Dick Platt

Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist.

Let me preface these remarks by saying that, even though I am originally a Connecticut Yankee, I am very familiar with hillbillies, rednecks, and raggies. The back roads along the Appalachian and Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, have more than their share of in-breeding and countrified living. I spent many days as an Explorer Scout hiking along the Appalachian Trail and often felt like I was trudging through the movie set for “Deliverance.” In some of these areas, the sobriquets “hillbilly” or “redneck” were often worn like badges of honor. However, being labeled a “raggie” was the ultimate slur on one’s living style.

I grew up in a very Spartan four-room house five miles up in the hills from a little town of 1,500 people. Our house was so remote, I had to ride two different school buses to get to high school. No, I did not have to slog barefoot through the snow, thank goodness—especially since Norfolk was called the “icebox of Connecticut.” When I say the house was Spartan, I’m not kidding. When we moved in, it only had sheathing and tar paper on the outside and that same sheathing and open studs on the inside. We shingled the outside and dry-walled the interior as finances allowed. Oh, and the inside bathroom came later too.

Winters were really rough with only an inefficient coal-fired furnace in the basement for heat. I remember we banked leaves around the base of the house and tacked plastic over the windows for extra insulation. When the big V-plows came roaring down the hill by our house, they would actually throw snow clods all the way to the house from the road.

The picture I am trying to paint here is that we were definitely “poor folks.” We were poor in the monetary sense but I have many fond memories of a great family life. My dad was a laborer and my mom worked the night shift in the General Electric plant. Mom was a wizard at managing the family budget. Every Friday, Dad turned his meager check over to her and, if he had been a good boy, he was allowed to buy a six-pack of Schaeffer beer for the weekend. My brother and I caddied at the little country club in the summer to pay for our school clothes. In the winter, he worked part-time at the gas station and I clerked in the grocery story. These minimum-wage jobs allowed us to buy our own cars and pay for the gas.

The one thing that was not abided in our household was trashy living. Clothes may have been worn thin but they were clean (and so were the kids wearing them); the house was humble but was kept up; and the yard was mowed (by hand mower) and driveway and grounds were kept free of litter. We may have been considered “hillbillies” by the town folk, but we were never called “raggies.” This brings me to the crux of my rant.

I have been traveling to Tyler weekly for medical reasons and some of the sights alongside the roads from Highway 287 to Kerens and east on Highway 31 to Tyler really distress me. No matter how humble your little abode might be, there is no reason why the frontage should look like a recycling yard or the set for “Sanford and Son.”

What possesses people to be content to let hulks of cars, buses, tractors, and even old police cruisers accumulate in what used to be their yards? Makes you wonder where they find room to park the one vehicle that runs. And then in the high grass next door you can see old mowers, plows, harrows, tires, and other various and sundry equipment lying amongst the hulks of tin sheds and other out-buildings. And all these unsightly collectibles have one color in common — rust!

It seems to me if a person can afford a satellite dish and the corresponding TV equipment, that person should be able to get the front porch propped up and put a coat of paint on it. It appears that some folks are actually waiting for the flies to chip in and fix the screen door. And what is it with the stuffed chairs and sofas sitting out in the weather? Tell me they aren’t home for rats, snakes, dirt daubers, and spiders.

The worst sin of all in my book is actual household trash in the yard. Some of the yards look like, when Junior is told to take the trash out, he only gets as far as the crooked porch and heaves. It is nice to see those signs that say litter on the highway for the next two miles is being picked up by some civic organization. The bad part is it looks like they dump all the stuff in Junior’s yard. It would actually dress some of these yards up if the local kids would sneak by in the dead of night and “T.P.” the whole homestead.

As I read back over this mess, I can see where I might have offended some people by my remarks. Well, that is just “tough nuggies!” No matter what your station in life, you can take a little pride in what you have and where you live. Even if it is a rental with a landlord who cares not about how the place looks, what people see from the road reflects on you. That’s it — my sermon is over.

I’ll close with a few lines you would never hear a true redneck utter:

*I thought Graceland was really tacky. *You can’t feed that to the dog! *I just couldn’t find a thing at Wal-Mart today. *The tires on that truck are too big. *I think you cooked these green beans too long. *Deer heads detract from the décor. *My fiancée, Betty Lou, is registered at Tiffany’s. *Would you please trim the fat off that steak? *No kids or dogs allowed in the back of the pickup — it’s not safe.

See ya later…

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Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Thursdays.

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