“People down south,” said Count Victor Justin, “will always prattle on and on about God and country, and nobility and glory, and they will always set such great stock on doing the honorable thing–and yet they’ll whip a poor Negro every chance they get. Now, you might say the darkey had it coming, but ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the sin committed by the negro is wholly incommensurate to the punishment. For instance, he has failed to turn away in time from the sight of a pretty white gal…or even a picture of one.
“Considering the slow pace of life down there, folks down south are surprisingly easy to irritate. You can always tell when they’re irritated because they talk to you as though they’re taking a shit. ‘Whut yew doin’ round here anyways? Y’all ain’t got no bidness ’round heah!’
“They always place great stock in gentility and manners, perhaps all the more so since those are the qualities which are conspicuously lacking amongst the folks who aren’t considered members of the gentry–in other words, the triflin’, low-down, no-good poor white trash. That’s why people down south are always asking after your parents, your children, your brothers and sisters, your aunts and uncles, your cousins, your doctor, your lawyer, and all your close friends and acquaintances. It’s not that they really care. They’re just want to know what your connections are. And also, they just don’t have an awful lot in the way of diversions to otherwise occupy their minds. They don’t have a single idea in their heads which don’t relate to Jesus or the weather, and so they spend all their spare time thinking and talking about the doings of other folks in the neighboring four counties. A fellow who, anywhere else, would be accounted a windbag is considered some kind of highly entertaining raconteur down south. That’s because people from the Southron also place a great deal of stock in folks who can bloviate. That’s why all their politicians are such gifted bullshitters. The weak fish who can’t orate worth shucks never get elected to anything.
“Southerners like to have everything arranged just so, and if they see you doing something which doesn’t comport with their notion of what’s proper, fitting, and just, why, then they dismiss you as a fool–not realizing, of course, that they’re the foolish ones. They are like every single frightened rube all the world over–their mouths actually gape open in stupefaction when they encounter something with which they are wholly unfamiliar–like a mannish-looking lady doctor, or a big he-man who acts a little swish, or a negro driving his own automobile.
“As I may have mentioned, I spent a good deal of time getting to know the people of the south. I’ve compiled a virtual lexicon of their doings and sayings. There are a whole bunch of phrases for you to know which would probably prove very useful down south. ‘Yes Sir.’ ‘Yes Ma’m.’ ‘No Sir.’ ‘No Ma’m’. ‘By your leave, Sir.’ ‘If you would do me the honor, Ma’m.’ ‘Good to see you, Mr. Man–tell me how be you?’ ‘Why not set a spell–what’s your hurry?’
“Those are the basic ones. After you’ve been there about three days, you will also find these phrases useful. ‘The widow woman has started taking in laundry.’ Or ‘Them damn Yankees are always up no good.’ Or ‘If it ain’t found in the Bible, the dictionary, or the almanac, then I ain’t got no use for it.’
“Or ‘the mule still won’t leave his stall–shove some more red pepper up his ass.’ Or ‘The negroes stole all our eggs.’ Or ‘Watch out–the Sheriff’s drunk again.’ Or ‘Hogs ate the baby.’ Or The preacher-man just beat his cook to death.’ Or ‘Burn down all the shacks in Dinkeytown.’ Or ‘My lazy servants are robbing me blind.’
“Or ‘Grandpa just killed our chauffeur’ Or ‘You just can’t find a good jockey boy these days.’ Or ‘For Christmas I gave my sharecropper some colorful rags.’ Or ‘Box the ears of that lazy negro scamp.’
“Or ‘The boy was shooting at rats and he killed an old negro by mistake.’ Or ‘I do not enjoy beating my servants.’ Or ‘Someone stole my midget butler’s stepladder.’ Or ‘Fry those greens in plenty of that good bacon grease.’ Or ‘Be careful: that swamp is full of cottonmouths.’ Or ‘Chiggers ate all the skin clean off’n his arm.’
Or ‘All the good negroes know that I’m their friend.’ Or ‘Some of the poor white people hereabouts are lower than the snake.’ Or ‘Send your colored man over to me; I will see that he is treated right.’ Or ‘Ever since Uncle Rector was kicked in the head by a Quarter Horse, he just hasn’t been the same man.’
“Or ‘Lookie over yonder at that hollow stump–there’s an owl, a bat, and a bumblebee!’ Or ‘He’s just the kind of polecat who would cuss around the womenfolk.’ Or ‘What’s this–you’re eight years old and you don’t know how to chew tobacco?’ Or ‘What would you like to drink–dope, coffee, or sweet tea?’
“Or ‘Senator so-and-so is slicker than snot on a doorknob.’ Or ‘You’ll never get there without a horse, so you’d better borrow mine.’ Or ‘Have you gotten right with the Lordie?’
“And I’ll also say this–unless you’re about four years old, or a hundred and four, you’d better think twice before you turn down an offer of a friendly drink, because the man who offers it will either think you’re giving him the high hat, or, worse, he’ll think your head ain’t screwed on straight. I can’t think of a single conceivable circumstance in which you would be justified in turning down a drink, unless you’re a preacher man and your church is a particular stickler in regards to old John Barleycorn. It’s kind of frightening to contemplate that the doctor, the lawyer, the policeman, the druggist, the innkeeper and the ostler are all very likely either drunk, or dead drunk. They do like their bourbon and rye down in those parts. I blame the hot weather. And the non-potability of much of the water. Plus the fact that most folks down south are descended from a long line of hard drinkers who like to get boozed up in a great big hurry and don’t make no bones about it, neither. So there you are–something else to remember.