Southern Legitimacy Statement: I’ve lived in Walker County, Alabama my entire life. Our main exports are coal, tornadoes, and The Old Testament. I’ve seen ghosts in barbecue restaurants and preachers in strip joints. I own a painting which depicts Bear Bryant descending Mount Sinai with The Ten Commandments. I believe Ray Stevens is a comedic genius.
The Infinite Wisdom of Moss
I think the best advice I ever got was from my cousin Moss. We were on our way down to one of those tent revivals they used to put on in Opelika. You know the ones, with all the dancing and hollering and carrying on, and then everyone goes and gets something to eat like nothing ever happened. To be honest, I never enjoyed them all that much but when you get an opportunity to hear the wisdom of Moss, I’ve learned it’s best to take it.
He’s taught me a lot over the years. You know his son died, right? About 5 years ago. Just a little boy. He was outside playing and snuck over to the neighbor’s pool. He jumped in but he couldn’t swim so he drowned. I was down there at the house when Moss came back from the police station. He started grabbing toys from the yard and throwing them in the back of his pickup truck. “Won’t be needing these anymore!” he yelled. “All gone! It’s all gone now, ain’t it!”
I suppose that’s the lowest I’ve ever seen him. But if there’s one thing to know about Moss, it’s that you can’t keep him down for very long. He’d be the first to tell you he’s been sold a bad bag of goods. He’s got palsy in his left hand and a probation bracelet shows up on his ankle every now and again, but I don’t ever remember him complaining, even when there was a lot to complain about. I think he’s probably forgotten more about life than the rest of us ever learned, so when he talks, we listen. Even when it doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, we listen. Come to find out, in time, Moss usually knew what he was talking about all along.
So there we were, driving down, just the two of us, and he turns to me and says “Let me tell you something.” I said alright, say what you’re going to say. Moss is real polite in that way. He doesn’t make you ask him for advice. He just gives it away for free.
“Find you a homely girl. Now, I ain’t saying to find you an ugly girl. Don’t go out and start lookin’ for the ugliest one you can find. That’s not what I’m sayin’. What I’m sayin’ is to find you a plain girl who’s loyal and can cook, even if she weighs a little bit extra, or maybe she ain’t got the prettiest face. All that stuff goes away in time, anyhow. Because one day, we’re all gone be ugly, whether it’s on the inside or the outside.”
Then he pinched a bit of snuff from the tin can on his lap and stuck it in his cheek. He rolled down the window and spit. “You need to write that one down,” he said, rolling the window back up. “That one needs to be added to the list. We’re all gone be ugly one day. So the only choice we got is whether it’s gone be on the inside or the outside.”
I nodded my head, but I wasn’t sure I understood. I asked him, isn’t it possible to be pretty on the inside and the outside?
“No, it ain’t.”
I said alright. Then I asked him about being ugly. Can you be ugly on the inside and the outside?
“Yeah. That’s why you need to find you a homely girl. You don’t want to end up with somebody who’s ugly both ways. That’s what I just got done sayin’, if you’d been listenin’. ”
I said alright. I didn’t ask any more questions.
I know he gets frustrated because we don’t see things as clearly as he does. He forgives us, though. And I suppose as long as he keeps forgiving, we’ll keep listening.