I sang Dixie as he died
The people just walked on by as I cried
The bottle had robbed him of all his rebel pride
So I sang Dixie as he died
The legacy of America's southern states is a fusion of the exceptional and the unfortunate.
There's been plenty to hang our heads about in the South both in the past and present. But there's been plenty to make us lift our chins and puff out our chests. Southern pride is powerful, and that pride resides deep in my soul.
The stanza at the beginning of this column comes from a 1988 ballad by country singer Dwight Yoakam and tells the story of a meeting between two men on the grim streets of Los Angeles. One of the men is living his final moments.
He said way down yonder in the land of cotton
Old times there ain't near as rotten as they are
On this damned old L.A. street
Then he drew a dying breath
And laid his head against my chest
Please Lord take his soul back home to Dixie
Our storyteller cradles the man and sings that old ballad "Dixie" to comfort him as he dies. Others walk on by, ignoring the scene, in no way surveying the suffering. The dying man warns the narrator with his final words to "run back home to that southern land" and escape "what life here has done to me."
The legacy of America's southern states is a fusion of the remarkable and the regrettable. Poverty remains high; the overall quality of life is deemed low by those who seem it important to rank those kind of things. To me, quality of life seems subjective solely to the parties involved.
So no matter what some others may say about us, our pride remains.
Because in the South, we know compassion, love and affection extend past those who live under the same roof. We give of ourselves without thought of return. We care about community before self. And when we see someone we do not know, we smile and give a greeting. I once knew a lady from Ohio who took offense to the fact strangers would greet her in the isle of local grocery stores. Strange folks from up North.
There is no magazine named "Northern Living." For good reason, life outside of the South can be cold, unforgiving and cruel. Now, let's not romanticize all aspects of the land we call home.
Life in the South is not all Norman Rockwell. It's not Mayberry out there, not anymore. But our way of life still gives me reason to believe that this country hasn't completely lost its way.
We still have a society (at least in the states where college football fans are as big of a denomination as Baptist and Methodist) that knows kindness is best when the act is made one way.
Our Profile edition that published yesterday is proof of this point. Nearly 100 pages of stories detailing the ways our community supports one another, cares for the less fortunate and goes beyond the call of what others might deem ordinary in order to help those in need.
He said listen to me son while you still can
Run back home to that Southern land
Don't you see what life here has done to me?
Then he closed those old blue eyes
And fell limp against my side
No more pain, now he's safe back home in Dixie
We may have our hiccups, bumps and bruises, warts and whatnot, but when it comes to choosing a place to live there is no question of where my heart lies.
Safe at home, down in Dixie.
Josh Beavers is the publisher of the Minden Press-Herald. He is a two-time recipient of the Best Newspaper Column award given annually by the Louisiana Press Association.