Thursday, March 15, 2012

Surely that Bible verse wasn't referring to beauty pageants

                Having recently judged the 2012 Miss Seattle (WA) Pageant, I am amused/amazed  someone from my background is considered an authority in selecting the ideal young woman to represent a city or state in the Miss America system. 

                Now that we're talking about Miss America, I have to take a minute to educate and inform you on the positive points of the Miss America system.   First of all, you have to understand that this is not the toddlers and tiaras kind of pageant.  A full 75% of the scoring in Miss America is talent and interview (including on-stage question).  There are no fake teeth, here, people.  This is glamour on an academic scale.  There are those who get Miss USA and Miss America confused.  Let me explain once and for all the differences between the two. 

                Number one, I would NEVER be involved with something Donald Trump had his name stamped all over.  And all those YouTube videos with confusing answers to on-stage questions are part of the Miss USA competition, people.  I assure you those baffled beauty queens are not Miss America.

                A quick history:  There was no Miss America 1950.  Thiswas the year they started post dating the titles.  As Miss America had added a talent component in the 1935 and the new winner (Miss America 1951) was Yolanda Betbeze, an accomplished opera singer from Alabama.  At the time Catalina Swimwear was the major sponsor of the pageant and the winner was expected to serve as a swimsuit model for a year.  Miss Betbeze refused stating she was an opera singer, not a swimsuit model.  Lenora Slaughter, then Executive Director, agreed and told Catalina Swimwear as much.  When they threatened to withdraw their support, Miss Slaughter said she would find other sponsors.  Allegedly, at a press conference, Miss America 1949, Jacquie Mercer (from Arizona) remarked, “You should start your own pageant.”  And they did and it was the birth of the Miss USA pageant, which has no talent category.

                As a side note, I must say I love me some Miss Arizona.  I had the privilege of judging their pageant in 2009 and met some amazing and fabulous women, including Misses Arizona 1984 (Rhonda White Pawlak) and 1986 (Terri Kettunen Muschott).  Ms. Pawlak, took me to Sonic and then bargain clothes shopping after the pageant.  You know I just adore her, right? 

                Now I am not saying that former Miss USA’s have no talent and aren’t intelligent. What I am saying is if you aren’t talented, intelligent and well-spoken you WILL NOT become Miss America.  I don’t care how pretty you may be. 

                However, let us not forget there is a beauty component.  If you are ugly, it doesn’t matter if you cure cancer on stage, you will not be crowned Miss America.  Ugly will just not win.  Odd looking or vaguely horse-faced but still not unattractive, sure; there have been those years but I shall not repeat them for you here.  I don’t want to be impolite. 

                And I should know about beauty,  I was 1st runner-up in the Little Mr. Dixieland pageant in 1975.  The fact there were only 3 contestants is a not germane to this discussion.  It could have been worse.  I once showed my calf in the 4-H County Fair in Clarksville, TX and being the only entrant in my class I felt I would easily win Grand Champion.  To my dismay, I was summarily awarded a white ribbon, which is the equivalent of third place. Yes, third place. 
                A little pageant birdie told me Miss America might be moving to Mississippi this year; Biloxi to be exact.  I am pleased and not surprised.  As one of the premiere pageant states, Mississippi is a logical choice.  As Suzanne Sugarbaker once said, “You will never see an ugly Miss Mississippi.”  No truer statement has ever been spoken.  Mississippi has had 4 Miss Americas, which places us right behind California and Oklahoma with 6 each and Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan with 5 each (Mary Catherine Campbell from Ohio won two years in a row in 1922-23, but I count her as one Miss America).  Plus we’re the only state on the list with casinos and superior food, let’s just be honest.  It just makes sense, doesn’t it?  As a side note, three of the four Miss Americas from Mississippi were from Ole Miss.  Do what you want with the information Mississippi State fans.

                I love the Miss America system.  I love the opportunities this program gives to young women.  Interview skills to give them an edge over their competition in the job market are invaluable.  And, of course, I love the excitement and the dresses and being surrounded by beauty.  I get all bumfuzzled thinking about the glamour and the glitz, as long as it doesn’t involve children with those fake flipper teeth.  My family would say that is rernt.  And as someone who has judged the Vernon Alabama Street Fair Queen pageant, I know from rernt, do you hear me?

Now I have gone and forgotten the point of this missive, so I’ll just say see y’all in September at Miss America.  I’ll be the perky gentleman near the front wearing my fantastic $6 vintage thrift store tuxedo.  If you come early enough, we can count the number of pitiful Yankees wearing white shoes after Labor Day.  This being in a casino, it could take awhile.  I hope you bring snacks.  Tater tots from Sonic should do the trick.  Just saying.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I only hunt bargains, y'all

                Even a life spent on a path which allows you to remain true to your value system, can be de-railed by the simplest of suggestions.  The Dad had ever so innocently asked if he could choose the meal for our Friday night dinner.  As I have certain activities on my schedule throughout the week (Dinner/Trivia on Tuesdays, Choir Practice on Wednesdays, Singles Bible Study on Thursdays) I have designated Friday as Dad's Day and he gets to choose the meal and/or activity due to his continual lament that he feels like he lives by himself.
              He suggested he cook pork chops and home fries.  I immediately began to formulate the many reasons why he should not when my stomach took over and I was downright shocked to hear myself say, “How much bacon do you need?”  He adds bacon, onions and peppers to his potatoes and cooks them to absolute pieces and they are some of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  If God is actually Southern, and I’ve been assured by a number of Baptists He is, we’re having home fries in heaven, y'all.  To this coma-inducing meal we added turnip greens so I could at least pretend it was reasonably well-balanced.
               I woke up the next morning moving slowly from the grease and carbs running through my veins and discovered he had taken the leftovers and made omelets.  Not wanting to be rude but not really happy with another ‘cheat’ meal so quickly, I ate the food and thought about the activities to which I was often an unwilling participant throughout my formative years.
              To wit, I have been coon huntin’, frog giggin’ and have hauled more hay than an extra on Hee-Haw.  I have also hunted deer, rounded up horses and hoed cotton.  To be honest, the last one was probably only two weeks of my life, but whenever it gets hot outside I find myself needing to sing spirituals bent over in a field, y’all. 
              And while I embraced these activities with all the joy of a Republican acknowledging a poor person, I did try ever so hard to fit in and be “one of the guys”, with varying degrees of success.  Full disclosure, the variance was non-existent.  I was not happy and I let them know as much as I could seeing as how children of my generation were to be neither seen nor heard.  To say our opinions were irrelevant would mean they had given any thought to our opinions.  Pretty much it was, “We’re goin’ coon huntin’.  Go get your cousin to get you some coveralls; it’s gonna be colder than a pawn broker’s heart out tonight.”  Notice no invitation.  No, “Hey buddy, you wanna go kill a raccoon in the dark for no reason”?  They said it, I did it, I survived, end of story.
             Once when we were deer hunting on Henderson Island in Louisiana, my Uncle and I (he was only a year older than me) were paired up to get in a particular stand and wait for deer to come by.  Then kill them.  Now, you have to understand I didn’t find anything inherently wrong with killing these deer; it's what they're there for, I had been taught.  I grew up in a carnivore’s playground.  We would kill and eat animals we owned (cow, goat, whatever) and it wasn’t a big deal.  It sometimes was a bit uncomfortable, like when my cousin asked, “Are we eating Billy?” during a July 4th picnic.  But by and large I was all about the eating, so I guess I had to be all about the killing.
             While we were waiting nature called, as she does, and I felt I had found a time to really truly fit in by peeing outdoors, proudly and without shame.  In my naiveté thought I was in the clear.
            When my Uncle walked by and saw me answering the call of nature, he said,      
             “What in the blue blazes are you doing, boy?”
              I turned, mid stream, and proudly said, “I’m tee-teeing (we are not vulgar people).”
              He looked at me and said, “Come on y’all, we’ve got to find another stand.  Dusty just peed all the deer away.”
              What?  How can I not have done the right thing?  Peeing in the wild is what these people want from me, is it not?  And what did he mean, tee-teed the deer away?  Is my urine tainted?  Do I need medical attention?  I know I ate more than my fair share of Spam and crackers the night before but I was hungry and being amongst the flora and fauna takes it out of a preppy, I can assure you.  If the stench of 7 men alone in a cabin didn’t drive away the wild animals, the fluids from an 11 year-old whose dietary habits was mostly made up of Whatchamacallits and Big Red soda would certainly not send Bambi and his pals fleeing in fear.  
                I won’t get into the details of the hunt for frogs and raccoons.  Suffice it to say raccoon hunting is like deer hunting but at night.  Frog gigging is like raccoon hunting but in water.  And hauling hay is indentured servitude, people.  I want my own telethon for those three summers.  Just saying.
                Again I am navigating a landscape that is unfamiliar and again without a map, but I think I can do better this time.  We are intrepid explorers, well, at least one of us is.  We don’t need Sacajawea to make it to the Pacific.  His Lewis and my Clark can get there just fine as I am the only one who can actually get us anywhere out here in the land of the hippies with my buddy Siri.    And we can take those first steps as soon as we can get up from the table.  Those taters have weighed us down, y’all.