It was “Magnet Monday,” at least it was for those of us who worked at my grandmother’s construction company. Straight out of a “rags to riches” story, my grandfather created the most profitable construction company in our little corner of Georgia. Through his hard work we cemented ties with local mines and quarries for years to come. Those same deals struck years ago is what brought me to where I was on a particular day and allowed me to witness the most profound act of Southern pride I had ever seen. One that lit a fire in my belly, causing me to stand a little straighter and speak a little louder. Most of all though, it reminded me I’m a descendant of a Southern people that still hold a deep reverence for our home.
Tearing down this behemoth piece of machinery would certainly be a two day job and, one that needed more man power than our haggard outfit of tradesmen had to offer. As usual, we resorted to using “temporaries,” or “rent-a-drunks,” as we like to call them. These men were essentially nothing more than warm bodies on the job site. Most of your “rent-a-drunks” are your garbage variety dindus that ooze out from the crevices of the nearby city. Their primary purpose is only to make enough money to survive for the next couple of days. Very high-time preference, if you get my meaning.
Although, on this day, one lone white guy arrived alongside the tribe and was assigned to work with my group, who was tasked with taking apart the bottom half of the magnet, while another group tackled the top. We worked steadily, only stopping to wipe the mixture of water and PB blaster that dripped down from the pipes onto my safety glasses. Once everything was done, we sat back and watched as this truck driver gracefully backed his rig, along with a 53’ flatbed semi-trailer, through a narrow opening into where we worked.
The sharp sound of the air brakes found its way through my earplugs and the driver side door slung open with enough force to take someone’s head off. An older man with a red wind chapped face walked toward us. He placed his hardhat over his thin white hair and tucked his pale bony hands into his brown coveralls. He introduced himself as Alan and told me he was in charge of transporting the magnet across state for further maintenance. With our part of the job finished and the only thing left requiring an overhead crane, we were left with some downtime. As usual in these settings, we congregated behind the flatbed trailer for conversation while the siren from the crane wailed above our heads. Our lone white guy, who must have found himself out of place with the much darker company of “rent-a-drunks,” gravitated toward where Alan and I were standing.
His name was Craig and Craig was a carpetbagger. Naturally, it didn’t take long to figure this out as he asked questions about the area and smiled gleefully once we asked where he was from. He was proud to tell us he was from nowhere. He was eager share how he was born in New Jersey, then moved to Illinois, then to Arizona and now here. He was exuberant in how he talked about his drifter personality, but his smile soon faded behind his brown hipster beard. And, his eyes lowered to the floor and lost their shimmer once he realized we didn’t idolize him. In our eyes, he wasn’t some worldly omniscient prophet.
Alan stepped toward the middle of us and pulling his hands from his pockets, he let flow generations of good ‘ole down home truth. You see, unlike Craig the carpetbagger, Alan is from Dublin, Georgia and he raised his family in Dublin. Alan chose to raise his family in Dublin because that’s where his folks were from. His grandad worked for the telephone company and put up every telephone pole in Dublin. Unlike Craig the carpetbagger, Alan has roots – he is woven into the fabric that makes up his small Southern town because those who came before him saw the importance of being from somewhere, and they passed that on to Alan.
If you’re from nowhere – how can you be loyal to anything beyond yourself? How can you hold any real convictions? It’s the ultimate in radical individualism. The rootless nowhere men. Those carpetbaggers like Craig claim to be enlightened, and most certainly represent themselves as such, as they parade around trying to give any willing participant a look into their dull soulless existence. Dixians know the truth though. Alan knew the truth right away.
We’re men of substance. Men who have a deep well of heritage and legacy at the center of our souls to draw from. What we have has taken years and generations to build. It’s composed of both happiness and hardship from people who never thought about running. We never thought about pulling up stakes for somewhere else. This is our home.
We would rather be raggedy run down somebodies than nobody rootless men.
Oh, I'm a good old Rebel, now that's just what I am; For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not give a damn! I'm glad I fit against it, I only wish we'd won, And I don't want no pardon for anything I done.