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What did a couple of big-time real estate developers, a lawyer who wants to be a judge, a fairly high ranking state cabinet official and about dozen more moderately sane people have in common Saturday afternoon?
They willingly grabbed an empty Ol’ Roy dog food bag, slid down a snowy hill and onto a frozen pond.
Not that you’d expect much more from a group of guys who gathered in 20-degree weather to ice fish on a pond that, chances are, had never been ice fished before.
And probably with good reason. Seldom does it get cold enough long enough around these parts to form ice thick enough to hold fools and their fishing poles. In the days leading up to the tournament, most folks said they’d never seen or heard of anyone ice fishing in Anderson County, although I’m sure it has been done.
Pond owner Jess Thompson and AK, his neighbor/enabler, hatched the idea last week, but not before making sure the ice would be safe. To check it, Thompson tied a rope around his waist, handed the other end to AK and very nervously walked out onto the ice last Wednesday.
By Thursday, AK had produced a spud bar and was chopping holes in the ice.
By Friday it was declared safe, and the ice fishing tournament was on.
Participants came from all walks of life, lured into the mix by a combination of what I consider redneck camaraderie and Facebook, where Thompson posted news of the event.
Armed with broken-in-half fishing poles, chicken livers, jigs, night crawlers and stink bait, we ventured out onto ice Saturday afternoon, hoping first not to fall in, second to catch fish.
We did neither, but that doesn’t mean the day was not without enough moments to allow Jeff Foxworthy to fill yet another of his patented “You Just Might Be A Redneck,” books.
I’ll get Jeff started with a few of my own.
“If you slide down a snow-covered hill on an Ol’ Roy dog food bag, you just might be a redneck.”
“If the guy cooking the venison didn’t wash his hands after baiting a hook with stink bait and you still eat the venison, you just might be a redneck.”
“If there are no forks, plates or napkins and you eat the venison with your stink bait-covered fingers, you just might be a redneck.”
“If the host’s dog lifts its leg on one of the chairs, and instead of trying to stop it everyone just laughs (and yours truly takes a photo), they just might be rednecks.”
“If a few guys try unsuccessfully to break a johnboat free from the ice to use it as a sled, they just might be rednecks.”
And here’s probably the one that would actually make Foxworthy’s standup routine: “If the ice cracks loudly when 10 guys gather for a group photo and their response is only to move a few feet closer to shore and try again, they just might be rednecks.”
The Foxworthy-esque wisecracks aside, what Saturday really amounted to was a bunch of country boys at heart getting away from their law practices, real estate deals and business worries to be just that: country boys.
No, these aren’t guys who would willingly attend the opera, but could do so and fit right in if need be. They aren’t scouring mall stores for the latest fashions, but can put on a tie and jacket and not stand out — well, maybe a little — in a crowd.
But left to their own devices, these are guys who aren’t afraid to let their hair down — or bury it beneath a wooly hat — to enjoy each other’s company despite the freezing weather.
Did they do things that would make city folks wrinkle their surgically improved noses and roll their Botox-injected eyes in disgust?
You bet, but isn’t that at least part of why they were out there, reveling in their redneck ways?
In a world where a combination of political correctness and Madison Avenue is trying to strip away our individualism and melt us all down into one common denominator, it’s good to know that there remains a refuge from that kind of storm; a place where people can drop their pretenses long enough to get to know each other without caring who does what for a living or what the neighbors might think.
It’s good to know that such a place still exists, despite metropolitan sprawl that brings with it those who gripe about dead deer photos in the local newspaper and the native cretins who resist their attempts to make the community more urbane.
Fortunately, for all of us, that place is Anderson County, and we should all be thankful that we still have such a place to call home.
E-mail Ben Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.