11.14.2008

Cracker Folk



Thar's always been some confusion among the unenlightend about what a Cracker is...an' ain't.

So first off, I'se gonna make a big point: Crackers is a people wif' a real culture an' a philosophy. They know who they people is.

While both terms is generally understood to mean Southern rural white folks, Never Confuse a redneck wif' a Cracker. I'll give some pointers on that directly.


But let it be said straight from the gitgo, a redneck is a lower species of bein' and rednecks can be anywhar'--
The north, the south, the midwest, the leftwest--all geographies have these shiftless no-account rednecks who toss they spam cans out the window of they 1982 Cameros onto the side of the road.

Rednecks is been known to call a fella a Cracker as a means of sayin', "I'se moved to the edge of the city an' is more socialized than yore folks."

But Crackers howl in laughter since they know the neckers is like vultures on the edge of every city dump. Rednecks is jes' a step above a vagrant, an' I might be doin' an injustice to the vagrant.

(Redneck rental)



Rednecks kick they mangy dawgs fer sometin' to do when they's bored. As I said over at Troll's, they wimmin is named Raylene, Sherlene and Mavis. They chillen's never say "Sir" or "Mam" while Cracker chillens say "Sir" and "Mam" until they's in they 50s --at least.

But Cracker is more elusive to layout fer ya'll.

The simplest explanation is a skilled homesteader in the Southern states of Florida and Georgia, an' he has usually been in his location two -three generations or more. Some say iffin' ya ain't been heah afore the War Between the States, youse a new comer. ( Mention should be made that many will say that a Cracker is anybody who can proudly claim they folks' been heah three generations an' whose forebears is Southern, but not Scots-Irish...like our Troll.)

A Cracker's people--mostly1700s Celtic immigrants from Scotland and Ireland-- came from the mountains of the Carolinas an' Eastern Tennessee, but moved south as economics, politics, religion and family feuds drove them to search for a new place. Some English colonists who grew disaffected wif' city ways-- and smug British brutality before American Independence-- also joined in the move south into Florida cause it were NOT a British colony, but a sparsely populated region whar' land could be bought cheap.

Florida warn't much of a place fer money makin' like the plantation lands of South Carolina, Virginny, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. The swamps and heat, the Indians and 'skeeters kept back all but the hardiest an' headstrong.

Some came fer independence since citified ways was encroachin' into the countryside. By the early 1800s Cracker forebears preferred freedom and independence to money made wif' European commerce, Yankee bankers, an' citified airs. Crackers is conformity averse. They's pretty conservative on the main thangs like family and freedom. Compromise ain't much virtue to 'em.

In south Georgia and the Florida panhandle the theory is that the name "Cracker" came from the cracked corn that were a staple of the diet in the 1750-1830s. Further down the state of Florida, these hardy settlers had rounded up horses and cattle left behind by the Spanish (listen to audio)--the term "Cracker"refers to the cowboys whose whip crackin' over the herds of Criollo cattle could be heard fer long distances. I'se persuaded both of these has a claim to the truth of it--even though scholars allow that "Cracker" is a term from Middle English (Shakespeare) that ain't nuthin' but a term fer a smart aleck wise-cracker always on the edge of polite conformity. I reckon thar's somethin' in that view, too.





Over at Daytona Beach a lady put on a show at the moosem about Crackers. Her idea was that some Crackers is furious iffin' ya call them so, while others is proud to own the name. I reckon she was muddled up some. During the racial strife of the 60s, black people went to callin' white men "crackers" an' the newspaper boys down heah from the Chicago Trib understood that to mean "poor white backwoods segregationists."

Thas' a far cry from the truth of it. Yankees always miss the distinctions in all things Southern. "Cracker" meant a white family wif' anglo/celtic history who did not plan to let go of his history, even iffin' that history was long on Civil War heroics now under attack in the South of the 1960s. Cracker's know who in their family served in the Civil War and where. Rednecks abuse the Confederate flag by confusin' it wif a bikini fer Raylene, and stick in the eye of Tshonda.

Some Crackers is of modest means, but mor'n you'd believe is folks of considerable means, though the only difference ya might notice is they have season's football tickets. They's still livin' on they land ( however small) still usin' granny's old cast iron pots, an still watch over Pappy Jack's grave. They keep family records and heirlooms. (rednecks pawn anything their granny give 'em--iffin' they knowed who they granny is.)


(1860s Cracker homestead in Florida...Crackers lived in they first cabins until the next generation had enough money to build a two story "big house" wif verandahs and sleeping porches.)



What ya wanna' git a hold of is the Cracker mind.

Crackers know stuff. They walk the woods an' know the names of all the kids of pine trees and oak trees(Turkey oak, blackjack oak, laurel oak, myrtle, water oak, and The Live Oak). THey know what is poisonous an' what ya can eat. They start they fires wif' literd knots, a redneck builds a fire wif' the trash lying around his truck. Rednecks doan trouble theyselves to learn much 'cept whar' the cheap tattoo parlours is. Crackers decorate they Christmas trees wif' Sweet Gum Tree balls, rednecks decorate wif strings of shot gun shell casins. Cracker's have a cuisine, rednecks open cans.

Crackers lived off the land, coaxin' it to productivity, rednecks is like gypsies, takin' what they is and movin' on. Crackers hunt legally and eat they game, rednecks is gutless poachers.
Crackers know Uncle Remus is literature, rednecks thinks it's a snide name fer ole black men.

Not all Crackers is makin' they way wif cattle or agriculture. Some is finest fishermen ya ever will find. Thy lived in the Keys (Conchs), on Lake Okeechobee or on the Gulf or on the Ocklawaha or along the St. John's River
(Uncle's folks lived on the St. John's fer a spell.) Fried fresh caught mullet ain't tha same when fried by a reg'ler kitchen cook as when a Cracker lifts that golden sizzlin' fillet outa the cast iron pan and lays it on yore plate alongside swamp cabbage and homegrown 'maters.

I could wax lyrical another hour or so, tellin' ya'll Cracker lore an' all....but jes' know that the True Cracker loves his land and his folks, is kind to dawgs and chillen an' is a stinging rebuke to the indolent.

He is elusive and private by inclination, preferrin' space between hisself an' the next family over--he's social enough, but holdin' back some fer decorum an'modesty. He's often happy en famille but friendly toward honest men, though he doan expect to meet so many of them in this life. He adheres to a "good neighbor" policy. He keeps his own counsel an respects yore freedom. The Cracker fella is near 'bout immune to trendy ways. Crackers is often highly edoocated--they teach at the university, but lives out from the city. They reads an' writes, an is fond of poetry an' song.

In the Cracker ya'll will find the soul of early Florida, a land apart from the over English-ed colonies. A land still in memory of its Spanish idyll. The self-possesed people who settled heah an' learnt to live among the moss hung trees an' the gators in the river, they jes' ain't quick let go of the virtues that stood against the decadent ways of yankee urbanites.

23 comments:

foam said...

thanks for this information. i really never had any idea. this is good history to know..


my dad's side of the family has been here since the 1740's ..
they came through the carolina's, married a cherokee here or there..
went on down to mississippi, married a choctaw or two ..
well, who knows ..
some might have made it down to florida ..
reckon we's cousins?
anyway .. my dad did finally make it down to florida in the 50's due to the army. i was born in lakeland.

Malinda777 said...

Aunty! I'm gonna now change my language. I always use "redneck" as a term for my Southern heritage, but I am SO HAPPY to know that I AM A CRACKER!

Scottish/Irish by birth (lineage) my maiden name was Wallace, (descendant of Braveheart) the William Wallace tribe...

I AM A CRACKER!!! YIPPEE WHOOOOO

TROLL said...

THAT was pretty definative, indeed.
The dog thing might be the ultimate test of Cracker versus Redneck.

fishy said...

Aunty Belle,
I've said it afore on yore blog an will sure say it again, yuse is a light! I am glad you found ter time to be educating folks that to be a Cracker is a proud heritage to a genuine culture. As for me, one of my greatest treasures is a big ol cast iron skillet with about a hunnert years of seasoning imbued within. And, like most Crackers, I is respectful of the family men and women who left me this fine family treasure. I also preciate in would make a fine weapon of defense iffen some low life redneck came a thieving.

Malinda777 said...

Aunty...damn ya...ya sparked me again to write a long tale bout my newfound knowledge that I'm a cracker and not a redneck :)

I linked ya, and you know where to find me. Nobody can do it like you, but I tried :)

S N B said...

This is AWESOME!
You so succinctly expressed what many of us know to be true!

moi said...

Thank you for the marvelous history lesson – I love this!

SJ said...

Thanks for the comments at "Aren't we being funny".

This was an interesting read. Plus I got learn something about my friend foam from the comments :)

A.B. said...

Aunty - this is great and I'm proud to say that until my grandmother left Georgia to get married to a NEW YORKER.... "we"/she was a.... Cracker! I had no knowledge of this part of the culture/history. I'm going to go back and re-read our family history, but we're of Celtic descent and fought in the Civil War... for the South. Our Great/great/Etc Grandfather was commander of the 47th at Little Round Top, Gettysburg, PA.

Thanks! My family is here tonight and I'm printing this to share.

fishy said...

Aunty Belle,
Your Gators are Cracker tough this year. Can't help but respect theys prowess n'matter whose they playin.

Aunty Belle said...

Foamy!! Hey Lady!

We IS cuzins, darlin'!! Mah daddy's folks may have married up in the same Mississippi Choctaw family as yourn! It is family lore that way back, daddy's great great --who knows hoe many greats--came to Mississipi and marriet up wif' a Choctaw princess--I think the "princess" part is a fabrication.

Mah Daddy is Florida born, but t'were an accident, his mama bein' here visitin her folks and givin' birth a bit early afore she could git home to Mississippi.

Early South history is very intriguin'. Most of our history is swallowed up in yakkity yak about the War of Northern Aggression, but the Antebellum (from whence mah name) part is good history readin'.

Malinda, Sweet Puddin'

You workerd far too hard to be no redneck--youse CRACKER fer shure! I went over to yore blog an read yore history--wow, youse one amazin' lady!!


Troll-Man,

Yep, how a fella treats his animals is a dead give away to his upbringin'.

Fishy, Sugar Pie,

ya have ole cook pots? Treasure 'em! (Ya would cave in the back of the haid of some low life thief? heh. Somehow, I jes' bet ya would!)

Aunty Belle said...

Malinda, Baby Doll,

I did come see--yore story is wunnerful...an' thanky so so much fer the compliments.

S N B, Honey Chile!

I came to see yore blog--folks go looky--great hike in the north Florida woods--

Moi, mah Presidentia!

Ain't it fine history? Somehow, I ain't pleased wif' how they treat history in skool these days--too passive, they doan hep our kiddies see the heroics, the tenacity...sigh.

SJ! Howdy!

Well, iffin' ya learned about Foamy, now ya knows the two of us is cuzins (cousins)!!

A.B. Sweet Pea!

Hey--ya' ahred wif yore family?? I am so so pleased--wow, thas' a honore. Yore GGMama civilized a Yankee boy? heh. What a special blessin to have a GGGGpapa at Gettysburg. WOW!!

Fishy,
I is sorry fer ya' but I ain't sorry them Gators WHUPPED yore boys. HEhe. the SEC Rules!

Romany Angel said...

That was very fascinating Aunty as I had no idea what a Cracker was. I have heard the expression of course and always thought it sounded like it had negative connotations. Thankyou for clearing that up.

Floridacracker said...

Well, my folks came over as indentured servants in 1767 to work Mr. Turnbull's indigo plantation ... we were here to greet the crackers (and most of the seminoles) when they moved in from up north in Georgia.

Still, I identify myself with the crackers and very much in the spirit of your essay. I think mostly you nailed Aunty.

As for the abuse of the label cracker ... my Daddy said it best ... "Smile, when you call me cracker"

I agree rednecks can be found at any lattitude/longitude coordinate.

Well done dear.

Anonymous said...

Hi Auntie!

Check out this Florida Cracker Calendar

http://demetra-ai.livejournal.com/199630.html

edifice rex said...

Hey Aunty! Happy to find out I'm a cracker too! Just not a Florida one! I'se Scottish AND Irish (Baird and O'Bryant) although we spell our last name a little different now. And my daddy's family did indeed come from the Carolinas (some are still there). I knowed I weren't a redneck and now I can say how I know!

K9 said...

what a fabulous amazing and fun to read post. i have a few corrections to make though. i suppose back in the pre cambrian age merlene, mavis and sherlyne were redneck wimmen names but today they is brittney, candie and nikki or any name that might be appropriate for a stripper. it does seem though that the camaro has long been the defacto transportation for rednecks when they cars is running.

i did manage to see some authentic rednecks in september at the turn n burn face jug fest, they asses festooned with confederate flags and set off nicely with pink inner tubes hangin over they too tight jeans. they be smokin as well.

on to who is and who is not a cracker. i am a cracker by virtue of being born NORTH of orlando florida. in my day yankees had no interest in this area they populated the beaches and ruint it for everyone with south beach style *culture* i have been et alive by redbugs by virtue of laying around in the yard with spanish moss and my first home was on a sand road. there has never been a moment in my entire cracker life without a K9 of some sort and often more than one.

i dont know if this scottish irish requirement is fair. i also dont know much about my people i believe i is mutty as they come. however, my grandmother in baton rouge had pictures of my great great grandaddys from somewhar in lebanon i think with curvy swords and even curvier mustaches.

as to when black folk use the word cracker, i believe you left some critical parts out usually it is combined with ""ass"

for example they might say something like:

"shut yore cracker ass up"

they make NO distinction between cracker and redneck to them we all look alike.

i hope this clears some thangs up here.

thankky and good day.

Anonymous said...

or K9, an ass cracker.

TROLL said...

I've owned two camarros. Ruh ro.

Does the fact that I had insurance on both of them alleviate my "redneck" status?

Neither Bubba Ray nor Britney-Mavis were conceived in the back seat.

Neither was driven in public while primer gray and bondo-brown.

Neither were used to flush deer.

Aunty Belle said...

Romany Angel, hi hi!

It is hard to keep up wif' Southern subcultures I reckon--but so happy I could clear up any mysteries.

FC, Sugar Pie, hey,

Well, yore approval is a huge relief, since I knows youse a real McCoy. An' I sure favor yor Daddy--a man after mah own heart.

ANON--

thanky fer that link --thas' amazin! Please come again.

Edifice Rex, Baby Doll,

OF course youse Cracker--ya whole way of bein' shouts it! Carolinas and Irish/ Scots...heh. ypre long lost history.

K9, Dawgy Pup,

Ya' hit on so many good points! Yep, redbugs/chiggers is a dead give away--howwwwl!

AN' the way black folks use "cracker"...heh...but mutty or not, I wager ya's got a heap of Scottsish in ye! Heck, me an Foamy have Choctaw.

Anon,

funny you is, naughty too.

Troll-Sweet Puddin'

ruh-ro...uh huh. Well, since ya din't hound no deer wif ' an ya promise NEVER again to drive a redneck wagon, youse gettin' a kitchen pass--this time.

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