T'Aint From Here

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
"Y'aint from here are ya, Boy."

Those of us who've moved around a bit growing up as military brats, or maybe having parents who were employment vagabonds following jobs from town to town, perhaps even following those jobs ourselves later, are quite familiar with that phrase. Sometimes it's even accompanied with other, more explicit pejoratives such as "carpetbagger."

I've always enjoyed words, their roots, meanings, and usage. Let's take one as an example. Carpetbagger's probably as good as any.


Historically, a carpetbagger was a person who came south after the War of Northern Aggression, as some like to call it, others call it the American Civil War, to take advantage of the societal confusion and power vacuum created by the war. Land was cheap. Cities and towns had been destroyed. Many families had lost their men and of those that hadn't, the men lost their rights as citizens because they'd fought The Man of that day. Poverty was rampant. Family fortunes, those who had fortunes, were destroyed and those who didn't, well, they were even worse off than before. Land and assets were confiscated. And they came... mercenaries and money/power grubbers, ready to step in and take what was left because they'd generally sat at home while others went off to war. They became known as carpetbaggers because they hauled their belongings in carpet luggage, the style in vogue with the hoity toity of the day.

They came... like hookers to a convention of bureaucrats on government expense accounts, to take advantage of "dumb southerners," the freebies and power they could grab, and whatever else they could exploit at no personal expense. Graft and corruption were the order of the day. They came to become financial advisers, collection lawyers, insurance salesmen, politicians and political operatives, to name but a few of their chosen "professions." This isn't an indictment of all practitioners of these professions, or even all government bureaucrats, but if the shoe fits one must wear it or, as stated in the punch-line of that old joke about the FooFoo Bird, a rare denizen of tropical rain forests; if the Foo (poops), wear it.

More recently the term carpetbagger, as is often the case with our language when those who either don't know true meanings of words, their origins, or merely wish to bastardize our language for their own purposes, has come to be used to refer to anyone who isn't from a particular locale by those resentful of newcomers... that "Y'aint from here are ya, Boy" deal.

I often chuckle at some who accuse others of being carpetbaggers without really knowing them, or what they're talking about, especially after a personal experience a few years ago. You see, I'd only been involved with the local group my second favorite politician referred to as "those republican weenies" a couple of years when I got invited to lunch by one of the purported establishment political powerhouses. For simplicity's sake, and changing the name to protect the guilty, let's call him (Jack). So I met (Jack) at a Waffle House where we chatted for a bit when I asked why the sudden interest in getting to know li'l ol' me when to date everyone had given our Right Wing Whacko Gang a wide berth.

This was especially curious since not too many months prior the HCGOP chairlady, at the time, had attempted to remove me as a precinct chairman, a power she didn't have without following the very specific process stated in the party bylaws involving bringing her prey before the County Executive Committee on specific charges, charges also specified in those bylaws. Her attempt was actually made immediately after the county delegate convention during which Sheriff Hammond was selected as the Republican candidate for election to replace Billy Long. She didn't appreciate several of us busting them for "stuffing the ballot box," so to speak, or count the votes as they were read. You see, there were 324 delegates elected at the precinct caucus but just a few days later, on the day of the delegate convention, there were only 304 delegates and alternates seated, after several elected delegates were improperly replaced by HCGOP headquarters. The total of votes cast during the first round? 324, or so we were told. Suspicious, at the very least, huh. She didn't appreciate getting busted. I didn't appreciate being spoken to worse than a cur dog by Mr. Bobby Wood, nor did those of us at the convention who realized what was going on appreciate having our intelligence insulted as it was. They "recounted," the count came out "right" that time, 304 total, and the entire convention was tainted in many of our minds. The next day I got that phone call, the one telling me I was being replaced, and my response was to ask if they wanted a letter explaining the correct process to come from me or my attorney. The subject was dropped, for the entire group of us who'd been targeted for replacement.

Yes... you, too, can play intellectual jujitsu with party elite...

Anyway, (Jack) said he was trying to figure me out and what I was trying to do. I asked what he knew about me and he responded "You're a city boy, from California," the unstated being  "Y'aint from here are ya, Boy."

Poor (Jack). He really hadn't moved to Chattanooga, from somewhere over the other side of Nashville, too many years before me and I asked if he was familiar with Red Bank. He was. So I explained that traveling up Dayton Boulevard from beautiful downtown Red Bank to Browntown Road, hang a left, go over the hill to McCahill Road, hang a right and follow that to the end at Browntown again. Proceeding directly across would put him in the driveway of a house my grandfather and great-grandfather had built with their own hands. Getting out of his car and doing a left face, he would be staring at the cow pasture we used to run as children, where on a hot summer day we boys would occasionally use cow patties as discii (I know it isn't proper, I'm making a point) and later, when cousin Buddy got a pony and the girls tried to intrude on our adventures we'd chase them off by chunking road apples at them, and wash our hands in the branch. That was before we discovered girls don't have cooties, but most of them were cousins and sisters... so they always had cooties.

Another left face and on the side of the hill is where a little old lady lived, my Granny, and that crackerbox house is where I got my one and only switchin' from her... something about swimming out to the island in Soddy Lake before it was filled in as much with silt as it is now. I was only in front of the pack being the best swimmer, not leading everyone else over there (that was my story then, it's my story now). That didn't cut it. Also being the oldest I got mine first, leaning over the edge of her bed... but she was out of practice and only caught me a couple of good ones while missing most of the time. Boy howdy did she get warmed up on me, though. She lit up every one of the other kids' britches after that.

Her husband came here from... No! I'll not admit to having roots in Alabama. He worked a lot of jobs including the railroad police, was a game warden from Moccasin Bend up to Sale Creek and later TVA security. His brother, a stone mason, came during The Depression and worked a lot of stone projects on both mountains overlooking Chattanooga. Uncle John did the old stone house in Sale Creek too. None of us kids were able to know, or even meet Grandpa Burrage. He died in 1939 working undercover security on the Chickamauga Dam. I was told his safety belt slipped, crushing his, um, well, he died of gangrene while Granny sat at his side in a hallway of the hospital.

There was a lot more, but poor (Jack). When it got right down to it, (Jack) really didn't know jack about what he was there to discover at the behest of his Patrone... to borrow a title from our neighbors to the south.

Isn't it interesting how often one or another faction in a political campaign will throw down accusations of the opposition being carpetbaggers not knowing, or caring, whether it's true or that the accusation wouldn't splatter over onto others of their purported homies? It's also interesting how many members of the local political establishment, the elites, and those they support, aren't native Chattanoogans. A few of these are; Bobby Wood (Fyffe, Alabama... worse... that's, like, Sand Mountain), Harold Coker (Athens, Tennessee), Joe Manuel (West Tennessee), Tommy Crangle (West Tennessee), Congressman Chuck, Esquire (New York), Congressman DeJarlais, MD (South Dakota), Hon. Jeff Hollingsworth (New Orleans), Rep. Gerald McCormick (Shelby County). There are more. Lots more.

And some cat hailing from Bradley County almost blows a gasket because Chattanooga Councilman Grohn refuses to be told what to do by the elite? Oh my. But unlike some who come to the area for personal gain Councilman Grohn came here to retire, immediately getting involved with an extracurricular chess program in our schools, and only after seeing what the establishment elites had done did he get involved in politics himself.

Back in the '60s there was a South African minstrel group, a one hit wonder here in the States, whose only hit song was somewhat of a mild slavery protest statement, Master Jack.

You took a colored ribbon from out of the sky
And taught me how to use it as the years went by
To tie up all your problems and make them look neat
And then to sell them to the people in the street

It's a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack
You taught me all I know and I'll never look back
It's a very strange world and I thank you, Master Jack

For decades we've allowed establishment types to push us, Joe and Jane Schmuckatelli, around and bully us, to tell us what they're doing will be good for us, just like when Mom said boiled okry was good for us as kids... and spinach. We've allowed them to create problems then tell us to elect them, or those they say we should elect, for additional terms of office so they can fix those same problems. We've allowed them to tell us we don't understand that big picture, or that we aren't from where ever it is and don't understand the local society. We've allowed them to package their problems all pretty and neat then sell them to us, the peeps on the street, haven't we... as the problems just seem to get worse with time.

My budette Birkie, the BirkenstockBabe not Berkie the only sort of conservative guy I know to have ever escaped alive from Berkley, is fond of saying about the elite "They want us to move here and bring our money. They want us to spend  and invest in the local economy, whether ours is union money or not. Then they tell us to sit down and shut up."

"Give us your money, then sit down and shut up because we know best"... that's always struck me as rather pompous. So when do the rest of us begin doing as Councilman Grohn, Sabrena Turner, and others hare doing... stand up to The Man? When do we tell them "Thank you but I'll never look back, Jack."

Oh my goodness... not only do I have an ear-worm, I'm out of chocolate...

Royce Burrage, Jr.
Royce@Officially Chapped.org


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