Language is my music.
I’m not talking about the mechanics of grammar—a necessary evil in my affair with words. I’m referring to the inflection, the regional euphemisms and the quirky idioms that add texture to our conversations and communicate who we are and where we’ve been.
That regional texture—whether it’s a Northern England clip, a soft Charleston lilt or California surfer dudette lingo—is the icing on my cake, the milk in my Cheerios, the red on my candy.
If you think I’m just porch-sittin’ (being whimsical), then consider this:
When Texas Gov. Ann Richards delivered the keynote speech of the 1988 Democratic Convention, she offered example after example of why the Republican Party’s “trickle down economics” did not work. However, little of her astute research is recalled today. Instead, she is remembered for her “that old dog won’t hunt” declaration that plunged her into the national political spotlight and put her name in history books.
So, when my friend Phoebe gave me a daily calendar of Southern expressions titled “Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit,” my language-oriented brain latched onto a theme for the third in my Southern Secrets series.
Southerners love colorful euphemisms to soften the harsh realities of life. Instead of saying “she died,” we say “she passed on.” A man who has a wife and a mistress is “buttering his bread on both sides.” To someone who has gone against your advice and then comes to you for help, you would tell them to “skin their own skunk” or “you made your bed, now lie in it.”
The world of quarter horse racing in Cajun-rich Southern Louisiana is fertile ground for the Southern eccentricities in “Hold Me Forever,” which is scheduled for a September release by Bold Strokes Books.
Clinton Casey is a grumpy old Texan who trains quarter horses at Louisiana racetracks. His daughter, Whitley, learned about horses from Pop and then got an education in lesbians and high-tech journalism at Louisiana State University. Mae St. John is an over-educated Georgia debutante with no job experience and no family … rather, no legitimate family.
They each have their own problems.
Clinton’s got more gravy than biscuits (more bills than money) after Alzheimer’s disease puts a leak in his crankcase (muddles his brain), so he takes out a sketchy loan against the farm and puts all his eggs in one basket—a promising bay colt named Raising the Bar.
So, even though Whit’s feeling like a sore-assed duck swimming in salt water (very hurt) after realizing her latest relationship was just spitting in the wind (going nowhere), she moves back home and works like a rented mule (you would never work your own mule that hard) to keep her dot.com business going and shoulder Pop’s training work, too.
Meanwhile, Mae is feeling like a hound dog without a porch to crawl under (a stray). She has neither home nor family since her grandmother, Big Mae, had too many toddies at the country club and drowned when she accidentally drove her Mercedes into a water hazard on the fifteenth fairway. When her grandmother’s will is read, Mae learns that the family fortune is gone and the bank has foreclosed on their house. Big Mae has left only a modest trust fund for the care of her poodle, Rhett, ten thousand dollars secreted between the pages of “Gone with the Wind,” and a letter confessing the father Mae grew up thinking was dead actually lives in Louisiana.
Seriously, while I had a lot of fun with the Southernisms, “Hold Me Forever” is about seeing people for who they are, not what they are. It’s about family, loyalty and trust. It’s about finding that person who fits perfectly in your life … someone who will hold you forever.
Leave a comment to enter the drawing for an autographed copy of “Hold Me Forever.” A winner will be drawn 5 days after the posting of this blog.