This ain’t the Low Country

It happens all the time. 

You meet someone somewhere–at a convention, a vacation, a meeting, a resort, even on line or while conducting business on the telephone.  They ask, “Where are you from?”

Any more, I sort of hate to say South Carolina.  Because inevitably, there is a squeal of pleasure, “Oh, we LOVE South Carolina,” and they go on to prattle on about Charleston or Hilton Head or Pawley’s Island or Beaufort.   About seafood and beaches and live oaks and palmetto trees and golf courses. 

I have to grit my teeth and politely say, “We’re from the Upstate.”  You know, near Greenville?

The Upstate, it seems, is invisible to the world.

We have our own topography, red clay and hills, lush and green and punctuated by cow pastures, chicken farms, hay fields and deer leases.  Flowing with brown silty rivers and creeks with the occasional rocky shoal. 

We have industry and farming and our own regional accents.  We have a rich history of Piedmont blues musicians and textile league baseball.  We are dotted with former cotton mill towns and historic sites from the Revolutionary War.  We have miles and miles of beautiful lake shores, campgrounds and state parks.  We are covered with liberal arts colleges and state universities.

Aside from the expected–a local variation of barbeque sauce–we have a regional cuisine.  It is pinto beans and cornbread, fatback and fried chicken.  Peaches in the summer and collard greens in the winter.  It is potatoes instead of rice.  And a squash is a yellow crookneck, not a zucchini and not one of those Yankee things that looks like some kind of little pumpkin.

We have a sense of self, an identity, a pride.

We are the Upstate.

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Pull up a chair, pass the cornbread…and set a spell.

Wry wit and wisdom

We have teeth.  We are educated.  For the most part, our family tree actually branches. 

Sure, we might whip out a banjo but we just as easily could play our iPod.  We might dine on fusion cuisine or we might crave some butter beans cooked with a little fatback.  We like to go deer hunting and bass fishing but we compost our kitchen waste and sort our recyclables. 

We’ll update our facebook page from where we sit drinking corn liquor from a jar beside a camp fire.   We read Garden & Gun magazine and we whoop and holler at the Friday night high school football games.  We might sip wine at an art gallery opening tonight and troll through yard sales looking for bargains tomorrow morning.

We wear our Carhartts on the ski slopes, and we always try to leave  at least one Christmas decoration up year ’round to stay in line with our neighbors.  We can toggle between Oprah and NASCAR without batting an eye.

We are the new.  The old.  The rural South.

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