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Monday, March 16, 2015

Am I a Hillbilly or Not?


After all these years, the question remains, am I a HILLBILLY or not?  

As a young adult, I became incensed when someone referred to my people, in the Ozarks, as hillbillies. The term hillbilly was not a term of endearment, but a pejorative statement, used to slur the existence of individuals who lived in rural areas and who maaaaybe spoke with a country inflection—of sorts. As in all name callin’, it’s usually done to make others feel good about themselves. It’s kind of like when I had to share a locker with a female student in high school, who believed the A’s on her report card were somehow better than the A’s I made on mine. (Yes it is!)
It made no sense to me.
So I’ve been wondering, of late, is hillbillyism just a stereotype, or is it something real and perhaps a state of mind?
I decided to check with my go-to source BuzzFeed, once again, for a quiz because they rarely let me down in advisement. In the fact, the last time I took one of their quizzes, the results revealed that the career I should be working at is in fact a Writer. Excited with that scientific conclusion, I had immediately shared the information, with my daughter, telling her it must be true because BuzzFeed said so AND its beer reviewed and everything. (Get it? Beer reviewed vs peer reviewed?) 

Sadly, there were no quizzes to help me clarify if I am a hillbilly or not. So I had to review this question on my own and without beer review. Here we go!
I concluded that I may be a hillbilly…
  • If I say, “Oh you’re the one with the house in the holler.” This means your house is in a valley-like place, but not as grand as a valley more like a dip in the land where mosquitoes hover. 
  • If I never call the little pinchy lobster like fish found in our rivers—crayfish. Instead,  I say,“That crawdad chased my bare toes.” True story.
  • If when I say I used an outhouse as a kid, I’m not talking about those things you might encounter in park areas OR the plastic Johnny-on-the-spot things, on a temporary basis. No. You have known a true outhouse experience if you have fought flies and wasps and used sticks as weapons against spiders, all while holding your breath, just to win a seat over an open black hole, in a board.
  • If on any given day in my community, to any person, I might say with 89.999% surety, “I think we’re cousins.” This is why I married a foreigner, from California.
Wikipedia.org claims that the term hillbilly came from “a 1900 New York Journal article, with the definition: "‘…a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.’"

Now that seems a bit harsh, but you know what? Some of the definition does speak to me: independent, self-reliant and ready to punch your lights out, if need be. Recently, when I read that someone claimed to be a hillbilly from New Jersey because they grew up in the country (in that state), I raised an eyebrow and may have taken offense, at their statement. An eastern hillbilly? Really?
Seriously though, who am I to question who is a hillbilly and who is not? Perhaps it’s not about a place, but about a state of mind that defines me as a hillbilly. 

Therefore, I am.


11 comments:

  1. Hi Theresa .. I'm a real HillyBilly ... so we can be hillybillies together - whatever that means .. we'd have fun, we'd talk, laugh, dream and write stories .. I resonate with the description of a free untrammelled citizen ... and the rest probably applies! Cheers Hilary

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  2. You won't catch me using an outhouse ever. I don't even like portajohns. My husband's friends have a camp in Maine that has almost everything but a working bathroom. They use an outhouse. He wants to go back up there so bad and I'm like, 'you can stay at the camp, I'll be in town at a nice hotel.'

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  3. Sister, I'm right there with you and I didn't grow up in the Ozarks. Your post will have me smiling all day. :)

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  4. Funny! I think you'd have to say you actually married your cousin though.

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  5. I used an outhouse as a kid at our cabin. Nasty as can be. But guess I've got a little hillbilly in me

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  6. Wonder what your foreigner hubby would think of the definition! :)
    My mom grew up with an outhouse in Scotland and her motto has always been 'never pass up an opportunity for a flush toilet!'

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  7. I say 'crawdads' too. :)

    If it helps, I've heard my kids' generation talk about hillbillies in a fond way. I felt as if it was pejorative when I was a kid, but it seems like that stigma isn't so much there? Maybe that it's more descriptive.

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  8. Hillbilly or not, I still like you. Your blog is fun.

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  9. I am a hillbilly and proud of it. I'm the kind you want covering your back during a free for all. Also I can feed you weeds and you will love them.
    I do talk funny, dress as I can and might even shoot a gun off now and then just for the pure pleasure of the sound. Yep, that's who I am alright. I even eat crawdads!

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  10. I'm not a hillbilly since I grew up on the coastal plains. But I say crawfish and talk Texas funny, and I'm definitely independent. Maybe I'm a beach-billy :)

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  11. When I first moved to East Tennessee in 1966 they kind of embraced the "hillbilly" culture and you'd find all sorts of restaurants, establishments, and attractions using the term "hillbilly" as a part of the name. I thought it was funny and kind of cool. I didn't mind at all becoming a hillbilly.

    Since then they've been dispensing with the term and trying to make things a bit higher class. Now moonshine is even sold in the liquor stores and it's all nicely packaged and given fancy names. The hillbilly is becoming a relic of a past era.

    Won't be missing any outhouses though. I could always do without those.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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