The non-southerner’s guide to the south

dollywoodThough I was born in Monterey, CA, thanks to my father being in the Army, I’ve lived almost my entire life in the deep south–mostly Alabama–the place Leonard Skynard immortalized back in 1974, the year after I was born. My best friends growing up listened to country music, though I probably hunted and fished more than most of them, and I’ve driven a pickup truck pretty much since I purchased my first house and realized that you can’t tote sheetrock in a sports car (I had a 240SX).

Despite all that, I’ve never really fit the redneck profile that so many non-southerners hold so dear, thanks in no small part, to the media. And truth be told, most of the people I know from the south, aren’t like that either (that includes you DN!)

But those people do exist, as I found out on my recent trip to Dollywood.

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge TN, which is touted as the most visited tourist attraction in the country. Pigeon Forge is also right smack dab in the middle of the Great Smokey Mountains, in the middle of Tennessee, in the middle of the south…

Do you see where I’m going here?

My mom and her husband moved to a town just outside Knoxville, TN about 14 years ago. This year, for whatever reason, they purchased season tickets to Dollywood and with those tickets came some 1/2 off tickets for guests. When we went up this past weekend, they  suggested we all head on over to Dollywood for an afternoon of fun and frivolity.

Now, anyone who knows anything about me, knows that I abhor crowds. I’m that really good looking guy standing just outside the crowd (holding a beer) at parties. I don’t do large concerts. I don’t like to sit next to people I don’t know at church. Heck, I don’t even like answering the door at home if it’s someone I don’t know. People just make me uncomfortable! Despite all this, I’ll do just about anything for my kids, and so we all drove over the mountain (literally) and went to Dollywood on Saturday.

I can now report, with great certainty, that the people that Jeff Foxworthy jokes about, do actually exist, in a-plenty and they apparently love them some Dolly Parton!

When I wasn’t squirming in shame for the aged Wal-mart rejects working the kiddie rides and saying things like, “We’d like to thank you for riding the “Lucky Ducky” and please enjoy your visit to Dollywood,” I was dodging sweaty, plus-sized, halter-top models and doing my best to stare down Bubbas determined not to deviate from their path while walking five across and taking up the whole avenue!

Don’t get me wrong, on the whole, these people are the salt of the earth. When aliens finally figure out we’re more tasty than we are smart, I’m robbing the closest gun store and heading for the hills, where I’ll slip into my best southern drawl and where me and my family will hunker down until it’s all over. But I gotta admit, the stereotype isn’t completely without merit!

So if you’re planning a trip to Dollywood anytime soon, gimme a holler. I’ll be happy to give you the lowdown on the 1/32% of the park that we saw before the kids got too hot and tired, forcing us to beat an early retreat back to our oasis on the Little River.

Oh, and for all you Tennessee fans out there: ROLL TIDE!

6 thoughts on “The non-southerner’s guide to the south

  1. Do you have any idea how relieved I was to read this post?

    No, not because of Dollywood.
    No, not because of a dislike of Leonard Skynard.

    I was relieved to see that I am not the only Dad out there with a disdain for crowds! In fact, in many ways, I am afraid that I may be dealing with a mild to moderate case of Social Anxiety Disorder. I “touched on it briefly in the “Seven Layers of Me” Meme. (See #3)

    During my recent bout with strep throat, I talked about how I was able to spend some “down time” brainstorming some ideas for blog entries. I even have an incomplete post (temporally) titled Social Anxiety Disorder!

    They way you described sitting on the outside fringe of the party – drinking a beer – “people watching”… like a “Fly on the wall”… Whatever you want to call it… That is exactly how I feel…

    And for the sake of not “isolating” my children… I “struggle through it”… I think that is one of the reasons I love XM Radio’s Ron & Fez so much.. I can identify with Fezzie, and his “issues”.

    My 20 year high school reunion was a perfect example…

    Re: My sister ( openly admits to her Social Anxiety, and I suspect I have a touch of it. CareerMom acts like she does, but she doesn’t get physically ill like I do (though I hide it) when I’m around mega-crowds. After last week, CareerMom wants to do a Muscular Dystrophy 5K walk downtown this weekend. I also had tickets to the PGA AT&T Sugarloaf Classic (patio seats on Sunday at the 18th green) and knowing I’d be totally “over” crowds by the time Sunday rolled around, I told her to give them away. She still doesn’t understand why.

  2. Dana

    You are just hysterical! You know we vacation in the Smoky Mountains at least once a year (if not twice). I’ve seen it all…

    Re: I figured you did! Actually, on a non-crowded day, I think it would be a lot of fun. But they’ve taken “funneling crowds where you want them” to a whole new level that not even Six Flags here in Atlanta can compare to. There’s somthing about trying to push 200 people through a bottleneck of snack booths on both sides that just turns me off!

  3. I don’t answer the door for strangers. Even if they see me though the windows on each side of the door, I just don’t. I figure they either want to sell me something or kill me…and I don’t like either option.

    What is it about amusement parks and very large people wearing very skimpy clothing? We live close to an amusement park that has a very large water park, and are punished by this phenomenon routinely.

    My hometown is just barely north of being considered south, but it was redneck through and through. This made Dollywood (the one time I visited) feel a bit like home 🙂

    I love Dolly Parton.

    Re: (snicker…) What I think cracked me up the most was that, folks didn’t even wait till they got to the water rides before taking their clothes off. I mean, there were grown men standing at the ticket line with no shirt on and just their cut-off jeans!

  4. Coming from a born and bred Tennessee girl……that was funny, I don’t care who ya are!! I’ve never been to Dollywood because it’s over in east Tennessee and quite frankly that’s a whole different type of redneck over there! I’m from the true middle of the state – right outside Nashvegas.

    Why is it whenever something happens and they have to interview someone they always seek out the one in the crowd that had a sum total of three teeth and 24 cars in the yard??

    Plus, I never answer my door unless I know you are coming. Pisses off a lot of solicitors and family because I’ll walk right by and ignore it. Their lesson for the day: Call first beyotch!

    In case you didn’t know, I found your blog through DadGoneMad. I’ve posted a complete list of everyone who left their blog link on his Big Big Stars post a while back in a post of my own in April called Blog Rolling With My Homies over on my blog, so if you want to see it come on over and sit a spell. I don’t bite..…that hard anyway!

    If you did know just overlook this and pretend I said something funny since my brain feels like mush from trying to comment on all 217 on the list because somebody had the bright idea to challenge me to it!!

    RE: Well welcome DeeDee. I’ll have to run over and check out your site. I’ve never quite grabbed ahold of that “east Tennessee vs. west Tennessee” even though I’ve watched the newscasters countless times, differentiate a story based on which side of the state it happened in.
    But, you’re the second person who said they don’t answer the door for strangers. I find that fascinating! So, like, you guys walk up to the door, look through the window and then just don’t answer it?
    How liberating? I may have to try that!

  5. If you’re really bold, do a dismissive hand wave as you walk past the door. Sometimes I point to my dog (a viscious pug) as though that explains my reluctance to answer the door…wouldn’t want her to chomp a leg.

    RE: HA HA! I like the dismissive wave. I could just as easily do that and/or point to one of the kids that are inevitably hanging on to me as if to say, “You gotta be kidding me?”

  6. I’ve never had the pleasure of the Dollywood experience, but I know the area and its people well. Try going to a county fair in that region sometime. You’ll see all sorts of humanity.

    I’m guessing you saw more than one dude decked out in a bright orange UT jersey while you were there. Nevermind that football season is still a few months off.

    We had a bit of a culture shock experience taking our kids to the Knoxville Zoo once. The old, chain-smoking dude in front of us had a gun on his hip. And wore it into the zoo without so much as a second glance from the zoo staff.

    Good stuff.

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