A Tribute to Rural Tornado Relief Volunteers

| May 16, 2011 @ 11:33 am | 10 Replies

Over the past few months, I have come to know Loretta Gillespie, a writer for the Cullman Times and the Moulton Advertiser, and when I read this article that she wrote in the Moulton paper last week, I asked her if I could share it with our readers. She and her editor gave approval to reprint the article, so I hope this helps give some recognition to some of Alabama’s unsung heroes during and after the April 27th tornado outbreak:

Moulton Advertiser
Loretta Gillespie
May 7, 2011

“I Love Me Some Rednecks”

“Most all of us around here have born the brunt of remarks from people outside Lawrence County about being rednecks. Well, I’m here to tell you right now that I love me some Lawrence County rednecks!

Rednecks have Poulan chainsaws, bulldozers, four-wheelers and big ol’ trucks – and they know how to use ‘em. They aren’t afraid of getting dirty or of hard work.

As soon as the wind died down, they were the first ones out there, clearing the roads for emergency vehicles to get to where they needed to be. They were standing up to their knees in debris so that people could get out of their driveways. They were checking on neighbors who lived in the hardest hit areas where cars and normal vehicles didn’t stand a chance.

If you were the victim of the storm and found your driveway miraculously cleared, you can thank a redneck. If you have a brush pile a mile high and you didn’t do it yourself, you can thank a redneck. If someone brought you a shirt to put on your back that day, or hauled your furniture to a storage facility, you can probably thank a redneck.

Those good ol’ boys waded through water filled with gas and glass, nails and torn tin roofs and no telling what else to offer assistance to people stranded in the rubble of their homes. They worn camo jackets and John Deere caps, spit tobacco and more than likely did a little cussing, but they got the job done, and they are the ones who are still out there cutting up trees and burning brush long into the night, just as they have been ever since the storms hit.

They didn’t wait to be asked…they just ‘got ‘er done’ in the true sense of the phrase. They didn’t stand around jawing and waiting for someone else to take charge, they went to work doing what they do best – moving earth, pushing aside massive trees with root systems as big around as a VW, and tossing aside boards with splinters the size of kitchen knives.

And they did all this without any thought of their own comfort or safety. They put their scuffed cowboy boots and worn work boots on the ground and tread across roof beams and unsteady floors to make sure there was no one left inside the wreckage of everything from two –story brick houses to mobile home and barns. They already had a flashlight and a pocket knife with them.
They rounded up their neighbor’s cattle and horses and coaxed kittens out of trees where the wind had tossed them and they cried like babies when they found someone’s hunting dog broken and bleeding.

They waded into poultry houses and caught terrified chickens, and tossed mountains of dead ones onto piles to burn. They began to hang tarps and nail plywood over broken windows to save their cousins and other kin folk’s belongings. They didn’t stop for hours on end, hooking chains to cars, trees and any and everything that had landed helter-skelter as the tornados tore through.
Rednecks just show up when there is work to be done. They drive up and with a silent nod, they just pitch in, salvaging refrigerators and hooking up generators. They don’t care if they look cool and they don’t have to shave before they leave the house. They are tough as nails and love their mamas fiercely. They still say ‘Yes, ma’m’ and ‘No, sir,’ to anyone older than they are. They eat cornbread and pinto beans and drink tea so sweet a spoon will stand straight up in the glass. They sweat and swear and have grease under their nails sometimes. They can deliver a calf and half an hour later be sitting in church, scrubbed to a fare-the-well. And did they ever save the day when the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed and the wind knocked down the houses where they were born?

They don’t do it for the glory, and wouldn’t dream of taking a dime for it, and are sometimes even offended if someone asks how much they are owed ‘cause that’s what rednecks do – they drive loud trucks, bobcats and front-end loaders, they crank cantankerous chain saws and they know the feel of rope burns and blistered faces. They get those red necks from the sun beating down relentlessly as they labor in the dust and smoke from all the brush fires. They think sun-screen is for sissies and they don’t worry much about anti-bacterial soap or drink fruit- flavored water.

Give me a Lawrence County redneck any day when trouble comes – when fences get blown over and the lights go out, and there are trees and houses strewn like matchsticks as far as the eye can see, what in the world would we do without these rednecks?
Thanks to all of you dear rednecks, you deserve medals for what you have done in the past few weeks. And don’t think the world didn’t notice, they did. In fact, somebody is probably writing a country song about you as you read this.”

Loretta Gillespie writes for the Moulton Advertiser and the Cullman Times.

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