As you may know, Steve and I recently completed a life-changing move.  On June 19, we uprooted ourselves from the only house we’d known for the past 27 years (and the only way of life we’d ever known: utterly urban) to start a new adventure in the very rural northeastern tier of North Carolina known as the Inner Banks.  Now that my navel-gazing journey into my past has come to an end, I’ll be sharing an adventure or two with you from “down here” from time to time. Here’s the first.

We have 2.5 acres of land here in North Carolina, about .5 acre of which will eventually be filled up with a house.  The rest is Carolina pine forest that’s in dire need of clearing, and these days, that’s our full time job.  Like a couple of presidents of the very recent past, we are clearing brush.   I can now inform you from personal experience that it’s excellent exercise and can easily explain the good shape Ronald Reagan was always in.  It also occasioned the first slightly discouraging word we’ve heard here:  “Yankee.”  It really is more than just a baseball team.

I’d always heard there are southerners for whom the Civil War never ended.  We saw one such soul today.  It was at the dump.  The guy was at a distance and he must have heard us say hello to the attendant in our accents, which mark us as not from these parts.  “A bunch of Yankees,” he said to no one in particular, was filling up the yard waste bin with pieces that weren’t cut down to four feet.   Huh?  After at least a dozen runs to that same bin at that same dump, the people working there have never said anything to us about a size limit.  But leave it to us “Yankees” to fill up the waste bin too fast and make it harder for an honest Reb tryin’ t’do the rat thing.

Steve and I have probably been called much worse, of course, but never to our faces.  We had an epithet–Yankee–actually thrown at us!  You think of all kinds of snappy comebacks later, of course.  (My immediate reaction was what I wrote above: “huh?”  because we didn’t know about any four-foot rule, and as far as we’re concerned, until an attendant at the dump tells us about it, we still don’t.)

I could have said, “I’m no Yankee, I’m from Virginia, but I outgrew the accent.” But it would have been too subtle for such a sledgehammer brain.   You think about a possible conversation with somebody like that and you mentally ascribe all the worst prejudices to him because he called you a Yankee.  Jews, queers and n-words are what’s wrong with this country.  Can’t you just hear it?

I think the reason I’m so taken by this incident is that it was the first negative vibe we’ve received in the month-plus we’ve lived here, and in all the visits we made before moving here.  Steve and I aren’t the most obvious gay men swishing down the trottoir but we figure it has to be clear to anyone with two eyes that we’re more than just good friends, the way we finish each others’ sentences and appear together everywhere.  And yet we are welcomed everywhere we go–indeed have at times been overwhelmed by the kindnesses we have been shown.

Ignoramuses like that “Yankee” slinger have been around since long before I set foot on the planet and will no doubt continue to reproduce.  God bless America because they can say and think what they want.  As long as they remain under their rocks while I’m out cutting my 6- to 8-foot brush, I’ll be fine.