June 05, 2009

Ridge Runner

I grew up in a small city in southwest Missouri (Springfield - Queen City of the Ozarks!) and never thought much about prejudice in the conventional sense.  Of course, like most children of that era, I had to undo a lot of beliefs that my parents had.  And I had to undo a lot of other stuff I learned from them, but that's for another time.

Growing up in one place, I didn't experience the phenomenon known as regional prejudice until I took my first real job after college.  I moved to Davenport, Iowa to work for Ralston Purina at a pet food plant that they had there.  Although it wasn't far away from home in physical miles, it was very different in beliefs.  My first realization that I might be a little different than these people came when I interviewed with the plant manager.  One of the first things he asked me was why wasn't one of my legs shorter than the other one? Stupidly confused, I asked him why and he said that I was a ridge runner (aka hillbilly) and that one of my legs should be shorter from years of running along the sides of hills.  He thought it was funny, so I smiled too, still confused.

I started out as a Production Trainee at the plant, and my main task was to go around to the different departments and fuck up their production output under the guise of trying to improve it.  Most of the supervisors, shift leaders and production people put up with this, because Davenport was the "learning" facility, where managers fanned out to other plants in the system.  But, once in a while, they got a little testy.   I got along well with the shift leaders, but one day, one of them, Daryl, must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.  I was checking the end of one of the driers and noticed something wrong with the product coming out, so I told him about it.  This guy was always laid back, but on this particular occasion, he took me apart.  "Goddamned Missourian!  Think you know every fucking thing!" While he was still piling oaths on me and waving his hands around, I skittered away.  Odd.  What got into him?

But, as more people became familiar with me, I started getting more comments along this line. When I became a full fledged manager, one of the women working for me (a 90 pound dynamo) called me a "fucking hillbilly" when I asked her to relieve someone for break. Okay, so I'm her boss, so I've got to say something, so I asked her what the hell was wrong.  She sputtered something about my kind taking their land and some other shit that I didn't understand.

Well, this was just getting weird, but I didn't have all that much time to think about it, because I found a new job and moved away.  Some years later, I thought back on it and decided to do a little research. According to some things I read, it turns out Iowans have had a hard-on for northern Missourians since the first half of the 1800's.  I'm not sure I quite understand it, but it had a lot to do with territorial land grabbing, the Missouri Compromise, slavery and who took what side in the Civil War.

Now, who'da thunk that something that occurred way back then would carry forward into modern times?  But I guess that this sort of prejudice/hatred goes on in a lot of areas in the U.S., and I'm not talking about that ancient North/South shit that still refuses to die. I'm talking about small regional battles.

Seems kind of pointless, but I guess when you come right down to it, most "handed down" traditions really have no point, other than familiarity and bonding.

So, I guess if Jan and I do go through with our plans, we'll end up back into the welcoming arms of our fellow Ridge Runners.

Hey Iowa, bite me.

No comments:

Post a Comment