Every morning my internal alarm clock wakes me up ten minutes before my phone starts to “ding,” leaving me peering through my blinds at a late night sky dissolving into an early morning sunrise. Another work day waited for me outside my door, so I cycled through my morning routine and marched out to meet it. My attitude about this daily ritual (what we call work) and the understanding of what it means, and calls for, have ultimately been shaped by my father. Being the man he was, he lived by the code of: “I can show ya, better than I can tell ya.” He planned work days, or days we’d be, “helping him in the yard.” It was there my father ingrained in me what it meant to work, what was worth sweating for and also what would be expected of me as both a husband and a father. And, this all happened one long Southern summer day at a time.
The mornings would begin with a loud knock upon my door, shaking me from my sleep and my deddy waking me up and telling me to grab something to eat before we’d get started. I’d meet my brother in the kitchen where our mother fried up slices of country ham for biscuits and we’d sit quietly still rubbing the sleep from our eyes, wondering just what our father had in store. Once our bellies were full, we embarked outside, getting a lung full of the thick humid air. Work wasn’t in short supply, so we commenced to cutting, toting, shoveling, raking and mowing, all while the briars grabbed at our arms and the smell of fresh cut poke sally filled our nostrils. My father yelled down what he wanted done from the faded black seat of the tractor, while the constant puffing of exhaust blew the metal cap over the end of the vertical muffler, giving it a constant rattle. He was quick to teach us how to work more effectively, call out when one son was putting more of the workload on the other and show how being a team player would form better relationships with those you work with.
Twelve o’clock would finally decide to roll around and we would take dinner in the kitchen. Mama would make us up some tomato sandwiches and comment on our red sun burnt faces, while my glass of water sweltered by the window. Dinner was the the fastest thirty minutes of the day – afterwards, we stepped back out into the sultry Georgia heat to finish the day. I didn’t realize how important this time was until I got older. What my father was doing was laying out the necessary daily structure that would make up the majority of my life. Get up and go to work, work hard and steady until time to leave, do your part in the workplace, take responsibility and, God willing, kick your boots off at the door of a place you call home.
These lessons were something all the boys my age had in some shape or form. I can’t tell you how many fishing and camping plans were canceled or postponed after hearing the simple phrase “I gotta help my deddy.” And, no questions were asked because if your father needed you it was for good reason and you weren’t to disobey. Even when at a buddy’s house, their father would see he had a yard full of able-bodied youngins and seize this opportunity to get that firewood he just busted moved under the pole barn and out of the weather, or some other task that would go easier with a lot of helping hands. When this happened, you didn’t question or catch an attitude – you did your part. To not do your part was showing bad raisin’. To expect payment for your help was bad manners. Instead, you were fed supper.
Looking back now, I can’t help but see how these moments are beneficial for both father and son. With each swing of an ax or jab into the dirt with a pair of post hole diggers, the father is able to examine just how their son ticks in a more work-focused setting. They’re able to see how receptive their son is to learning, how quickly he will learn and when they’re ready to quit. You can see their strengths and weaknesses, all while correcting behavior that isn’t conducive to them becoming hard working young men. You’ll have to face the reality that your son will and won’t be good at certain things and you feed into what they will exceed in.
Dixians pride ourselves on hard work. Its something that stems from our agrarian roots. Those who did not work the fields, did no reap the plentiful harvest. And, that lesson translates all across our movement. Everything worth our time will take our own blood, sweat and dedication. Our people are no stranger to sacrifice and if we sculpt the mindset of our children into knowing anything worth having is worth working for, then they’ll grow to be the same. What we want is within our grasp. All it takes is hard work on both a personal level and a group level. Hard work that we are already all too familiar with.
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.