of those who could be tolerant enough to let the Chump be a Chump.



© 2017 barleygirl



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You sure got around back in those days. Being a southerner myself, I don't really remember there being all that many rotund individuals when growing up--not like today. Electronic entertainment, laziness and too much fast food--that's got to be a big part of it. Hopefully, you and your friend were able to escape that chub-o hillbilly world without being made to squeal like a pig.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

I agree, people in general weren't as round as these days, so that's why this collection came as a s.. read more



Reviews

Wow! This is so insightful. I was hooked. Being from Scotland, I see a lot of parallels. Very interesting

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

2 Months Ago

Since being on this website, I've started trying to show a wider view of the cultural perspective, s.. read more
I love the whole cultural concept and enlightenment you brought in for a person from around the other side of the world. you showed a mature and professional skill in highlighting some issues see in redneck American's shown more in a way of concern and importance rather than shaming and being hateful. you wrote this beautifully. Obesity is an issue in America from what ive heard or red. Its more of a matter of concern rather than showing someone hate. yes making them feel s****y about themselves to a point where ones words lower their self esteem is different. that is bullying.
love your works Margie !!!

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

I always enjoy hearing about the different cultures in other parts of the world, so I try to show a .. read more
First of all you know I am going to enjoy this story. And I do. Second, there are many levels here that lead us into the feel, atmospheres and the people you describe.
Thirdly I remember my first impressions of the Southern states and the Bible belt of your fine country. When I saw a sign that said 'Are you steeped in Sin!' And I felt required to answer yes thankyou.
When another sign outside a white clapboard church said 'Christ is the answer' To which one wag once said to the question What do say when you hit your thumb with a ten pound lump hammer?
Such real storytelling done so well. And with empathy as well which I agree is difficult to do.


Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

I'm glad you got the underlying empathy . . . I tried hard not to make this sound offensive to some... read more
Ken Simm.

3 Months Ago

I should be thanking you for your encouragement Margie. But you are more than welcome.
You sure got around back in those days. Being a southerner myself, I don't really remember there being all that many rotund individuals when growing up--not like today. Electronic entertainment, laziness and too much fast food--that's got to be a big part of it. Hopefully, you and your friend were able to escape that chub-o hillbilly world without being made to squeal like a pig.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

I agree, people in general weren't as round as these days, so that's why this collection came as a s.. read more
I was one of those very neat and clean hippies. I wore bell bottoms, stacked heel shoes, love beads and concert tee shirts...except on the week-ends when I wore silk shirts. But that was in the early 70s. I've also been among the bluegrass crowd but most of our bluegrass performers are skinny mountaineers. I've attended several bluegrass festivals across North Carolina and in the Blue Ridge. I guess maybe things are a bit different on the east coast. But bluegrass was born in Appalachia so I'll have to lay claim to greater authenticity. Body size is not a thing I've ever felt was offensive but it can be unhealthy; heart disease and all that. Funny, I've never known that many obese mountain folks and they eat lard, fatback, pork, butter, cream and all sorts of fattening stuff...but then they spend most of their time outdoors tending gardens and chopping wood too. Maybe it all just comes down to balance.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

Sorry to hear of your brother's passing. It's great that you got to share some excellent music toget.. read more
Fabian G. Franklin

3 Months Ago

It was funny and you have a gift of down home expression in your writings. May I ask where you hail .. read more
barleygirl

3 Months Ago

Central California Coast (Big Sur hills) . . . grew up here & now I'm growing old here. In between I.. read more
Born in Blythe. Lived in Indio. Then off to Arizona.
Bit of a mix. So many memories were brought up by this write. Dad delivering milk in Palm Springs during the week, and fishing in the reservoirs on the weekends. Nice mix.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

DELIVERING MILK! That's one of those things like party lines that people don't even know about anymo.. read more
Jon Roggie

3 Months Ago

I am the milkman's son. Most people don't get that joke anymore.
barleygirl

3 Months Ago

Good one! *wink! wink!*
I love the total lack of inhibition present in the party goers, as well as the general "redneck" populations you mention. Having so few restrictions would be a pleasant change from our current society: full of rules and restrictions and body shaming and lack of acceptable discourse. It's a shame most of us don't know anything else. It would've been great to have a taste of this sort of freedom at some point. All that aside, this story (as other reviewers have mentioned) has a lot of very good descriptions. While reading, I could practically smell the sweat and weed, and could imagine standing next to a bunch of large, hairy dudes.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

Those who support Trump are really rebelling against the political correctness you are describing. E.. read more
Gorgeous
As Annette says write a book

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

I wish I could remember all the time, but my memory is feeble. I have hundreds of such stories to di.. read more
Margie you should write a book. You have a great Steinbeck-esque style of straightforward honest observation and descriptive storytelling.- no frills. Love it! Can see the whole scenario and am smiling. Love the sharing of your exploits and also the information about states/regions you've travelled. And from a woman's point of view too! Brava!

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

My no-frills style is from 30+ years of technical writing, where my audience doesn't like to read. N.. read more
You just described the Mississippi State Fair! There is, however, a strong division of folks: the Southern Belles & Debutantes with their Ivy League fiances, and the trailer trash Barbies - that Malibu now up on blocks and her sportin' a black eye that Ken gave her last night when she tried to change the channel from "wrasslin'" to her "stories" (General Hospital or As the World Turns). I love this whole piece, and can relate to not being as un-inhibited as my fellow concert party pals who seriously and literally let it ALL hang out! Lynnard Skynnard! Black Oak Arkansas! The Allman Bros.! This memory is obviously still very clear and crisp around the edges - I treasure those the most - and you described it to us perfectly.

Posted 3 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

barleygirl

3 Months Ago

During my brief time in Ohio I was shocked at the way women waited on their men, bringing them a bee.. read more

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Added on September 6, 2017
Last Updated on September 6, 2017

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barleygirl
barleygirl

Central Coast, CA



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