She’s ready to head back home to her people

A look at lower Valley life through the eyes of a local.

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 4:34am
  • Opinion
She's ready to head back home to her people

I thought I was traveling across the country when I started this trip.

Now that I have seen the South, I know the South is more than a cluster of

states; it is a different world all together. The South is a land defined by the

Bible, barbecue and sweet tea.

Sweet tea, pronounced “swait tae,” is what powers the South. It starts

out as normal iced tea brewed by the Silo. Then an ungodly amount of sugar

is added to the mix until it is slightly sweeter than rock candy. It is

served by the gallon, at breakfast, lunch and dinner. By combining sugar and

caffeine all in one glass, you have a refreshing beverage that makes

you want to spin like a top or plow a few hundred acres without a

tractor. Starbucks needs to take note. No double tall mocha can come close

to sweet tea. Sweet tea does not stand alone. The ideal meal to

accompany sweet tea is barbecue.

In the South they spell out the whole word; it is Bar-B-Que with

capital letters. In Tennessee we were taken to a little hole in the wall. No

advertising and yet on a Wednesday night it was standing room only. The place

is called Ridgewood Bar-B-Que and it has been smoking meats in the

same old smoker since the 1930s. Run by a group of woman with huge

hairdos and even bigger backsides, they have been plying pork and beef

Bar-B-Que sandwiches with a skill that is unrivaled. They make their secret

sauce in vats in the back room. It is slathered liberally on the smoked meat. Top

the sandwich with a dose of homemade coleslaw and there are no words

to describe how good it is. Now I know why they are so beholding to

God. Food such as this is straight from heaven.

Suffice it to say I ate until I was sick and still wanted more. They

sell the sauce in jars, but it must be refrigerated, so I guess I won’t be

cooking for the rest of the trip, as the fridge is full. Please pass the sweet tea. Just

as Bar-B-Que and sweet tea are customary, so too is the Bible in the South.

No meal can start in the South until grace is said. Just start digging

in like a heathen Northerner and you can bring an 180,000-square-foot buffet

to a standstill. This is the Bible belt and you can never forget it. Faith is a

competition sport. Roadside attractions compete for the best biblical scene.

We have seen the world’s biggest cross in Texas. Biblical plays and tableaus

rate front-page news coverage (Jim are you reading this?). Billboards

outnumbering the famous Wall Drug proclaim the Lord’s messages from every

field. Truck stops have whole rows dedicated to Jesus right next to the

chip aisle. God is big here and no one wants you to forget it. I swear, even

atheists pray here.

Even I, a fallen-away Catholic, have felt the presence of God. Not

in a sandwich, per se, but in the weather. Heading back north. We spent

the night in Keystone, S.D. The weather report called for a little wet

snow. About midnight it started to snow. With the wind blowing a gentle

45 mph and gusting to 60, the snow started to pile up.

I now am assured that weather reporting is as inaccurate anywhere

as it is at home. It did not stop until 4 p.m. the next day. We were now

buried under two feet of snow with drifts up to four feet. You can imagine

the thoughts racing through my head when I realized that I was now

trapped in a motor home with my ever-lovin’ husband, two active little girls and

a cat.

I started to pray. I prayed for sunshine and warmth and a really,

really quick thaw. Luckily my prayers were answered and we were dug most

of the way out the next day by an “angel of God” driving a backhoe.

I am now ready to head home to my people. I am looking forward

to rain instead of snow and I can live with bad barbecue and good hairstyles.

I still have the sauce and maybe there is someone at the UW who would

put it under a spectrum analyzer and learn its secret. I hope it is not Final

Net hairspray. They sell sugar by the 10-pound bag at the Family Grocer so

I can make a little sweet tea at home and maybe, just maybe, I will

attend church a little more often.

Kate Russell is still on the road trying to find her way home.

You can reach her at

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