If you can’t laugh at yourself you will miss an awful lot of fun and I have always appreciated that my Plateau neighbors can in fact laugh at themselves. Well we got to listening to some old Ray Stevens songs the other day and I remembered how much I could always relate to those songs.
When I hear “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” I naturally picture the little church I grew up in. And when he tells about going on a retreat with his wife in the mountains of East Tennessee in “Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat” I can just imagine gettin’ myself into that situation.
Then there’s “Sittin’ Up with the Dead” – now by the time I came along we had become quite accustomed to entrusting our loved ones’ to the funeral home but I’ve heard again and again about folks sitting up with the dead and knowing our superstitious nature on the mountain, that song easily evokes images of my grandparents and their siblings.
I didn’t really set out today to write a tribute to the Georgia-born Stevens, however, I’m not hesitant to do so. I love that a southern boy can look at our customs in a humorous and yet respectful manner. Jerry Clower was from Louisiana and their rich culture is very different than the Cumberland Plateau’s yet he was another one that I can easily relate to. Today’s comedians think they have to curse every other breath – and how is that even funny? – and they want to talk about ugly stuff that you probably shouldn’t ever listen to it but you sure don’t want to play it around your Mama or your kids. Jerry and Ray were rarely indelicate but they’ll keep you rolling.
My stories from the mountain aren’t necessarily comical but we are often a funny people and we often recount funny stories, even from recent history. This is a season of visiting and we’ll be laughing together I know. I look forward to that and I hope you do too. If you are looking for a laugh, pop into YouTube and listen again to these guys who tell stories so like our own.