It may be uncharitable to say some denizens of the Pensacola area are white trash. Rather, we were surprised and delighted to find we’d arrived back in town just in time to join 15-20,000 for Chumuckla’s annual Redneck Christmas Parade. Chris reminded me recently that he grew up rounding up cattle and field dressing deer on the family ranch. So maybe redneck-ville is where the Kruegers fit in the Pensacola line up after all, I mused as we drove through cotton fields and parked alongside a harvested peanut field Saturday morning. I must admit, Thursday nights in College Station were reserved for parking in the cow pasture and two-stepping at The Hall, so living here has all of us tapping into our redneck reserves. That being said….
The Redneck Christmas Parade ranged from rednecks in ernest to self-effacing redneck humor to missing-the-point tacky rednecks.
Every iteration of leafy camo showed up in force: Santa caps, coveralls, overalls, baby blankets, baby slings, jackets for all ages, waders. Many floats had empty dip tobacco cans and bottles of Jack Daniels interspersed with Christmas lights on scrawny trees next to beat up couches on makeshift porches. People went fast and loose with the Confederate battle flag, draping on floats and attendant vehicles. A contingent of Civil War reenactors marched by, flags snapping. Then some floats were just advertisements, like one for trailer homes. It wasn’t clear whether other floats had done any special decorating to show their redneckness, like the truck with those awful truck nuts sporting a blowup doll on the hood and a teen girl smoking in the back with friends. Another truck tossed a can of beer to the family next to us.
Which brings me to my next point: it was unclear whether we were supposed to watch the trucks moving by, or whether we were supposed to parade along and enjoy the observers. One family brought an outhouse. I did not stick around to see if anyone was using it. We watched the parade alongside three other families, two of them multigenerational. One kind old cowboy offered us his truck as a windbreak if we got cold. The middle family wasn’t very interesting, just a lot of yelling and smoking. The final family—the one that caught the beer—was the best.
Mom and dad were drinking beer when we got there while their teenage daughter played with her baby on a picnic blanket. Two other kids in head-to-toe leafy camo played in the peanut field. Dad had no front teeth. As the parade started, he called to Memaw and helped her out of the car. She watched the parade, smoking, from her wheelchair, calling out in a low, gravely voice from time to time, “Boys! You missed some beads! There’s some candy over there!” They were kind enough to each other, seemed nice…and hit the stereotype nail on the head.
Was the parade finished? Hard to say, as the decorations dwindled to within the range of enthusiastic supporters. I carried Isaac, whose big blue eyes in his fluffy zip-up warmie had been awarded an array of sparkly mardi gras beads and two stuffed animals (which, upon inspection, looked a little too used to be given to a baby on the cusp of chomping everything; they were re-tossed to the leafy camo kids next to us). Chris pushed the stroller and we turned back to the car. But what’s this? More floats? So are all these trucks part of the procession? And what’s all that noise? Sirens and fire trucks led the parade, but now an ambulance was screaming back toward us. All forward momentum stopped and everyone cleared a path. The ambulance proceeded to the middle of the parade. We—rednecked out—proceeded to the car. And to think I was afraid there wouldn’t be any interesting culture here to blog about.