“What I find offensive is that all the Yellofs north of the Mason-Dixie line,” said Count Victor Justin, “are operating under the hideous misapprehension of conflating backward and violent hillbillies with all the fine people of the Southron. I say that nothing could be further than the truth. The two groups are, as a matter of fact, inimical to each other. A Southern man prides himself on his ability to feed himself and his family. Once he has sown his wild oats, he is generally a law-abidin’ and church-goin’ man who only gets drunk maybe two or three times a week and knows how to behave himself in mixed company. He doesn’t go out of his way to mock a blind man, or trip up a cripple, or lynch a Negro who knows his place. You can say none of those things about the Hillbilly. Back in my day, before the term was even invented, we used to call them ridge runners. Stump jumpers. Poor white trash. Any man who was triflin’ and mean and didn’t wash much and fired off his revolver in the public square and got drunk and more often than not fell asleep in a hog pen, well, that there was the type of Yellof we was all warned by our parents not to associate with. Sure, you might invite Zeke or Clem to talk about hosses in back of the stable, and you might hire him to cut some brush on your property with the proviso that he could also keep all the firewood he could haul off–but you certainly wouldn’t invite him into your parlor to consort with the ladyfolk. The fact is, there’s nothing especially noble about these gadabouts. They are only slightly better than the swindling gypsies who go from door to door offering to sharpen your scissors and knives as they contrive to steal everything that ain’t nailed down. They’re just a bunch of rural clowns. A batch of neurasthenic country boys so bewilderingly lazy that they wouldn’t holler Sooie if the hawgs was eatin’ ’em.
“What’s really sad is that these briar hoppers are held up as a repository of some kind of ancient and unknowable folk wisdom, when, in fact, all these brush apes are is illiterate Irishmen who you wouldn’t look twice at if you saw them drinking in any city street corner saloon. As a matter of fact, these very same citified Irishmen can be found in the police court, for beating their wife after she drank up all the beer; or in a pool parlor, hustling suckers and getting into donnybrooks with the local firemen; or on the front stoop of a run-down brownstone slum, egging their children on to fight the neighbor boys with sticks and bottles while longshoremen and dock wallopers gumming cheap stogies lay down bets and an old harridan screeches from the first floor window and a discouraged old hunchback cowers in a basement entrance and a beleaguered policeman tries and fails to restore some sort of order.
“The stupid fly cop in the big city has got his work cut out for him, walking a beat where you see the dregs of humanity act out their little savage dramas all the live-long day. Is he going to go after two she-males smooching it up in a cellar club? Nit! Not unless some goody-two-shoes social worker complains that the neighborhood youth are being corrupted. That’s one nice thing about being a short-tempered yellof who takes no guff–when you’re wearing a police uniform, you get paid for fighting. And you eat more regular than any two-bit Palooka I ever knowd of.
“And that’s the wonderful thing about the way that men like the Gib Yellof have arranged things and made the world work. You can easily hire one half of the immigrant working class to beat the other half into line. You have swell churches where a family, howsoever degraded, can escape their vermin-ridden tenement, if only for an hour or two each week, and feast all they want on some good old-fashioned pie in the sky. You have the Missions, which feed the poor just enough so that they don’t starve and are therefore not as tempted to got out and steal their supper. And you have the gin mills and beer gardens, where working brutes can drink themselves into a reckless stupor.
“Now, the problem with these hillbillies is that when they come to the big city, they don’t understand that they have to show up to work at the same time every day, and leave at the same time at the end of the day. Nobody wants to hear their stories about how they was feelin’ rite poorly, or about how the babby was teethin’ and couldn’t nobody grab so much as a wink of sleep. That’s the problem with hillbillies. They’re self-centered. Everything is about them, and their sorry sense of independence. They can’t conceive of a world in which nobody is interested in their idiotic excuses.
“So between the Irishman festering in the slums of our great cities and the hillbilly in his natural habitat, there isn’t much of a choice. You can either come to the big city and work in a factory, and spawn a dozen crumb-crushers, of whom about two survive, and be washed up by forty and ready for the boneyard by forty-five. Or else you can starve out in the woods, subsisting on a diet of stolen cackleberries and fried squirrel brains. It all started with the bloody British. Sending their convict trash over here and populating the backwoods with some of the most insolent idiots and damndest desperadoes who ever drew breath. These castoffs were notorious Yellofs, and good for nothing. I’ve seen better looking monkeys at the zoo–who had more hope of posterity, to boot. What is the matter with these stupid hill folk? They seem to delight in basking themselves around their outdoor fires, swilling moonshine and swatting flies and swapping fabulous yarns, while their toothless fat wives sweep the dust with a straw broom from one corner of the yard to the other. They are so stupid that they don’t ever know how many children they have. And if anybody asks ’em, they have to roll a pumpkin under a bed and count ’em as they come out!
“I know it for a fact that Hillbillies make for terrible con artists. At best, you can train them to be the lowest kind of carny, but that’s about it. They’re not with it and for it. They don’t even know what that means. I’ll put it another way–of all the people who just don’t get it, they’re the people who just don’t get it the most. They can’t be taught because they won’t be taught. No matter where they find themselves, they’re convinced that their way is the best and only way. No wonder they go in for nonsense like snake handling, and speaking in tongues, and sodomy. I sometimes think that they’re barely even human–that’s how degraded they are, no matter where you encounter them. They are little better than beasts, and by’m’by are only fit to be culled.
“I know of whereof I speak, Yob. I have heard about their bonfires in the woods–late at night–dancing–naked–laughing–their babies drunk on moonshine–passed out in the fire–and roasted pieces of their infants being passed around the group in unholy communion–they taste, it is said, like lamb chops. Too horrible!”