Honky

I read a facebook post about the derivation of Honky.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honky

I looked up Wikepedia's answer. I had heard as a child it was the nasal sound in a white person's speech. I didn't know that is where honky tonk came from.

My grandmother supported 5 children during the 40's and 50's by herself. It wasn't an easy thing to do. Born in 1913, she worked as a field hand. It was something she could do like many other people of her generation.

Somehow we have lost respect for the hard labor. I suspect it has more to do with the disdain some of their employers felt toward the people they hired. My mother and her kin that lived on Lookout Mountain had a problem with people who lived in vacation homes there.

The summer people wanted them to work as domestics and laborers. When it came time to pay, they want to give them discarded clothing never money. People work to buy food, put a roof over their heads. Stores in the thirties did not take rags instead of money just like today.

My grandmother road on the top of logs on the back of a truck when she worked as a field hand. This was common practice. My mom talks about standing with a  row of men catching and throwing heavy boards at 14 and 15. Her golden opportunity was a cotton mill job at 16 in Macon, GA in 1946. Ten years before I was born.

My grandmother fell off those logs and broke a hip. She was about 35 at the time. She was taken home with four children living with her. No money, no medical care was offered or given. She recovered enough to move on to the next job which was maid at a hotel and taking in laundry from people.

At the hotel, her children played outside but some guest complained about the children outside. So my aunt and two uncles at the time had to stop playing and stay out of sight. You didn't have childcare or money to pay for it.

What I have felt bitter about over the years is not the difficult life my grandmother had. It was the fact that no medical care or concern was offered my grandmother by Old man Ramsey when she broke her hip. She had turned down a job at a mill because she felt guilty leaving his farm. But when she was injured, he did nothing. An injured horse or mule would have been treated.

I have always had reservations about his religion because of this. Its a large Christian denomination. I know that people are individuals and it is not fair to have the immediate response I have to them. I'm just always suspicious. One of their tenets is that they are the only true Christian religion. I have liked many individuals of this faith.

I still think of old man Ramsey and my grandmother when people discuss the religion. My parents  raised me to live and let live. I am a Christian but like 59 percent of Muslims in the United States, I don't think we are the only people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I also know that not all Christians are good people or have your best interests at heart. There are all kinds in every group of people.

This is why I understand the anger some African-Americans feel toward white Americans. It's the memory of the indignity of how people in their family were treated. It took me long time to realize when an African American friend was telling me about how mean white people had been. They were just sharing from one friend to another - venting.  I had no need to defend the white race. They could just as easily be discussing problems in the African American community.

They chose me as a friend. I am white. Obviously,  they have no problem with a white person. I don't share the indignities my family faced. That would turn the conversation into a competition of who had it worse. Sort of like that person who is always sicker than everyone else. At worse like the anonymous troll comment wars after news articles.

Anyway, this is just one person's take on the situation. A friend of my mom talks about her parents and grandparents were harvesters that traveled up and down the mid-west harvesting crops. The picture below are two children working in a beet field October 17, 1940 in Hall County Nebraska. My mother was ten at the time. Below  the photo is the link on Wikimedia Commons. The photo is in the Public Domain by the United States Department of Agriculture archives.

File:Children and Sugar beets Nebraska 1940.jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Children_and_Sugar_beets_Nebraska_1940.jpg

Comments

  1. Ann, you and I share a similar southern heritage...and perspective. While my faith has sustained me, I have struggled with many of the same issues. Religion was the only social activity for many rural southerners and seems in many situations to have morphed into a cultural blend that is off-message...but comfortable in a damning sort of way. An inbred circle that keeps those who are different out. At least if felt that way to me. Thanks for sharing this story.

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