Let me begin by saying I’m from Pikeville, KY. There’s no reason you would have heard of it. I grew up in that trailer park you see in the middle of the photo:
I’ll start this by saying what represents my culture may not be what represents a Georgian or South Carolinian’s culture. My culture is southern, but more than that, it’s Appalachian. My people are the Hatfields and McCoys people. The hillbillies in Bugs Bunny.
Just about everyone I grew up with is making a big fuss over all the southern statues being torn down.
I don’t really care if they get torn down, because this whole time I’ve been wondering, “Why are these the only monuments chosen to represent southern culture?”
So I thought I’d provide some examples of statuary I believe more accurately reflects the culture I grew up in.
Where’s the statues of biscuits and gravy???
That is like the number one thing from my childhood. I tried to find the picture I took of my dad’s biscuits and gravy, the best there ever was.
He’s not with us anymore, but I still give it a good try. One of my coworkers said I made the best gravy she’d ever had.
I use the recipe in The Joy of Cooking for my buttermilk biscuits, but I handle them like my dad and memaw did, not cutting them, but squeezing off a bit of dough, patting each, thumbing a dimple in them, and brushing them with buttermilk before baking.
What about soup beans and cornbread?
I’m pretty sure most southern families would have died without these staples when times were tough. But they get no love.
The Cast Iron Skillet
Seems a natural as a statue since it’s already iron. If ever there was a tool my people used to survive, it is the cast iron skillet.
These are my own personal stories of shine:
The Old Man and the Exploding House
When my mom was a little girl, an old man neighbor of hers brewed shine in his basement.
One day, mom was walking home when suddenly there was a huge explosion!
People in the town would later tell of a house that came up about a foot and a half off the ground and slammed right back down onto the ground.
No one was more surprised than the old man, who, after the initial shock, took to cussin’ so loud, he almost drowned out the fact that there had been an explosion.
My Papaw Ran Shine
After you get a certain age, people don’t tell these kinds of stories around you anymore. But I remember my dad saying my papaw would get chased by the police for running shine.
Confiscated Blackberry Shine
This shine made it into my teenage hands via my cousin who got it from a cop friend who had taken it when they busted an illegal shine operation.
I don’t know if it was so good because it was contraband, but it was the best shine I ever had.
This is what you’re drinking
My first boyfriend had a secret stash his papaw had left him. I used to take shots from the bottle. It was so strong, it would numb my lower lip and dribble a little.
He would look at me in disbelief, and maybe a little fear.
One day he said, “I just want you to know what you’re drinking.” He poured it onto the ground and lit it. It burned with a blue flame.
Don’t take drinks from strangers
When I was a kid, I went to a parade in a nearby town. I think it was Apple Days.
There was a guy in the parade with a jug around his neck. The old hillbilly jug with XXX on it.
He uncorked it and offered it to me.
Now, you may think that taking that drink would be the dumbest thing in the world, and in the era of COVID, after the time of date rape drugs, you would be so right.
But this was the early 1980’s in eastern KY and I was a wild child in a repressive world and I took that drink.
I can’t tell you what I was expecting, but what I was not expecting was the fire that lasted long after that sip had slipped down my throat to assault my belly for the first time. And the alcoholic bitterness that lay at the back of my throat.
I did like my flush and involuntary grin as my mom admonished my bad decision.
Now that is a drink interwoven with my culture! Where are the monuments to that?
Born of necessity, the quilt now hustles between tradition and art form.
How about a monument to those quilters who kept out the cold for centuries?
This is the quilt a family friend made for me. It has scraps of clothes from me, my mom and my dad who is no longer with us. This includes pieces from my band jacket and cheer leading and basketball uniforms.
The back of it is a piece of art:
I found many links to redneck inventions and sometimes they can be seen on America’s Funniest Home Videos, but if you really look at these things, they required ingenuity, resourcefulness, determination, and sometimes a long term commitment to build all this stuff.
People laugh at it but every time I see stuff that people make out of things they have just lying around I’m in awe of those people and what they can do!
Where’s the statue to the beer can shower head?
The portable toilet?
There are actually a few statues of coal miners.
I know men broken by the mines, but for most of my life, it was the only good-paying job around. My dad blasted mountains for roads and strip mines.
The mining companies paid the workers in “scrip” that they could only use at the company’s store and that was the least of what they endured and wanted to end.
Let’s Think About This
The argument people use against tearing down civil war statuary is that it is representative of southern culture. My point is that so are a lot of other things. But what we’ve CHOSEN to memorialize are almost exclusively those icons of the civil war.
The reason I, as a woman from KY, don’t have a problem with the statuary going is that WE chose to put those statues up and, more importantly to me, WE chose what NOT to honor as well.
So to me the statues say more about US as modern people than about the people they represent. WE are the ones who chose civil war icons over other icons.
Why don’t we look at that instead?