Where is the South?

CarolinaFireJournal - Ken Farmer
Ken Farmer
08/07/2015 -

Where is Dixie? That statement can take you in a thousand different directions! We can talk about it from many different perspectives. Being a person who was raised in the south, you never ever leave it. You can leave the location but you always carry a piece of Dixie in your heart and soul as well as your mind. The country singer Darius Rucker has a great song titled “Southern State of Mind.” The words to the chorus sum up the song well;


“I could be anywhere

In my heart I’m always there

Where they drink sweet tea and they

raise you to be polite

No changing who I am

That’s the way I’ve always been

No matter what state I’m in

I’m in a southern state of mind.”


So this leads me to some thoughts about exactly where is the South and some history along the way. The first is where the term Dixie began. Some versions claim it originated in the State of Louisiana where the mix of both English and French produced currency bearing both languages, The popular $10 notes were informally called “Dixes” based on the French word for 10.  As the notes got more popular and well-travelled, they were called “Dixies” by many.

The other popular version relates to the Mason-Dixon line. The Mason–Dixon line, also called Mason’s and Dixon’s line, was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute involving Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Colonial America. What makes that important to me is that I work about five miles from where this line still runs. The area contains states south of the Pennsylvania line from Maryland downward. Some people claim that Jeremiah Dixon’s name was some reduced to the simple Dixie.

There is not a lot of documentation of either of these stories.  There is a third that claims “Dixie’s land,” the minstrel song inspired by a plantation owner of Long Island, New York named Johan Dixy who cared deeply for
his slaves.

There may be some confusion as to where the term started and some questioning about where Dixie starts but there is little left to argue about when it comes to the things that best describe Dixie. That includes the music, the food and drink, the lifestyle and
the attitude!

Let’s start with the music.  It comes in all forms and expressions. From minstrel to gospel to blues to country to rockabilly to southern rock; they all encompass music that has its roots deep in the southern culture. There have been many persons and bands to come out of the south and show their music heritage from the southern soil. The King of Rock and Roll came from Memphis and as they say, the hits keep on coming from southern singers.

Next is the food. Being a bit of a foodie and a long time researcher of southern food as well as the important of BBQ; I can tell you more about the heritage than you want to know! Growing up on a farm and eating fresh from the garden has caused my food standards to be high! Tasting and cooking BBQ from the Carolinas to Memphis to Texas to Kansas City has allowed me the chance to sample some wonderful BBQ. To me the cooking style and the flavor cannot be beat. No matter if it’s beef, pork, sausage or chicken, the taste is hard to beat.  If you want to get into more detail, we southerners will argue about how we make our slaw, our hush puppies and of course, our sweet tea! We could spend this whole column on nothing but food and flavors but that’s not
our goal.

Ah, our style of drinks! First we can discuss what a drink even is! In many parts of the country it is called soda pop or some derivation. In the south a “drink” can be anything from a simple carbonated beverage to variations on tea — but always sweet — to something that has a little more kick to it and based on alcohol! You cannot live in the south without tasting old-fashioned white lighting or moonshine whiskey or corn “squeezings”! It is part of the traditions of the Appalachian mountains of the south. Again, we could sit here all day about the beverages and flavors that are from this area. Now days you can buy the real stuff off the shelves of about any store that sells such spirits. Even the famed Junior Johnson, of NASCAR fame, has put his name on a version.

Which next leads to NASCAR or stock car racing? Again this is a fun subject and there is a ton of history and tradition about racing in the south. Basically stock car racing came about when the people making moonshine starting increasing the horsepower and stability of the cars they were using to deliver their moonshine. From there it became a challenge to see who had the fastest car! Racing has always been in everyone’s blood. The King of NASCAR, Richard Petty said it best –“There is no doubt about precisely when folks began racing each other in automobiles. It was the day they built the second automobile.”

So all this history leads to the southern attitude and its part in our traditions. From the “good ole boy” to Bubba to Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if...” tales. We all know them well! Being from the south is part of the attitude and view of life. From “watch this!” to “ya’ll will not believe this story,” we all know how the story ends. The attitude is what makes it all fun in the end.

So where does all this lead? So where is the South?  My answer is pretty simple. The South is always in your heart no matter where you live.

Ken Farmer is Section Chief, Leadership and Fire Risk Reduction at the National Fire Academy, United States Fire Administration in Maryland. Email him at [email protected].
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