I found the following story about my father—Wallace “Preacher” Hebert—in a newspaper clipping from the American Press dated April 5, 1932.
The story was printed on sports pages around the country and made it to the radio. Eddie Rommel was one of the pitchers for Connie Mack’s world champion Philadelphia Athletics. The team had trained in Athletic Park in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1921. His encounter with my dad follows.
“Mistah Rommel, would you all mind showing me how you all throw that air knuckle ball we uns have heared about?”
The speaker was a kid of about eight or nine years old. He had come to the Athletics’ training field in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to watch the champs practice.
“Well, you take the ball like this,” replied Eddie. “But say, kid, your hand is too small. Come around about ten years from now and I’ll show you.”
“Got mighty big hands, Mistah Rommel, for a boy goin’ on nine.”
“I know you have, sonny, but you will have to wait a few more years before you will be strong enough to throw a ball up to the plate.”
“All right,” replied the youngster ruefully, “but you jest remember what I’m telling you. I’m going to be a big league pitcher some day.”
“The next time I saw that kid,” related Rommel, last summer, “was on June 11 when he stepped on the rubber at Shibe Park, let our champs down with seven hits, fanned Al Simmons with the bases filled, and beat us 8 to 2. I didn’t know I ever had seen him before until he told me he was that little lad who had asked me how to throw a knuckle ball 11 years ago.”
Now, I can assure everyone that my dad never talked like the encounter reported in that story. He never said “that air” or “we uns” or “heared about.” Everything else in the story is probably true. The Athletics did train in Lake Charles and he probably did talk to Eddie Rommel about his knuckleball. He did pitch against Rommel and the Athletics and beat them.
I guess the reporter mistakenly assumed everyone down south sounded the same. My dad has always had a slight Cajun lilt to his speech, but that’s a far cry from what was reported. One thing I’ve learned since I became serious about my writing is not to make assumptions about anything—especially dialogue.
One other thing: when we from the South say you-all, it’s always said to two or more people—never to only one person. Nowadays, however, we just say y’all.
Linda Hurst says
I loved this story! Although my parents didn’t say “you-uns” and “air” I had family members who lived in the mountains of Virginia who did speak “thataway”. The truth is that in spite of their vernacular, accent and lack of formal education, I discovered they were not only very smart people, they were WISE people, which is even better! I agree with you…it upsets me that southerners are often stereotyped by the media and made to appear ignorant. In fact, it is an insult! I do believe that if history serves me well, the original English settlers who lived in Jamestown fort (if we could hear them speak today) would have sounded a lot like today’s southerners. They were the aristocrats of their society back then.
So if I do occasionally fall back to my roots and use a few southern sayings, it’s because I love my heritage and I’m proud to let y’all hear it in my voice! I’d venture to say I’m not alone in this either.
Sadie B Smith says
Funny how we assume things. Loved the story.
Linda H. Todd says
Thanks, Sadie. Glad you enjoyed it.