1. Being late for school due to a tree in the middle of your driveway was an excuse that always worked.
When a thunderstorm rolled through the valley and you heard the wind and the rain hammering on your home during the night, it was likely that some trees were casualties. No problem — it always got you out of school the next day.
2. You love to hear the pride in grandfather’s voice when he tells people how he has been to the big city, TWICE.
He has been to Knoxville two times. He’s 79. Everything he needs can be found on Main Street in his local small town. He might have done a stint as a member of the Armed Forces in Europe or the South Pacific, but he doesn’t count that as traveling.
3. It was considered serious growth when your valley got a new house.
The valley you grew up in has 12 houses and 3 family units in it. The new house was built by your cousin who decided to move back home and raise their family with the rest of the family. Your uncle signed over a plot of land and your cousin began building. Now the booming valley has 13 houses.
4. You get offended when people refer to your accent as redneck.
It’s not redneck — it’s the more subtle Southern Twang only found in the Smoky Mountains. For us, redneck tends to be sloppier English with more combined and broken words. We’re just melodic.
5. Almost running into cows on your night drive home does not phase you.
For some reason, the neighbor’s cows don’t like to stay in their fence. The black animals turn into escape artists at night, and find a hole in the fence and get out to eat the grass on the other side of the fence. One of those monsters could easily take out your car if you broadsided it, but you know these roads and how to drive them.
6. From late June to early August, your hands look bruised.
Your hands are always stained with the juice of blackberries. The first berries ripen in late June and are finished in early August. You can’t walk by a blackberry bush without stopping to pick a handful, because nothing tastes more like home. Your hands are permanently stained with the juice and your arms itch and hurt scratched up from briers hiding the blackberries.
7. You know which counties are dry and which are wet.
Morgan is dry. Knox wet. Grainger dry. Blount wet. East Tennessee is still home to dry counties; counties where no alcohol is legally sold. More than likely being a raised in the rural areas, you were probably living in a dry county, but it didn’t take you too long to learn where the closest wet county was.
8. You have a secret swimming hole.
Tennessee has plenty of lakes, rivers and ponds and you still have a secret hole where you sneak off to go swimming. It is where you go to beat the hot and humid summer days, jump off a cliff into the cool water, and pass by long and lazy days with friends who you can trust to not tell the whole world about your little paradise.
9. You find comfort in the summer sounds of cicadas.
The night time sounds of cicadas lull you to sleep and are a constant reminder that it’s summer. After the hatching, the song becomes part of your daily life. Although on the 13- and 17-year major hatches of cicadas, the sound can be a little overwhelming and you lose a little love for the buggers.
10. Someone in your immediate family or friends plays the banjo or fiddle in a band.
You drive down the road listing to WDVX 89.9 FM and that person’s bluegrass band comes on the radio. You can’t help but smile and tap your foot when their song come on the radio.
11. You learned to drive a car well before you turned 16 years old.
With all the uninhabited land, there was never anyone around to notice you driving your parents’ car around the field. The tire tracks were the only evidence of your joyride — the only thing left to do was to figure out how to explain them to the parents.
12. Your school bus stop was over a half-mile from your house.
Getting dropped off from the bus directly in front of your house is something for city kids. Your house is set-back from the main road and you always had to walk a half-mile from the bus to your house. If you were lucky, the road was flat and paved. You were not lucky.