In the rockets’ redneck glare
As I hurtled down the road Tuesday toward my now seemingly annual rendezvous with redneck destiny, I glanced nervously at the dashboard clock.
“There had better be a traffic jam stretching south of Ramona big enough for them to delay the start of the parade,” I thought.
Otherwise, I’d be cutting it too close for even redneck comfort.
Just one car was ahead of me as we crossed the tracks, and the occupants passed on a prime parking spot, steps away from parade end, which is only a few multiples of steps away from the parade’s beginning.
Lucky day, lucky me. The redneck parade hadn’t started.
I spied two women at the judging table. Here was my chance to get a definitive answer to what makes something redneck enough to win a prize.
“I just moved here in September last year from Florida,” Sabrina Tanner said. “I’ve never been to a redneck parade.”
Enthusiastic, but clearly no expert on redneck culture.
“I was coming up to visit family, and my grandma asked me to judge,” Nikita Linn of Emporia said. “I’ve been to Ramona before but I haven’t actually been to the parade.”
Rookies. Pure rookies. So what did they know about redneck?
“I’m assuming it’s got to be all-American,” Nikita said. “Red, white, and blue; it’s redneck.”
“Maybe more countrylike,” Sabrina chimed in.
I wished them well and moved on until I came across a pickup truck with parade grand marshal Nathan Bailey inside.
So how did he get to be grand marshal?
“I’ve lived here about 50 years,” he said. “Oldest person in town, I guess.”
Would he have turned down the honor if his title was King of the Rednecks?
“You betcha,” he said. “I’m not a redneck.”
I was beginning to wonder whether this really was a Fourth of July celebration masquerading as Redneck in Ramona.
Hope was restored, as I should have expected, by perennial parade favorite First National Bank of Hope and its entry, “Redneck Collateral.”
Bank employees in green T-shirts toted empty liquor bottles, toilet paper, hollowed out watermelons with straws, and all other manner of collateral — good only for as long as the parade lasted.
Everyone walking pointed to Lorna Morgan, a 38-year teller at the bank, as the creative mastermind behind the bank’s entries.
She was quick, and smart, to disavow individual responsibility for the craziness.
“We just start thinking and come up with it,” she said. “We just get with it and do it.”
Not a bad rednecky answer.
Still, there seemed to be more pure patriotic displays than bona fide redneck. At least, until the end of the parade.
Kaydence Lopez of Ramona came by with a caged chicken in a wagon with a sign reading, “You catch it, we grill it.”
She said if I brought her a chicken she’d take the feathers off before grilling it, but I wouldn’t get anything else with it.
“Just the chicken,” she said.
Then, redneck paydirt: People in a truck and trailer portraying Redneck Wizard of Oz with rowdy gusto, complete with a rickety Tin Man made out of cans and tape.
The presumed wizard sat next to the Tin Man, with “OZ” scrawled in black marker on his exposed belly.
This was a man I had to meet.
“My name is Jason; they call me Toad.”
Freakin’ redneck jackpot.
Toad said he originally was from California. When I asked what he was doing in Ramona, gold spewed forth as if from a slot machine on steroids.
“I’m lost,” he deadpanned. “As Bugs Bunny would say, I took a wrong turn at Albuquerque, and this is NOT Pismo Beach. I met my beautiful Ferg in Enterprise, and we decided to settle out here in Ramona.”
I turned to Ferg, bride of Toad, the woman driving the truck, and asked what she’s learned about being redneck in the five years they’d been together.
“No,” she objected. “He’s learned it all from me.”
So what had she taught him?
“I’ve taught him to be a good Toad.”
This was their first redneck parade.
“This is so awesome,” Ferg said. “I’m so glad I got to experience it with my family. Next year we’ll be better.”
And like a double rainbow breaking out after a storm, Toad had some final words of redneck wisdom.
“All you can do is go forward once you’ve gone to the bottom,” he said. “God bless America and happy Fourth of July.”
God bless America, indeed. God bless us every one. Especially the rednecks.
Last modified July 5, 2017