The Naked Emperor

16 April 2004


16 April 2004

Recently I've written about the war, rising casualties, and the 9/11 commission. All heady and serious topics. A bit too serious for my poor soul. And perhaps my views could be characterized as too simplistic. Mea Culpa. And why is this? Maybe I can explain.

You see, I'm a redneck. Proudly. And by choice.

In my formative years, I had choices to make, just like anyone else. It's not that being a redneck was all I knew, but It's the path I've chosen. My choice has gotten stronger with middle age. Why? I guess that tiredness has something to do with it.

I define redneck as someone who has chosen to simplify their life. Jeff Foxworthy's defines redneck as "a glorious absence of sophistication" That applies to some extent but not totally.

Self help types recommend that everyone have a "personal mission statement" Fair enough. Mine just happens to be "You can never own too many books, tools, or guns." Nothing highbrow, just simple. I like simple.

As an example, let's take transportation. As I said, I'm a redneck. And I'm male. I let those two criteria simplify my choices. I have to have a vehicle, but what will I buy? Hmmm... A pickup perhaps? Of course. I'm redneck living in the country. I NEED a truck. But I still have further choices to make.

Let's see, what brand of truck should I buy? Being a redneck pretty much eliminates Toyota, Nissan, etc. We buy American made trucks. Chevy, Ford, Dodge. The nearest Dodge dealer is 20 miles, so they're out. I've always had good luck with Fords and thought it rode better than the Chevy. (Chevy fans, that's only my personal opinion!!) So I got an F150.

Engine? Proper trucks have eight cylinders in a vee. Those with four, six, or even five cylinders now aren't only un-American, but may be a sign of demonic possession.

I keep a lot of useful things in my vehicle, and I think it's wise to lock it when I'm in town. So a standard cab won't do. Don't give me that stuff about locking bed covers, with one of those you can't haul a decent load. I don't normally tote more than one other person with me, so a double cab isn't needed. Therefore, if a standard cab is too small and a double is too big, you now know that I drive an extended cab truck. It's just right.

Actually, the big debate in redneck vehicle choices is two or four wheel drive. I've had friends with four by's that would go deep in the woods and always get stuck. Other friends with two by's actually try to avoid such locales and never get stuck. I'm too old to think that spending the day trying to dig out the truck is fun, so mine is just two wheel drive.

Color doesn't matter much to a redneck, since Detroit has yet to make the color we need. No matter what color you buy, it's not going to look good with all the dust and mud on it. When Detroit manages to invent mud colored trucks that can be matched to your particular road, I'll be happy.

See how simple that was? I didn't spend months looking over the latest Road and Track reviews for European vs. Japanese luxury and performance sedans. Three days after deciding on something new, it was parked in the yard.

While we're on vehicle choices, we come to SUV's. I think they're very useful. They can carry some cargo, a bunch of people, look good and still handle rougher terrain. But the city folk driving them to look macho is hysterical to a redneck. While we see a lot of them around home, it's our women folk that drive the SUV's. They do most of the kid toting, but have to handle the country roads.

"OK you're a redneck. Doesn't that also make you a racist?" I guess so, but not as much as before. I mean Nascar just ain't the same since Dale got killed. But it keeps getting more popular.

Nascar proves that redneck isn't only country, it's getting mainstream. It used to be that no one north of the Mason Dixon line had ever heard about places like Talledega. Now I see hats and car numbers on motorhomes from around the country. It's not only known but popular.

Since you're getting used to hearing me rant, here comes another one. Nascar. It's gotten too far from it's roots.

You see, during prohibition, people wanted to drink. But to have a still requires firewood, clean water and above all, privacy. Therefore the stills were located in the back country, and up in the hills. Problem. Not many customers there. So how do you get moonshine from the hills down to the towns and cities? By car of course. But not any car. Modified to conceal a hundred gallons or so of moonshine, and hopped up so they could outrun the cops and Feds.

Eventually, some of these drivers would get together, and compare notes. And brag on who had the fastest car. Boasts like that can hardly go unchallenged. So they would race. People started to want to watch. Prize money was offered. And the biggest sport in America was born.

But now, each driver runs in a totally custom built, cutting edge engineered race car. Computer controlled, video cam monitored. It boggles the mind.

I personally think Nascar should backtrack a bit. The cars, safety equipment excepted, should have to look like any other car you might see on the street. And they should be required to haul a hundred gallons of liquid in a concealed fashion. In the interests of safety, we'll let them tote water instead of highly flammable moonshine.

Currently Nascar races have some cute little Tonka toy car with amusing yellow lights as a "pace" car. Who thought this up? It runs around at the front of the pack. What??

Instead, they need to have a similar car. But not cute. It needs to be a Crown Vic Police Interceptor. Black and White. It's lights need to be red and blue.

Here's my new rules. Everyone starts the same, carrying a hundred gallons of water. The "Pace" car starts at the back of the field, lights blazing. If the pace car passes you, you're out. Busted. And can't race for two weeks. Anyone finishing ahead of the pace car gets some prize money for "delivering the load" The fastest gets the most.

I know it seem crazy, but don't you think Ricky Rudd and pals wouldn't push just a bit harder when they see those lights coming up in the rear view mirror?

I hear a lot of talk about Hip Hop becoming mainstream culture. Frankly I see no sign of it. Redneck is mainstream and growing. We have taken our criminal activities and turned them into the biggest spectator sport on America. Bigger than the NFL or NBA. I guess I'll believe it when someone manages to make some "gangsta" activity like drive-by shooting into a sport.

Don't laugh, it may be closer than you think. Maybe if they only used paint balls, with politicians for targets? "Coming next Tuesday on ESPN, Celebrity Drive-By with Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly as guest targets."

Maybe not. Until then, let's tailgate next Daytona.

Peter M. Grout


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