“Today’s Hick,” by Mike Fowler

Mar 11th, 2015 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

The hick of today is a stunning sophisticate compared to his counterpart of only one or two generations ago. Often flaunting an Ivy League education and a job in the public eye requiring diplomacy and social nuancing, today’s cracker, compared to yesterday’s in terms of sophistication, is as Rand Paul is to Harry Truman, or as Jeff Daniel is to Oliver Hardy, or as Miley Cyrus is to Minnie Pearl. You would never guess how many influential politicians, trend-setters and opinion-mongers are actually outlanders from benighted states like Ohio and Texas and Kentucky, but grown remarkably adept and refined. You might think these oafs had been dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century as they clung desperately to piles of coal, racks of guns, and stacks of bibles, but this is not always true. Many have been born into well-off families, attended even dancing school and grown accustomed to indoor plumbing. Others may have struggled with poverty much of their lives, but managed to climb the class ladder perhaps uniquely supportive in America to stand above their humble origins. Think how the redneck Joel Osteen is a modernized Billy Graham, and Raylan Givens an updated Rooster Cogburn. Consider the advance Sam Walton makes on Henry Ford, and Hank Hill on Foghorn Leghorn, and Yogi Bear on Smokey the Bear. That gain has happened again and again.

I am a bubba myself, make no mistake about that. Born in Ohio with parents from Kentucky and Tennessee, I drive a Ford pickup and lick my lips while eating my grandma’s jarred beets. I attended a large state university and say “please” instead of “excuse me.” I own a facsimile piece of the True Cross. Yet I have a secret craving for a progressive political agenda, and once voted for a democrat—Jimmy Carter, and not just because he’s a peanut farmer. I am constantly reevaluating my goals and lifestyle. I know how far a chawbacon like me has come.

Examples of the refined yokel abound, and many could blend in with raised-on-a-yacht elites. If it weren’t for the fact that he or she eats Moon Pies and drinks RC cola, and has an accent you can serve with grits, Ted Cruz is as presentable as a young Kennedy, and Paula Deen as stylish as Barbara Boxer. Sam Walton’s class rivaled Steve Jobs’, and Steve Carrell could have played Gomer Pyle. That bumpkin fronting REM could stand in for Michael Buble or Harry Connick, Jr. Actually, all three of those crooners were born bumpkins, but you see the point.

The modern hillbilly thinks nothing of appreciating the best our culture has to offer. In the way of food and drink, don’t look in the kitchen of today’s muleskinner for moonshine in a mason jar or a table crowded with fast food takeout boxes. Today’s Luke or Kate McCoy will order a bottle of fine Merlot over a two-liter of Mountain Dew without thinking, and prefer salmon with broccoli to patty melts and fries. A breakfast of fruit and yogurt for the current country cousin instead of Twinkies and coffee is a foregone conclusion. Today’s backwoodsman, when it comes to cooking in or dining out, is to yesterday’s as Colonel Sanders is to Bobbie Flay, or as Rachel Ray is to Betty Crocker, or even as George Jetson is to Wimpie. It’s a remarkable step forward.

In terms of song hits recorded, TV shows on the air, and prizes awarded, todays rube stands well in advance of yesterday’s. His or her accomplishments are as prominent as any Boston Brahmin’s or California Dreamer’s. How far these Midwestern and southern rustics have progressed! Compare the Allman Brothers to the Bobby Fuller Four, or the Dave Matthews Band to Lynard Skynard. See the light between Phil Robertson and Jim Nabors, and between Duane Allman and Duane Eddy. Hold Brad Paisley up against Hank Williams, Sr, and then hold Hank Williams, Jr up against Tennessee Ernie Ford. Consider the gap between Barney Rubble and Alley Oop, and between Buzz Lightyear and Orville Wright. Rubes all, but the modern ones have made new gains and scored new points. Today’s rustic not only enjoys team sports, he owns the teams. He is the one spreading his fame on national TV at the same time he discusses his marital infidelities. These boors are icons and stars.

Finally a word about tomorrow. Based on current trends, the goober of the future will know no bounds. Even as he or she speaks in a slow Southern drawl, pulls on cowboy boots, blows on a blade of grass to make a noise and reminisces about childhood summers in a grain elevator, he or she will be as Big Bang Theory’s Leonard to Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, as “Sully” Sullenburger to Sky King, and as the Iron Man Breakfast at Waffle House to Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll. Tomorrow’s Ellie Mae and Jethro will find antioxidant-infused red wine as tasty as Orange Crush, and a nicotine vaporizer as satisfying as a corncob pipe. The hayseed to come will have solar panels on the roof, pay women equal wages, and welcome all nationalities, or at least their children, to our shores. A new legion of educated, innovative clodhoppers deserves our attention and admiration. The hicks of tomorrow, whether they are real people, characters in a show, cartoons, or food, are our future, y’all.
Defenestration-Michael FowlerMike Fowler has been in Defenestration so many times he practically owns stock in the magazine. And by stock, of course, we mean delicious waffles. He’s all about self-promotion these days, so go buy his book.

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