This Vintage Life Lines first appeared in 2009.
After a cruise to Canada and New England, I came up with a whole new way to increase tourism and make some money for Mississippi.
We need to get over advertising all this antebellum and Civil War stuff and start advertising the real benefits of visiting our state. On that trip I learned what those benefits are.
One thing I learned is that our Mississippi accent is an oddity that stops non-southerners in their tracks. A ship can be full of people from the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan (these are east of Simpson County), Indonesia, China and Japan (these are west of Simpson County, unless you go through Soso, in which case they are also east of Simpson County). These people just babble away in foreign tongues. I didn’t hear one person ask where anyone else was from, until we Mississippians opened our mouths. Then they would ask, “Where are you from?”
We obviously have the most unusual accent in the world, and we should exploit this to get more tourists to the state. “Come to Mississippi and hear REAL Mississippi talk, y’all!” should be our advertising slogan.
Another thing we could advertise is our food, which I think is the greatest in the world.
To cater to people from around the world, the ship’s dining room served some things for breakfast that I couldn’t believe anyone would eat at any time, much less after a stormy night of rolling around on a ship’s bed. Some of those poor folks ate little bitty smelly fish, big stinky raw fish sliced thin, and muesilix--a cereal that looked like somebody had already chewed it up pretty good, spit it back into the bowl, and tossed some acorns on top of it. And baked beans.
Who in the civilized world eats baked beans for breakfast? Don’t they, uh, smell up their houses all day after a breakfast of beans?
In Mississippi, we fry our fish, and we chew and swallow our own Cheerios without spitting them back in the bowl. And we eat baked beans at night with barbeque and go straight to bed... so we won’t offend anyone with the odor of recycled beans.
So we need to start advertising “Come to Mississippi, save your stomach and do your part for clean air!”
We could also get more tourists by advertising “Come to Mississippi and learn something!” That would shock folks who assume that everyone in Mississippi has the IQ of a rutabaga.
I know this because on this trip I visited an antique shop in Bar Harbor, Maine, and struck up a conversation with the owner. Hearing my accent, she asked where I was from.
“Magee, Mississippi,” I said proudly.
“Humpf,” she snorted. “You sound like it. Republican, too, ah yuh?” --like Republicans had to be stupid.
“I am, and darned proud of it,” I replied.
“Well, I’m a good Democrat,” she boasted. “Everyone is, except people like you from the Bible Belt and the Heart Land.”
“Too bad,” I answered.
“How do you like what’s going on with our new Democratic president Obama?” she asked smugly.
“I don’t like it at all,” I answered.
“Oh, and why is that?” she demanded, ready to straighten me out.
“I don’t like his Big Government,” I said. “People who think government can provide them with everything are always disillusioned. Just ask the Soviets who thought communism was a good idea.”
The whole Soviet economic and political system crashed by the early 1990s. When government starts taking what workers earns and distributing it equally, it doesn’t take long for the ones who work to decide that they will just sit down and wait for money to come to them from somebody else. Then nothing comes in. Then everything fails, because government can only distribute what it takes in from people who work. I didn’t tell her all that, but I will if she ever comes to Mississippi.
“Humpf,” she snorted again, displaying, I thought, a rather limited vocabulary.
To direct the conversation onto a more pleasant topic, I gestured to some framed prints above her head and commented, “That’s a nice collection of Maxfield Parrish illustrations you have.”
Her head snapped up. “How do you know about Maxfield Parrish?” she asked with amazement.
“Oh, we’re not totally ignorant down there in Mississippi, I replied calmly. “He’s the artist who did those gorgeous, glowing illustrations of children’s stories.”
“Humph,” she said like a stuck record. “I may have to rethink Southern Republicans,” she added reluctantly.
“You do that,” I answered, my voice dripping with Southern charm.
And by the way, lady, people who live in a place called Bar Harbor and call it “Bah Hah-bah” don’t need to say anything about anybody’s accent.
We could teach her that and a lot more if she’d heed our advertising campaign and book her next vacation down here in God’s Country.
I’d even feed her baked beans for breakfast and take the consequences if she’d give us a try.