Sometime ago, I was talking to a man who explained something rather clearly and I would like to give him credit but I forgot his name. In illustrating the differences between a Downer (someone from below the Sweet Tea Line) and an Abover (someone from above the Sweet Tea Line), he said, “If you ask the Abover who that man is, he would say, ‘Bill.’ When asked the same question of a Downer, he would say, ‘That’s Bill Smith Jr. His father was Bill Smith Sr. Bill Smith Sr. married one of Sam Jones’ daughters from over the creek. They had a large family. Junior was the oldest. Played football in high school and was recruited by State, but lost out when he fell off a John Deere tractor and broke his leg’” and so on.
I was up in New York City early one morning, and as I was walking down the street I met a man. We made eye contact. I said, “Good morning.” He immediately crossed the street to the other side without a word. Must have thought I was a panhandler or he just was gun shy or something.
Over at Lowe’s, I was in the checkout line behind a man with a slogan printed on the back of his T-shirt. I started reading his T-shirt out loud when he turned around. We had a nice pleasant conversation.
After the man reached the clerk and was checking out, I saw a lady behind me with a cart full of garden supplies. I said to her, “Look’s like you have lots of work to do.” No reply, only an icy look, and then she turned her head. And I thought, “Whoops, another Abover misplaced.”
Friendly conversation among people is a real Southern asset, and I enjoy it a lot. You never know where it will lead, but it usually is interesting.
In a long checkout line at a grocery store, there was a lady behind me with cart full of drinks of all kinds.
“You must be having a party,” I said to her.
Being a Downer, she said she was going to a cookout and was furnishing drinks.
I asked, “You live around here?”
She responded, “Yes, in Sharpsburg. Well not right in Sharpsburg but a little ways out in Edgecombe County.”
I replied that I had a good friend over there named Charlie Jackson.
“Do you know him?”
“What a small world,” she said, “he’s giving the cookout.”
“My name is Milton Fields. Please say ‘hi’ to him for me. You tell him that I love cookouts and would be glad to furnish the napkins.”
Milton Fields is a raconteur and retired lawyer living in Rocky Mount.