The comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, has built a career with his famous line, "You might be a redneck if…." There are lots of those tests that have hit me close to home, like "You might be a redneck, if your child’s first pet is a chicken." I never thought that was unusual at the time…
Our kids have experienced some wonderful adventures they’d never have known had they lived in town. Some of those unique ways to have fun include: wallowing in our muddy driveway when a long drought finally broke, making tunnels in a truckload of warm cottonseed, taking a refreshing dip in the horse water trough, catching grasshoppers to feed their pet chickens, riding in a feed trough tied to a back of a truck while their dad moved it to another pasture and using the bathroom out in the woods when they couldn’t make it to the house.
I know my city friends would laugh if they knew I’d stopped in the middle of a dirt road coming home from school one time to catch a red-eared turtle crossing the road. My 11-year-old son just had to have it.
"Mom," he said, "you promised we’d stop and catch one, the next time we saw one."
Not wanting to disregard the integrity of my word of honor, I backed up and got out.
We scooped up the muddy reptile in a Wal-Mart bag. He scratched and clawed and thrashed in that plastic bag all the way home. We examined it when we got back and decided it’d be happier living in the wild — thank goodness! I’d always thought turtles moved slowly, but after spending some panicky moments confined in a bag, that one scrambled off lickety-split toward the nearest creek. I’m pretty sure that would earn us lifetime status as "rednecks" right there.
Last summer, in between camps and visits to grandparents’ houses, there was a momentary lull. (God-forbid we’d have a minute of down time!) There had been a big hatch out of those emerald-green dung beetles. They buzzed around the water troughs in the shady horse pens and zipped by our heads like little kamikaze planes. My son decided it might be fun to catch some of those bugs and play with them. His dad told him how he used to tie a thread around one of their legs and watch them fly around as he held on to the other end.
After a few failed attempts, my boy finally caught one with a butterfly net and brought it to his daddy in a Mason jar. They spent the next hour trying to gently tie a length of fine dental floss to one of the beetle’s legs.
What happened next was delightful: a 12-year-old kid outside, enjoying some old-fashioned country fun — not messing with an iPod or a handheld computer game — but watching a tethered dung beetle fly in countless circles around his head while he stood atop the brick barbecue pit. It looked like a tiny motorized kite or toy airplane as it buzzed by him.
I’m sure my father, had he lived to see that moment, would have really enjoyed the sight. I smile now, remembering that incident, not just because of the cuteness of watching our boy have such a good time, but also the camaraderie he developed with his dad that day.
Hopefully he is learning that living in the country has its own unique diversions. I hope he will remember that day, too. Maybe when he has a son, he’ll remember how to catch a dung beetle and how to employ the precise floss-tying technique. If so, he and my grandson can enjoy one of the many simple pleasures of growing up in the country.