Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling


Porch Tales    


Southern Feelings

By Ulmer Speed



Happiness was summertime, being five, and living in Sandflat, Miss'ippi. That last summer before going to school held out the promise of experiencing something brand new every morning and never was I disappointed.  Those early experiences prepared me for living, teaching me to grab whatever opportunities life served up.  To this day, whenever a problem begins to nag me, I return to my memories of that summer to relive those feel-good experiences, to recall lessons learned, and to ask myself how I would solve the problem if only I could be five years old again.  Not surprisingly, the answer I get most often is what problem? -- There's no problem. 

Five-year-olds go bare-footed and don't wear shirts.  They search for the hidden places where birds build nests, concealed except from five-year old boys.  The birds lay eggs and raise families under the watchful eyes of a boy barely able to stand tippy-toe to look into the nest.  A daily check reveals the size and color of the eggs, and how the babies learn to fly, valuable information for use in future arguments with other boys when they all turn six and go to school.  The wonder of watching the birth of a calf ranks right up there with watching a duckling take to the water to swim for the first time without any lessons.  Pears pulled right off the tree are hard but juicy, not as juicy as a ripe red tomato, which is eaten hot just because you are hungry.  And regardless of the warnings from mama, there are no bellyaches.  Fishing wasn't something to be planned, it was spontaneous, and it was fun. 

I was not weighed down by schoolwork nor burdened with the responsibilities of chores; I was a free spirit.  Remembrances from when I was five recall a family of aunts, uncles, cousins, their families, and their family's family.  Mom and I were related in one way or another to about everybody in the county, giving me a feeling of home wherever I went.  We had so much fun together.  My mother loved and cared for me and we worked to strengthen already strong ties to our kin.  I'm convinced, however, that my childhood happiness came about mostly from my foresight to be born a Southerner. 

We in the South appreciate and embrace what nature gives to us and our culture bequeaths to us.  Southerners wave and smile whether they know you or not.  We're just glad to see you.  The girls with their sun-browned skin and wind teased hair demand your attention as they swish by in their brightly colored dresses.  They are all pretty, every last one of them.  The warmth of the sun burst opens the Magnolias and Honeysuckle to release fragrances that last the whole day long.  The soft breezes of the evening blends the scent of the long-leaf pine with the lingering bouquet of the flowers into a perfume that inspires love, tenderness, and passion in the hardest of hearts.  We Southerners are indeed a blessed race, sensitive to the warmth of our summers, and thankful for our Southern culture.

The author is Mr. Ellis Ulmer Speed, a 1970 engineering graduate of Mississippi State University.  He currently works for the Defense Technology Security Administration in Arlington, Virginia.

His e-mail address is


2002, Ellis Ulmer Speed, All Rights Reserved