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Adams: Let the good times roll

Posted: October 4, 2017 - 2:24am

William Alexander Percy, second cousin of and guardian to the famed southern writer, Walker Percy, studied for his law degree in the early 1900s at Harvard University. A native of the Mississippi delta, he thus found himself a stranger in a foreign land.

While at a professor's dinner party, he had the misfortune of flinging his dinner roll as he unfolded his napkin. The roll launched across the dining room and clanged against the bars of a parakeet cage situated in the far corner, rocking the coop on its pendulum. The yellow captives within the swinging enclosure flapped madly.

Master Percy, his cheeks and neck flushed, looked anxiously around the table at his Yankee hosts and fellow diners, worrying they might question his good southern breeding. He fretted that his action confirmed their belief in the ignorant southern stereotype.

Yet, while his cohorts may have cogitated on all these things, not one person sitting at the table flinched. Not one looked in the direction of the disturbance. To Percy's astonishment, they got right on.
He noted the stark contrast to what a room full of his own people might do. Percy felt most assured that if the same event happened in any home across his beloved state of Mississippi, no one would have rudely continued eating like he had merely dropped his bread on the floor.

In the genteel states, where gracious manners reign supreme, his table company would have quelled his discomfort by joining him in laughter. A few diners would have thrown their bread at the birds, as well. The mishap would've elevated Mr. Percy to the life of the party and assured him the company of a girl on each arm for the walk home.

And no one would have dared question why a well-mannered gentleman brought up below the Mason-Dixon had a dinner roll tucked inside his napkin. I only question it myself because I have a theory about the whole affair: William Alexander Percy desperately desired to politely hide, so as not to insult his hostess, the fact that he could not bring himself to even pretend to nibble at the contemptible roll. In Mississippi, any matron would only serve moist, warm, sumptuous, buttered biscuits to her guests. The word roll doesn't translate in the southern vernacular. Therefore, I suspect, that our friend placed the roll within the flap of his napkin not only to tuck it out of sight, but also to feign a foible that would both bring about a jovial response from his northern counterparts and relieve him from the obligation to ingest hard, dry bread. I must add that a moist biscuit would have never clanged against the birdcage. It would have delicately flaked as it sailed through the air, gently disintegrating into mouth watering fluffy layers at the moment of impact. And the birds, unshaken, would have chirped delightedly about the gift of tasty morsels.

Lucy Adams is the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny and other books. She lives in Thomson, Ga. Email Lucy at lucyadams.writer@gmail.com.)

 

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Comments (1)

Riverman1

Ah to be southern. We are

Ah to be southern. We are different. A class alone. Not so many of us and that's a good thing.