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By Any Other Name

Posted on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 8:13 pm

I must teach my husband how to be a proper mountaineer, if not one of regal bearing, at least a presentable hilltop dweller.

For instance, I tell this man, who hails from the swamps of southern Mississippi, that to be true mountaineer one must have a nickname. Nicknames are so common on the mountain that they are even mentioned in obituaries, otherwise you would be hard put to know who died.

  Of course, they may have nicknames in southern Mississippi too, but since everyone down there speaks a mash up of Creole and Cajun who would know?

Around here, nicknames come in two forms. You will sometimes find people with names like “sis” or “bubba” that were bestowed on them at birth. These generic nicknames are not very interesting and, if we are being honest, don’t do much in distinguishing one sis from another.

By far, the most fascinating nicknames are those that come with age or experience. When I was growing up my brother received the type of nickname young men aspire to – Jay Hawk. This name was majestic. It implied leadership and determination; it was all-seeing and all-knowing. I still have a letter that my brother signed using his nickname and a street by my parent’s house is named “Hawk Street”.

If you spend any time on our mountain you will meet some of our more colorful locals. They will introduce themselves by their nicknames. Fat Rabbit Thomas (who is not fat), Big Boy and Little Boy Tipton (brothers), and Duck Nunley (who at one time walked like a duck) are just a few who will be more than happy to share with you the origins of their names.

All this nickname business should not come as a surprise to my husband. We got married in a lovely backyard ceremony by Tater Jones (a preacher and the local exterminator, not a potato farmer).

Our local Democratic and Republican primaries are this week. Depending on the outcome, history may well be made. For three generations, someone with a flamboyant nickname has held the office of Road Superintendent. It may very well be a condition for election. Eyeball Roberts and June Bug Meeks both held office before current Road Superintendent Turkey Hargis.

Turkey’s opponent in the current race is Johnny Ray Fults, a man with no moniker. Johnny Ray, if you win your first duty as road superintendent will be to secure a nickname. Might I suggest “pothole”.