Gunshots, Jesus and an unequivocal love for food and family create memorable holidays at the Brown house.
I was trained in the ways of the redneck during my formative years by my camouflage-clad, gap-toothed classmates who insisted on speaking with twangs resembling that of Toby Keith. I, unlike those classmates, escaped the armpit of Louisiana to become educated, a foreign concept to most hereabouts, at Louisiana’s best public university, located in Baton Rouge.
Traveling from the deer stand-infested northern Louisiana small town to the swamp-laden southern Louisiana big city provides a greater culture shock than most might realize. Baton Rouge, the cultural muddle halfway between Lafayette and New Orleans, seems to be for the people who want to be “big city” but aren’t quite willing to move outside of Louisiana.
Minden, the almost-backwoods hole-in-the-wall with the perfect combination of redneck and ghetto, seems to be where dreams go to die.
I’m proud to call both places home.
Gunshots in Baton Rouge are an unfamiliar sound in most areas of the city. Gunshots in Minden are as common as the road kill.
For the Brown family, gunshots signify an escape from the terror of Mama when she’s cooking. Offers to help are countered with barks to “Get outta my kitchen!” So, Daddy and the five kids grab the rifles, shotguns and pistols and head out to the dirt roads.
Growing up, Mama tried her hardest to keep us from the ways of the redneck. She corrected our grammar, straightened our posture and dressed us in homemade smocked garments worthy of Strasburg. In most areas of our lives, she succeeded. When the guns come out, though, we let loose.
We gather beer bottles, plastic jugs, Styrofoam gas station cups and all the litter of those who came before us. Whoops and hollers resound after the first round is fired. Empty the chamber. Put in a loaded clip. Pass the gun.
Through every holiday “shootin’,” I have steadily become the best shot in the family, a fact that brings both pride and fear to Daddy.
Shooting guns has become an unofficial tradition in our family, though this was the first holiday to include a morning jog.
My sister-in-law and I ran out the door Thanksgiving morning with high ambitions. Our ambitions were quickly destroyed when we realized we could only run for a half mile before exhaustion. The jog was shorter than Danny DeVito, but it offered us rare quality time with each other.
The parade provides the undertone for the catching-up among siblings and parents that seldom get to convene under one roof. Seeing my brother and his family is an opportunity afforded to me no more than two or three times a year. It’s something for which I am always grateful.
Our strong, conservative, Southern Baptist family, simplistically, is an oddity. We’re a strange assembly with our own sense of humor, our unique display of affection (a combination of sarcastically berating remarks and hugs longer than FDR’s presidency), and our commitment to each other.
We fight like the Osbournes. We love each other like the Cleavers. We hold hands and thank God like the Browns. We have shared in each other’s triumphs, heartbreaks and ordinary everydays. We’ve shared clothes, toys and food. Sometimes, we even share the remote.
With me in Baton Rouge and my oldest brother in Tulsa, it gets increasingly difficult to gather as a family. Love for each other, love for Jesus and love for guns keep bringing us close.