Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Redneck Way of Life

Prior to the Twentieth Century, families' travel accommodations were with friends and family.  Consequently, vacations were always social affairs.  Families on holiday headed to their relatives' homes and stayed for days to eat, drink and be merry at their cousins' expense, which was okay because the cousin would vacation at the other's home soon enough.  Visits were paid regularly.  In England, most upperclass folks weekended at ancestral estates or if their family's money had dried up, they made sure to befriend those still in the black.  Most English travelers only stayed in hotels when going abroad or outside the country.  Nothing was thought of extending invitations to overnight guests.

In this day and age, at least in America, you're lucky to get invited inside someone's home for a cup of coffee or glass of wine, much less dinner; overnight guests are unheard of.  As women joined the workforce and more homes became single parent establishments-juggling many responsibilities, families get home and collapse.  The last thing on their mind is entertaining guests.  Which is why it has been so enlightening and refreshing to have stayed in other people's homes for two weeks.

Wyatt and Clay in a "friendly" game of tether ball.
After hosting the Reece family to a weekend party on Fripp Island in May, they returned the invitation by welcoming us into their 1820's historic home in Lexington, Georgia for the Fourth of July holiday.  It felt like we had traveled back to an earlier time when people sipped tea on front porches while lazily discussing the weather.  [Remember when people entertained for entertainment instead of sitting in front of the television?  Home entertainment should refer to talking, laughing and generally enjoying the company of friends and family, not a system of electronics.  Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now.]

We spent three restful days cooking, conversing and commiserating about kids and jobs (or the lack there of...) with Greg Reece (aka Redneck GReece) and his lovely wife, Evelyn, while the kids chased dogs or played tetherball.   As good guests, we brought the fixings for our first evening meal since Redneck and Evelyn had worked all the day we arrived.  Fresh Atlantic shrimp, corn, potatoes and andouille sausage brought the low country a little inland.  We had been craving this in Scotland so we got our foodie fix and played good guests at the same time.

Historic Lexington, Georgia is the county seat of Oglethorpe County and takes about five minutes to see by car; it is not a big town.  Luckily, we had the time to walk around and meet some of the fine folks who live there.  One lady who owns and operates a quaint consignment and antiques shop in downtown Lexington has rejuvenated this small town by bringing together musicians and farmers at an evening Farmer's Market and jam session.  The two Gregs ventured down to check out the music and purchased some grass-fed beef for our Fourth of July cookout.  Evelyn and I took a turn through the next door cemetery of the oldest Presbyterian church in North Georgia.  The graveyard had many beautiful monuments including the grave sites of two former Georgia governors.  Walking through, I recognized many county names among the dead: Lumpkin, Hall, and Cobb.  Across from the church was the first Presbyterian seminary in Georgia founded in the early 1800s.  Thanks to the work of people like the Reeces, historic buildings have been saved in this tiny neck of the woods.

Georgia Peach Sangria
We spent the Fourth of July in All-American splendor: eating, drinking and being merry. The guys grilled while the girls mixed peach sangrias.  The kids played games and ate themselves sick.  That evening, we all enjoyed Evelyn's homemade pimento cheese and chicken salad sandwiches as we watched the spectacular display of dueling fireworks from the city of Athens and the Athens Country Club.  Competition was alive and well in Clarke County.

Redneck at Work
Our third and final night (remembering Ben's adage) was spent separate once more.  Redneck was recording a new album and asked for my Greg to join in.  At Rick Fowler's Studio, the boys were joined by the musical talents of Glenn Reece (Redneck and Evelyn's son) on drums, Greg Veale (founding member of the Normaltown Flyers) on bass, and Rick Fowler (Fortnox and the Rick Fowler Band guitarist) on lead guitar.  My Greg played piano and some percussion by performing a crucial burp for the song, "The Y Chromosome." I'm not sure where Greg's burping came in, but rest assured, he nailed it.  Redneck's tongue-in-cheek Americana musical style was captured perfectly in his new original song honoring baseball fans, "He kissed her on the strikes, and She kissed him on the balls."  You'll have to buy the album to hear the rest.

While the musicians got creative, the ladies toured local historic spots.  Evelyn is the director of the Athens Welcome Center, which operates four historic homes in the Athens area.  She gave us a backstage tour of two of the lovely homes including the Athens Art Center.  I had the privilege of touring homes in Beaufort County, South Carolina with Evelyn in the spring and was amazed at how much fun it was to tour a home with a historic preservation expert.  She pointed out details I would have missed.  I loved combining old homes and learning history; it made the past come to life.  After our tours, we sat on her front porch swing during a wicked thunderstorm.  While the lightning raged, we enjoyed a little wine and gossip- two of Southern ladies' favorite things from way back.

I'm so thankful for this year in many ways and for many reasons, but the most memorable moments have been the ones we shared with friends.  Thank you, Reece Family, for sharing your Redneck way of life.

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