Green Room

A Hillbilly in the Hawkeye State

posted at 12:07 pm on December 27, 2011 by

Yesterday I spent several hours driving across central Iowa with Aaron Rupp, a volunteer for the Rick Santorum campaign who offered to pick me up at the airport in Cedar Rapids and found himself driving all the way to Adel — 140 miles away, on the other side of Des Moines — so I could cover a Santorum press conference:

“Right now, I’m typing this in the passenger seat while Aaron is driving his brand new Honda Civic with less than 9,000 miles on the odometer. I’m sure this car could hit 110 mph, but Aaron has this whole Midwestern law-abiding thing going on, so he refuses to push it past 80.”

Where I come from, real men drive fast. High-speed driving is a cultural trait of my people. As I explained to Aaron, we Appalachian-Americans inherit the “NASCAR hillbilly gene” and when he asked me who was my favorite stock-car driver, I said Junior Johnson — the moonshiner-turned-racer immortalized by Tom Wolfe as “The Last American Hero.”

Of course, we Appalachian-Americans are the victims of discrimination by law enforcement agencies who have never been sympathetic to our cultural traditions. First they outlawed homemade whiskey and in recent decades, using an infernal Yankee invention called “radar,” they’ve been infringing our natural-born right to drive as fast as we can. (Which is to say, pretty doggone fast.)

My driver’s license has about as many points as your average NBA final; score and my monthly car insurance payments exceed the Gross Domestic Product of several Third World countries. This discriminatory oppression of Appalachian-Americans — we are routinely hassled by cops for “Driving While Redneck,” as we call it —  is actually a serious immediment to my journalistic career. Because when I’m late for a press conference halfway across the Hawkeye State, that’s when it would be a real advantage to do some all-out hillbilly driving like my Grandpa Kirby did when he was running whiskey into Phenix City, Alabama.

Nevertheless, Aaron Rupp was probably right to set the cruise-control at a steady 78 mph as we traversed I-80 Monday afternoon on our way from Cedar Rapids to Adel, even though his low-slung Honda probably could have been zipping along at triple-digit speeds. Rupp knows that Midwestern culture is particularly hostile to the ancestral folkways of a downhome Good Ol’ Boy who can’t resist the urge to drive a four-lane interstate highway the way Dale Earnhardt (may he rest in peace) used to drive the back straightaway at Talladega.

Iowa’s law enforcement community continues to enforce the vehicular bigotry they call “speed limits,” but the wisdom of our Founding Fathers prevents them from violating another natural-born hillbilly right, killing stuff with shotguns:

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Rick Santorum bagged at least four pheasants during his hunting trip Monday at Doc’s Hunt Club. Those four birds were just the “clean kills” that he was certain were the result of his own marksmanship — a conservative count, Santorum emphasized to the crowd of reporters who showed up at the hunting club in Adel, west of Des Moines.
While the former Pennsylvania senator was pleased with his outing, most of the reporters who showed up were more interested to know if Santorum had bagged even bigger game during this political season — the endorsement of his hunting companion, Iowa Rep. Steve King. But the conservative Republican congressman said he wasn’t quite ready to make that commitment.
“You know, I came here today to shoot some pheasants with my friend Rick Santorum and we’re having a great day,” King told the reporters assembled for Monday’s press conference. “So I’m going to deliberate on all of this and I’ve got a few days yet before a decision has to be made.… I’m leaving that open.” …

You can read the rest of that at The American Spectator. I apologize that low-speed driving impaired my ability to get more complete coverage, but it’s not Aaron’s fault that Iowa law doesn’t recognize the cultural imperatives of the NASCAR Nation.

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Keep in mind the Appalachians run all the way to Maine – and my family had some Maineiac moonshiners, so there are even northern rednecks. But I’m a Coloradon now – and I feel your pain as I have also been regularly oppressed by Colorado and New Mexico LE types for just trying to drive naturally – they do like the revenue stream it generates. Its a real downer.

dentarthurdent on December 27, 2011 at 12:31 PM

OMG I am a redneck and didn’t even know it, the horror!

odannyboy on December 27, 2011 at 12:36 PM

We’re everywhere. How did Foxworthy put it – “an unpretentious lack of sophistication”….
Plenty happy to be a northern redneck.

dentarthurdent on December 27, 2011 at 12:40 PM

My Dad says his grandfather used to mix up a batch of raisin mash in the spring and put the barrel up in the attic to ferment. After a couple months he’d start taste-testing it – once you couldn’t tell whether the stuff floating on top was raisins or dead flies – and by the time the barrel was half gone, he’d declare it “ready to drink”. My Dad also had an uncle who went blind in the Navy during WW2 from drinking a bad batch of “torpedo juice”. You know you’ve got redneck blood if you have at least a few good moonshine/liquor related family stories like that.

dentarthurdent on December 27, 2011 at 12:55 PM

One’s thirst for speed is directly proportional to the congestion one experiences. Outside of Chicago, congestion does not really exist here, which is why when one encounters a vehicle that’s doing triple digits, it’s sporting an Illinois license plate (sometimes followed, by about 4 seconds, by me using said FIB to spring any speedtraps).

Steve Eggleston on December 27, 2011 at 4:30 PM

Hey, Steve . . . let’s not forget about those folks from Detroit.

Dan Collins on December 27, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Hey, Steve . . . let’s not forget about those folks from Detroit.

Dan Collins on December 27, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Very true, but they’re not Midwesterners. Besides, they speed to avoid the gunfire </sarcasm?>

Steve Eggleston on December 28, 2011 at 10:43 AM

You could feel at home in Texas – of course, as in all things, there’s a big mix of types. Plenty of pokeys and gumby’s on the road, but they pretty much fall into the road hazard category, of the slow moving kind.

Now of course the DPS is always out in force, especially on holidays, but they’re easier to deal with then the locals who are out to pad their christmas bonus. Of course they count on the natives to know where their hangouts are, so they mostly nab the unwary outsiders.

which is how the system is supposed to work.

Tom Servo on December 28, 2011 at 10:55 AM