So, you say you're a redneck?
That's a question that, years ago, I would've answered with an emphatic "No!"
If you ask me that today, I'd have to say — proudly — "Yes!!!"
Before comedian Jeff Foxworthy began exploring whether or not people are smarter than fifth graders, his main claim to fame always has been an answer to that question.
You're a redneck if:
"You believe you got a set of matched luggage if you have two shopping bags from the same store."
"You think the last words to The Star Spangled Banner are, 'Gentlemen, start your engines.'"
"You think Sherlock Holmes is a housing project down in Biloxi."
I could go on for hours.
As of this past week, I may have officially become one myself. Many of you may say, "No, how can it be?"
It was in May 1981 when I first landed here with my wife, Linda, in the Weather Capital of the World and, more importantly, rural America.
As many of you know, I grew up the huge Cleveland suburb of Parma, Ohio, a town with a population of 80,000 — including native Drew Carey — and a very large mall that was located five minutes from my parents' house.
The town where I met my wife, Linda, was the great port city of Ashtabula, Ohio, one of the great cities located in the snow belt.
"A little snow" for them is two feet, and people think we receive a lot of snow!
It was many years later that the late Harry Nicholson took me for a ride in the back woods in the dark to go out and look for deer with a flashlight, also known as "deer spotting."
It did seem strange to me, coming from Ohio, where deer hunting only occurred when Robin Hood and his merry men went into the woods to get dinner.
Now, I own many deer-spotting lights and am familiar with Porter Road, the deer-spotting capital of Western PA.
I've never been out without seeing at least fifteen 12-pointers.
Since my oldest son, Joe, who was born and raised in Pennsylvania, loves hunting, he got me interested in it also.
Once again, I'm falling under the influence of my environment.
I will point out that when I moved here from Ohio, I owned zero guns.
Now, we have a gun cabinet in my dining room.
I thought that these outdoor activities were ones I wouldn't enjoy.
Turns out, I loved them. Who would've thunk it?
Then, I thought back to my childhood.
My mom grew up in a small town called Hartshorne, Okla., which is located 15 miles southeast of McAlester.
My family would visit every couple of years, which took us from the big city to small-town living.
I looked at the Hartshorne website recently, and there was a picture on its home page showing the downtown just as it was when we would go visit back in the '60s.
As a kid, I remembered something that I had never seen before, which is angled parking in their downtown.
In Cleveland, we were lucky if our car was still there when we came back to it.
Another memory was that my uncle and aunt who lived there appeared to know everyone in the whole town and the town next to it.
Everywhere that we went shopping, there were at least five other people who they knew, which I found to be interesting, since in Parma, I rarely saw anyone who I knew.
That's when it began — my fondness for small-town living.
My aunt and uncle's house was sort of a non-working farm with chickens and cattle.
I remember my brothers, Jeff and Doug, chasing the chickens around the barnyard — I guess that's what you'd call it — until they ran into a very unfriendly rooster.
I remember we discovered something else I'd never experienced in Parma — homemade ice cream.
I got to sit on the bucket as they hand cranked it and poured rock salt on the ice to make the ice cream. One taste, and I was hooked on this delicious treat.
However, there was one thing I haven't discussed yet that really got me hooked on this living in rural America thing: a faded blue 1954 Chevrolet pickup truck.
After first seeing that beautiful piece of machinery, I could think of nothing else.
We went fishing at Lake Eufala, and we proudly rode in that faded blue baby!
The whole time I was fishing, which I loved, I was wondering when we were going to get back to the truck, so we could go for a ride.
They had cars, too, one of which was a 1957 Chevy, which I did not care about at all!
Some of the biggest disappointments I had while we visited there was that we would travel in one of their cars and not the truck.
I couldn't wait to be old enough to drive the beast when we came to visit.
When I'd return to city living, I would pretend my wagon was a pickup truck.
That dream came true one year when we were visiting, and strangely enough, it was the last visit we ever made there.
My uncle was not feeling well and didn't want to drive the truck at all, because it was so bouncy.
Eventually, I asked my mom and aunt if they wanted to go for a ride in the pickup.
They said OK, so in we climbed into the straight cab truck with a bed full of garbage to be taken to the dump.
The first thing I realized after starting up the truck was that it had something called a manual transmission, which requires an extra pedal called a clutch.
So, I started up the beautiful, faded blue truck as the gears began to grind, and we lurched forward and stalled out.
I finally got the herky-jerky to stop while driving down the dusty dirt road.
After a couple of miles of riding, I stalled the thing out and wore the battery down, and there we sat with no cellphone, because they hadn't invented them yet in 1972, disabled on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
Eventually, we walked to a house in the oppressive Oklahoma heat and got in touch with my uncle and Dad, and they drove the '57 Chevy to rescue us.
My uncle walked up to me and told me to climb in the cab and push the clutch in while he gave the truck a gentle push, and I pressed on the starter, which was on the floor, and magically, it started.
I asked if my uncle was going to drive the truck back to his house while we rode in the car.
His answer was that I drove it here, and I should drive it back.
We returned without incident, and that was my last drive in that fabulous faded blue beauty.
Fast-forward to Brookville in 2008, when I was at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds taking pictures for The Spirit and our sister newspaper, Jefferson County Neighbors.
I was walking down the midway when I stopped in my tracks and saw it — a completely restored bright blue 1954 Chevrolet pickup truck.
I was mesmerized; I must have taken 100 pictures of it. The owner came up to me, and I told him the story and asked him if it was for sale?
He said, "Not at this time."
Over the years, I've owned and driven SUVs, mini-vans and cars, but I've never had an actual pickup truck until the other day, when I found that I needed to replace my 1999 Jeep Cherokee.
I started my search for a new four-wheel drive vehicle.
I looked on the Internet and saw many vehicles, many of which were too expensive or located in New York state.
I saw a truck that was listed in Rochester Mills. Then, I called the number, and the person who answered asked, "Is this Larry?"
I answered yes and asked who he was, and then, he informed me he was Scott Cressley, someone I knew, which made me think that I was supposed to buy this truck — a 2002 Dodge Ram 1500.
So, finally, it's official. I'm a redneck, although my neck appears to be the same color as before.
This was a process that actually has taken a lifetime. And I'm still not comfortable with chewing on a toothpick all the time.
Larry McGuire is a reporter with The Punxsutawney Spirit and now takes up more than his fair share of space in the back parking lot.