Point of View

The South, the snow and the snickers

January 31, 2014 

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ARTEM POVAROV — Getty Images/iStockphoto

At least twice a day, I get polled by a passerby with the question, “Where are you from?” The question isn’t based out of politeness but instead is a direct reaction to my thick, Southern accent.

I don’t get mad about the assumptions that, in light of my obvious twang, I must be slightly remedial and, more likely than not, without indoor plumbing. I get it. I speak more slowly, I have a closet full of bizarre home-remedies and I can quote the movie “Steel Magnolias” by heart – unprompted.

To the outside world, Southerners appear to be odd, American aboriginals who live in accordance to the Bible, Jack Daniels and the lyrics to “Boot-Scootin’-Boogie.” So when we flee to grocery stores for toilet paper and bread at the very mention of the “s” word, it’s acceptable that our brothers and sisters to the North snicker and chalk up this occurrence to those silly, cute Southerners who are at it again.

To those who truly share that opinion, I would like to say this:

The aboriginal tribe of Carvers Creek is 17 miles (in any direction) from the nearest town, and those nearest towns are still over 60 miles away from the nearest snowplow. The inhabitants of this archaic land rely on wells housed in prehistoric “pump houses” to retrieve water from the earth. If freezing temperatures unrelentingly persist, the pipes can freeze, causing the pump or the water filter to shatter and running thousands of dollars, or acorns, or clay sacrificial pots (whatever we can barter in exchange for goods) to fix or replace.

Additionally, Carvers Creek consists of several miles of intertwined roads; though the tribe elders can use smoke signals to communicate across fields and lowlands, actual travel for these hunters and gatherers becomes limited in icy conditions.

To the Northerner, the answer to this predicament is simple: Be prepared. It’s a solid motto and has served the Boy Scouts of America well, but asking the Southerner to prepare for snow is the same as asking a Methodist to prepare to “get dunked” in the baptismal pool; it’s difficult to prepare for an event that one truly believes will never happen.

In a climate where it’s not unusual for me to work on a tan over Christmas break, why would our city and state officials spend a lot for a fleet of snowplows or an army of DOT workers? The old cliché “respect the unexpected” should apply, but in a state that is already past its financial breaking point, there simply is no budget for “the unexpected.” When asked why the state or county officials do little or nothing to handle an icy crisis, I can simply say that North Carolina has, to quote Southern vernacular, bigger fish to fry.

Mind you, our Northern neighbors, less than a week ago we saw temperatures reaching almost 65 degrees. The idea of snow is seldom on our radar, and when we do see a blustery blast of Old Man Winter coming our way, we lack the state finances and internal infrastructure to adequately prepare for an event that is still rather foreign.

So, while it’s easy to mock and snicker from behind the wheel of a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, parked snugly in a garage beside two snow shovels and bags of rock salt, remember that what Northerners may see as standard purchases, Southerners view as a waste of money. When threatened with icy conditions, we hunker down. Why? Because we don’t have enough experience to know what to do.

The good news is, it’s the South, and tomorrow it could be 70 degrees, in which case this white wonder will quickly melt away. And then y’all are more than welcome to come over, sit a spell and drink a mint julip while reading a little Faulkner. Because I’m Southern, I am polite.

When Northerners turn up their noses at sweet tea or complain about the muggy and damp summer nights, I will not begrudge them. Instead, I will offer them a glass of lemonade and offer them the seat closest to the fan – because that’s what neighbors do around here. Maybe we should remember where we are before we pass judgment.

Sarah Miller, a Bladen County native and former teacher, lives in New Hill.

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