The Reverend Boss Hog

Sunday evening, I was greeted by the warm Florida air. Where Illinois had left me with melting snow, cloudy skies, and barren trees, Florida offered lush greens, dots of red, violet, and yellow, and a peaking sun (careful to break me in... softly, now).

It was my first time in Tallahassee. As explained to me, it's more like Georgia than Florida when it comes to the cultural landscape. And at the Atlanta airport, I was called "baby" casually, greeted with a smile, and Heintz and I even garnered a "how y'all sweeties doin?" I could take this Georgia-ish Florida town if that was the trendsetting pace to expect.

Enter the Reverend. There's not much imagination to stretch, hear? Picture an older, more portly Boss Hogg from the Dukes of Hazzard. No no, the original one. Yeah, this guy! Now imagine Boss gained some weight, traded in his white suit and cowboy hat for a flannel and foam cap, his Caddy for a Ford LTD. Cigars replaced by the foul stench of cigarette smoke infused into every interior surface, every pore, every fiber of a dirty flannel shirt. Exchange the generic Southern drawl for that of a Southern Baptist minister with a bit more of a pious bass twang. There's our Hog, a few notches looser in the Bible Belt.

When we exit the airport for the taxi parade, there's Hog hanging out the driver's door, hands folded atop his belly. "This'll be fun," I think.

"Y'all need a taxi?" belches Hog.

"Yessir!" I say back. He pops the trunk. Guess I'll put my own cases back here. He manages to Jabba slide back there just in time to tell me, "Looks good." As if loading a cavern of a trunk with two suitcases is rocket scientry...

Inside, the Baptist minister shouts repeatedly from the radio speakers, "Deliver Him unto..." something or 'nother. Hog hops in and switches off the stereo. "Deliver him, deliver him. That all he knows how to say? Where to?"

"The Double Tree Hotel."

"AH, the Trouble Tree! Going to the Trouble Tree." Hog's humor needed a two drink minimum. If he smoked weed instead of cigarettes, I'd have a contact buzz by this time. The cab was a gas chamber. Heintz was so ticked, she said nothing the whole ride! But it gets better.

Hog asks why we're in town. "We work at a university and there's a conference."

"Ah yes, the educated. Mm-hmm. I'm sure the elitists are getting together to tell us poor souls how to run our lives. They talk about religion, but they're preaching they own agenda. That's right." He pauses and serenades us with a little Hog Hymnal - "Doo-doo-de-doooo." That's his own brand of segue.

"Town's got lots of history, if you like that kind of thing."

I put him to task - "How so?"

"Well, firstly, it was the only Confederate flag that never surrendered during 'the War.' You Yanks never were able to capture it..." and he said something more about nothing much of value there at the time, something about the Reconstruction, yada. I always thought 'the War' was in reference to WWII, but apparently to the likes of Hog, there's still a chip on a Southerner shoulder or two about our Civil entanglements. Fortunately, he's moved on from that... He goes own about other interesting historical facts. "Doo-doo-de-doooo."

I ask why this school we pass is completely surrounded by a fence. "Oh, likely because this isn't the best part of town. This is a haven for your underprivileged, down-trodden, taken-advantage-of, uneducated, poor, and minorities. I'm sure they'd say they were owed something. That the blue eyed white devil is responsible. See "they" have their own school over there. It's about 85% black." I think we caught Hog on his way to a Klan rally. This guy was just full of material! Hurray for stereotypes. Again, Heintz sits there with a blank expression. She's a pot under steam pressure, I can tell. "Doo-doo-de-doooo."

Then he gets on politics. Makes another comment about Atheist educators. After that, he says something about the new Republican governor. I hadn't realized ol' Jebby Bush was ousted. Buh-bye. One more to go! So Hog says, "the new governor is a homosexual. Well, he's in the closet, but he's gay. If the Democrats have their way, we'll have a lesbian president and a gay governor. Wouldn't that be PC?" Belly laugh ensues.

I felt it was time to challenge his onslaught. I said, "Yeah, it could be a lot worse than that, right?" He stops and says thoughtfully, "Well, that's true. That's true. We could have some swindlers and crooks in there, that would be worse." Had I successfully reformed Hog's bigotry with my elitist ways?

Not quite. He keeps going on about Hilary Clinton (the lesbian, according to Hog), only he calls her HIGH-larious Clinton, with the emphasis where noted. Score one for the Reverend. We finally make it to the Trouble Tree and Heintz practically jumps from the moving cab. He putters off after I pay, and I bust into hysterics. I laughed about it the whole time - Heintz was simply livid, which made me laugh harder. Eventually she got past his backward bigotry and saw the humor.

Thankfully, The Reverend Boss Hog was our only brush with that old school South mentality. We met some great people at the conference and had a wonderful time on the town. Our cabbie on the way back was Jamar. He was the best! We told him all about Hog and he was cracking up and apologizing for that being our first introduction to Tallahassee. He's been all over the place and is getting ready to leave for South Korea to teach English. We had a fun time with him talking about culture, music, white people, black people, travel, doing what you love, etc. Jamar was our last impression of the place; and while he is a Wisconsiner by birthright, Heintz and I couldn't have asked for a better send-off back to the flatlands. Bless you, Jamar, in all your travels. And bless you Boss Hog, from one Atheist Yank to a salty old Reb like yourself.

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