Thursday, March 13, 2008

In-jokes and irate husbands

Wednesday, I made a little in-joke on the blog:
Plans for an 11 a.m. update got scratched when I got a call from an old friend in Atlanta. Well, she's more than just an "old friend," but I wouldn't want her husband to beat me up. (A joke! That's just a joke, Mr. Fields!)
"Mr. Fields" is Tommy Fields of Atlanta, who is married to the former Carol Purdy. I had a terrible crush on Carol when we attended Lithia Springs (Ga.) Elementary School together. Her father was Scoutmaster of my troop.

Alas, my affections were unrequited, and our love was not meant to be. Carol was a Methodist and I was a Baptist, which was sort of like the Montagues and Capulets back in the day. More to the point, Carol was beautiful, and I was just a skinny fool (some things never change). If Carol ever consented to let me hold her hand, I don't remember it. I think she had a crush on my older brother at one point, but that didn't do me any good.

I saw Carol last year at our 30th high school reunion, and she got in touch recently to compliment me on the blog. So I thought it was funny to say that she was "more than just an old friend," and then to feign fear that I had offended Carol's husband.

This joke also amused Carol, Tommy, and Tommy's golf buddy, Bill Holloway, who responded via e-mail with a joke of his own, which he CC'd to Tommy:
Dear Mr. McCain,
I was pleased to have been referred to your recent blog. As suggested your writing is interesting and thought provoking.
I do, however, feel compelled to tell you that you may well have crossed a very dangerous line when you publicly humiliated Mrs. Field's husband. Being a man of strong southern heritage (and few written words) his only real means of retribution is likely to take on a physical form. That has certainly been his historical response.
As a close personal associate of Mr. Fields I will try to keep him off the plane but I do know the ticket has been purchased.
Best Wishes
Bill Holloway
(For years, I've tried to explain to people up North that threats of violence can be terms of endearment in Southern culture. Your best old friend in the world, whom you haven't seen in a while, might greet you by saying, "Boy, I ought to whup your a--! Where you been lately?")

Since Mr. Holloway is clearly a fine gentleman of excellent humor, his jest deserved an appropriate response. And noticing his reference to Mr. Fields' Southern heritage, I immediately conceived such a response, which I sent via reply e-mail, CC'ing the message to Carol, her husband, and her brother:

Mr. Holloway: Your insinuations against my honor, implying that my youthful affections for Mrs. Fields were anything other than chaste and respectable, are duly noted. I must further note that, by these grievous insults, you have simultaneously impugned Mrs. Fields as a woman of low character. Therefore, it is you, and not I, against whom Mr. Fields should rightly direct his wrath in vindication of the lady's good name.
I copy this message to Mrs. Fields' brother, George Purdy, who might just decide to beat the hell out of whatever's left of you when Carol's husband gets through with you. My advice? High-tail it for Alabama, while there's still time to run.
Your most humble and obedient servant,
Robert Stacy McCain,
Member, Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp 469, Sons of Confederate Veterans

One so seldom gets a chance to invoke the code duello in postmodern America, even in jest, since people take everything so seriously nowadays. People don't even know how to use that kind of language anymore. Back in the old days, if the words "honor," "impugned" and "insult" were used in the same paragraph, it generally meant somebody was bound to die a violent death pretty soon: "Pistols at dawn, sir!"

Speaking of things that people don't get nowadays, while I lived in Rome, Ga., I was indeed a member (for one year) of Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp 469 of the SCV. (My great-grandfather, Winston Wood Bolt, was a private in the 13th Alabama Infantry and was captured during the opening assault at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.) The SCV is a fine organization chiefly dedicated to historical preservation, and Gen. Forrest is a great hero to folks in Rome, a city which Forrest's cavalry saved from destruction by Col. Abel Streight's Yankee raiders in May 1863.

The philantropic nature of the SCV and the heroic status of Gen. Forrest in Rome, however, are unknown to Yankees who, to the extent they know anything at all of Gen. Forrest, know him as a former slave dealer and reputed founder of the KKK. So when I say I was once a member of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- well, you can picture the Yankees choking on their hors d'ouevres. The conflation of Southern heritage with racism is virtually automatic up here.

Just this once, however, it will be safe to use a bit of downhome levity, since I'm writing this one for the home folks.


  1. Being of the southern culture that my friend "Stacy" as we called him while growing up in the fields and pine woodlands of western Georgia spoke of and after bringing me into a rather clearly offensive words against my Baby sisters chaste and respectable nature my reply is as it WAS my loving and darling sister,I, as the insulted, in true southern rights, reserve the rights to the duel that is needed to bring honor back to my family's name and my sisters dignity demand, on the field of honor, at dawn marshmellows at 50 paces!

    Remembering that Bill is one of the best BBQ kings (next to my brother in law)in the whole of Georgia foothills, and a friend at the table of the brewer,I believe the marshmellow being softer than a marshmallow is suitable to the duel, and his rib flipping arm won't be injured to badly this far in advance of the upcoming BBQ season! But I do believe that this duel will return the respect and dignity to my loving and dear sister!
    Now pass the Jack Daniels!

    George Purdy

  2. Whatever George says! Except the Jack Daniels. I swore off whiskey years ago. But the mention of whiskey reminds me of a traditional Kentucky toast: "To faster horses, younger women and older whiskey!"

  3. If my knowledge of the code duello is correct, both of you will need a second. Having heard the word "BBQ", I gladly offer my services.