The South Shall Fall Again
by Philip Leibfried
It was a warm and sultry summer night; the Spanish moss hung heavily from the cypress branches and Scarlett Blanche Magnolia Vivien Beauregard was bored to tears. Sure, tomorrow was another day, but what was she to do until then? She was also upset because jes’ nothin’ seemed to be goin’ her way. The hated New York Yankees had beaten her beloved Atlanta Braves in the World Series, the local KFC had burned down and worst of all, she couldn’t find her videotape of Steel Magnolias anywheh! She suspected her maid Dissy of pilfering the latter item; unfortunately, she had gone home for the evening and wouldn’t be back until tomorrow moh-nin, and the butler, Rhett, was away on vacation.
Oh. bother! Ah guess ah’ll jes’ watch some television, she thought. She picked up her pet cat, Maggie, and headed for the living room. Just then the opening strains of The Bonnie Blue Flag rang throughout the house; someone was at the doah!
Scarlett opened it and gasped with surprise: “Whah, cousin Tallulah! Whateveh brings you to Atlanta?”
“How do, Scarlett?” piped Tallulah in her reed-thin voice. Everything about Tallulah was thin, from her ankles to her nose to her hair.
“I had some time owed me, so I took two weeks off and thought I’d spend it with my favorite relative.”
“Ah’m delighted you’ve come, cousin, but ah’m expecting cousin Olivia too. She’s gonna have a baby soon, you know.”
Cousin Olivia and her husband, Howard Leslie, had made plans to stay with Scarlett until their child was born.
“Yes, I know, but I don’t take up much space,” replied Tallulah.
Scarlett smiled. “This is true. I don’t know how y’all do it. Ah’d give anehthing to be able to fit into mah high school prom dress.”
Tallulah marched up to her room with her impedimenta.
At breakfast the next morning, Tallulah greeted Scarlett’s two younger twin brothers, Stonewall and Jeb, with hugs. They had been asleep when she arrived.
“How y’all doin’ in school, boys?”
We’re currently studying the American Civil War in history class,” stated Jeb. Stonewall elbowed him in the ribs.
“The War of the Rebellion!”
Before Jeb could retaliate, Dissy put breakfast before each and the pair began shoveling eggs and ham hocks into their mouths with reckless abandon.
“What do y’all feel like doin’ this weekend, Tallulah?“ asked Scarlett.
“Why don’t we go on a picnic to that park you’re always talkin’ about – oh, you know!”
“Y’all mean the Nathan Bedford Forest?”
Once again the tune of The Bonnie Blue Flag alerted Scarlett that she had a caller. She opened the door to see the Leslies with smiles as wide as the Shenandoah Valley on their faces.
“Whah cousin Olivia! I clean lost track of the time! I should have picked y’all up at the train station. I do apologize.”
“Not to worry, Scarlett.”
Tallulah poked her pointy nose over Scarlett’s shoulder.
“How do, Olivia! Mah, but that bun in your oven’s getting mahty big!”
“Jes’ a few mo’ days and there’ll be a new Leslie in the world,” replied Olivia, as she looked up at her husband like a moonstruck calf.
Sho ‘nuff, three days later Olivia gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. The couple already had a name picked for him - Jubal Braxton Beauregard Leslie.
The weekend finally arrived, and Scarlett was all a-flutter with preparations for the picnic. She called to her younger brothers, who nearly stumbled over each other running down the stairs.
“Go get some linen from the closet, you two. Tallulah! Bring the corn pone, cornbread and corn muffins. Dissy, are those grits ready yet?”
“Yas’m, ah’m pourin’ ’em into the Tuppaware raht now!”
Tallulah helped her pack everything in baskets. As they finished, Jeb and Stonewall appeared with the tablecloths.
“Well, alright! It looks like we all are ready to go on a picnic!” said Scarlett, with ill-disguised relief.
A moment later the family piled into Scarlett’s station wagon and were on their way to the Nathan Bedford Forest campground.
Twenty minutes later Scarlett drove into the parking lot. The party picked a table situated under a large old oak tree near the street.
As they got settled, they heard band music in the distance that got louder by the minute.
Looking towards the street, the group beheld a parade of coots, codgers, fogies and geezers clad in Civil War uniforms marching to “Dixie”. They did their best to keep in step, despite the fact that most of them used walkers or canes. Led by Robert E. Calhoun, they stumbled and limped along like escapees from an old folks’ home.
Calhoun was the neighborhood character, a Confederate to the core. No one knew his true age, but he swore he had fought at Shiloh and Second Manassas. He was so loyal to the South that when his hair turned white, he dyed it gray. He would only drink from Dixie cups and all his drinks had to be made with Southern Comfort. His favorite fictional character was Scarlett O’Hara. Tennessee Williams was his favorite playwright. He didn’t consider residents of North Carolina true southerners because the state name had “north” in it.
Needing a better look, the family hurried over to the sidewalk, led by Jeb and Stonewall. Olivia handed her infant to Dissy and told her to burp him.
“Ah don’t know nothin’ ’bout burpin’ babies, Miss Olivia!”
“Do as you’re told Dissy!”
Scarlett and the others stood and watched as Robert E. Calhoun ordered a halt. From the rear came four young women in majorette costumes holding a banner that read “The South Shall Rise Again”.
“Ten-hut!” wheezed Calhoun, barely able to get out the command. The old-timers stood as straight as they could, until a stiff breeze came along and blew them all down.
As they struggled to regain their feet, Scarlett wondered if indeed, the South shall rise again.