A.C. Snow

Snow: Iowans purloin our Southern charm

American humorist Will Rogers once said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.”

That expression came to mind as I watched TV coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

I never met an Iowan I didn’t like.

One of my favorite Iowans was my wife’s Northwestern University graduate school roommate. They became such fast friends that at summer school’s end, Lynne Sutton, an accomplished musician, flew to North Carolina to sing at our wedding.

I remember teasing my wife-to-be, “If I had met that girl earlier, you might have had some keen competition for my hand in marriage.”

Lynne had an endearing sense of humor. After she married a colonel in the Army, I once asked her how she kept all the military ranks straight.

“I just call them all ‘General’ and have never had any complaints,” she replied.

My son-in-law, Adam Smith, political editor of the Tampa Bay Times, covered the recent Iowa presidential caucuses.

He began one story with, “Iowans are quite simply the nicest humans on Earth. But their antiquated caucuses are a lousy way to kick off a presidential election.”

While in Iowa, Adam accompanied a New Jersey teamster on a door-to-door vote solicitation for the teamster’s candidate.

“We woke up a woman who, still in her bathrobe, insisted we come inside and let her make us bacon and eggs even though she didn’t care for the teamster’s candidate,” Adam wrote.

That’s Iowa for you. Traditionally, the South has been regarded as the mecca of good manners, charm and vivacity. But in recent decades, those attributes, real or fictional, have been diluted by the great influx of newcomers from less genteel regions.

Ah, would that Iowans’ gentle, good-natured, friendly persona spread across our angry nation.

Memorable Super Bowl

Well, we survived the Super Bowl.

My most memorable Super Bowl, played in the not-recent past, had nothing to do with what occurred on the playing field.

My wife had taken our two daughters to church for choir practice. During the big game’s halftime, I noticed that the bird bath on the back patio had frozen over.

I went down to the laundry room, ran a pail of warm water and thawed the ice. At the game’s end, I went back downstairs on some long-forgotten errand, to be greeted at the bottom of the steps with what resembled the Sea of Galilee! I had failed to turn off the laundry room spigot.

I immediately called my neighbor Ed Green, always my port in any storm. He came running with broom and mop. We spent what seemed like an eternity pushing the inches-deep expanse of water out the back door.

A ‘national sickness’

Although I watched the game, I still think it’s deplorable that sports occupy such a consuming sense of importance in our culture.

Cal Fussman, author and one-time sports writer for The Washington Post, once wrote an unforgettable piece about our obsession with sports, which he called a “national sickness.”

“Sports is the clean white bandage we have placed over a festering abscess at the core of this country,” Fussman wrote. “Why should we be surprised when a little pus (corruption) seeps?

“The sports fan uses his team for a fraudulent sense of community; a close game as a substitute for the lack of tension in his life; a victory as salve for his own defeats.

“Reggie Jackson once said that hitting a home run is better than having sex. That may be. The problem is, for many Americans, watching a Reggie Jackson hit a home run is better than having sex.”

Undoubtedly, many of even the most ardent sports fans will find that last assertion stretching things a bit.

For one thing, engaging in sex doesn’t put you at risk for a brain concussion or broken bones or being traded if you don’t perform well.

Palm scratching

I’ve been surprised to learn that “palm scratching” as a courting come-on was not an exclusively foothills custom.

“I read your comment about date protocol and the palm scratching. Boy, did that bring back old memories,” wrote reader Jim Beckford. I was a frequent palm scratcher but with few results. Mostly, the girls responded with a blank look.

“My excuse for the palm scratching evolved into ‘I was checking to see if you were ticklish.’ I admit to only a few palm scratchings from the females.”

I was amazed to learn from one reader who recently returned from a Peace Corps stint in West Africa that the suggestive gesture is common in Ghana.

Snow: 919-836-5636; asnow@newsobserver.com