I grew up in a house that had butter on the table and a pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge. The trees were filled with cicadas and Spanish moss, the heat was wet enough to bubble paint, and every young man strutted a worn white ring on the ass of his jeans. The redneck stigmata. The mark of the Skoal.
Where I come from, a redneck rests somewhere between a hillbilly and white trash. Contrary to popular definition, not all rednecks are ignorant Caucasian po' boys with a sunburn, though many are. A redneck can be a member of any race (witness the Utah Jazz's Karl Malone, a man who spent his hard-earned NBA dollars on a customized eighteen-wheeler complete with airbrushed pictorial), gender (Tonya Harding, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline—rednecks all) or even tax bracket (Sam Walton, Ross Perot). What a redneck cannot be is urban, refined, or born to money. And a redneck never looks comfortable in a tie.
I hit puberty surrounded by boys with spit cups, jacked-up 'Cudas, coon hounds and rifle racks. Consequently, I fell in love with them, and rednecks became my definition of real men. They hunted, swore (but never in front of women), spat, sweat, fought, and wore their Wranglers either dripping loose off the hipbone, like well-cooked pork barbecue, or cradled snug around their butts, like hands cupping water. They had simple wit and no fashion sense, and they often stank of cheap beer and cheaper cologne. No matter. They were my Cary Grants.