“When I am overcome with homesickness, I refer to it as being ‘all down in the South’ or suffering from ‘y’all withdrawal.’ The only answer is to ‘take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land’—or at least find some ‘sweet young Southern thang’ to ‘tawk Dixie to me.’”
Sometime in the summer of 1989 after one of my “semi-annual pilgrimages to the Holy Land” of my birth and youth, I wrote a letter to the director of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism about a radio program I had heard while taking that trip. I have inserted a copy of that letter below.
I sent a copy of that letter to the radio station and to the young woman whose lovely voice I heard narrating that program. A few weeks later I received a gracious reply from her, which I have also inserted below. (I have deleted her name to protect her privacy.)
I hope you find both of these epistles interesting and encouraging as evidence of my long and tireless effort to preserve the disappearing soft, sweet Southern accent that means so much to me and to so many others (especially males) of my generation.
My Letter to the Arkansas Tourism Director
[Summer 1989, no day indicated]
Joe Rice, Tourism Director
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
One Capitol Mall
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Dear Mr. Rice:
Some weeks ago I embarked on my semi-annual sentimental journey back home to spend a few precious days in my native Southeast Arkansas.
As I approached the Central Arkansas region, I turned on the car radio in hopes of assuaging my aching ears with some authentic “down home” Arkansas speech.
Suddenly out of the clear, hot July sky there came a whiff of cooling relief in the form of the dulcet tones of a young “flower of Southern womanhood” whose magnolia-blossomed voice drawled out bits of interesting Arkansiana.
My attention was instantly riveted to that soft symphony of Southern sweetness as my Dixie-starved soul eagerly drank in every languid, languorous syllable of that honey-laden vocal mint julep.
On subsequent visits in and around the Little Rock area, I continued to tune into “Traveler’s Information Radio, 1150 AM” to hear about my beloved state and also just to listen to “the voice”—which I was to learn belonged to one [name deleted] of your department.
My congratulations to you, the department, and the radio station on your excellent presentation of the beauty, wonders, and attractions of our fair state (so dear to homesick, exiled Arkies like me)—and on your impeccable choice of a spokesperson.
For heaven’s sake, don’t ever replace that young lady with a bland, Styrofoam-voiced “professional” announcer: Keep the accent on Arkansas by keeping Arkansas in the accent!
xc: Traveler’s Information Radio, 1150 AM
[Young lady’s name]
PS Enclosed are two personal vignettes to explain who I am. Somewhere in department files, you should have my formal resume on file since 1968! Would love to come home and help you spread the good news about Arkansas!
A Letter to Me from the Young Lady in Question
Here is a copy of the actual letter I received from the young lady in response to my letter to Joe Rice about her above. I have retyped it below the illustration for ease of reading and have deleted her name from the bottom. I think you will perceive in this writing the same Southern softness, sweetness, and graciousness that I found so appealing in this young woman’s lovely voice on the radio.
“Listen, Keir—he’s already callin’ th’ Hawgs!”
—Jimmy to son Keiron about
newborn baby Levi’s first yell
“When God talks to me, it is always in pure Arkansaw.” (See the post titled “Three Significant Insignificant Events in My Life.”)
“In God’s eyes at least, nobody from Arkansas is ever a nobody from Arkansas.” (See the post titled “Thank God I’m a Country Boy!”)
“Arkansas: God’s prototype for heaven.”
“Heaven: Arkansas without the heat and mosquitoes.”
“I believe in a literal heaven because I was literally born and raised there.”
“This cain’t be heaven ’cause I ain’t dead—so it must be Arkansas!”
“I never said that Arkansas is heaven; I just said that Saint Peter holds the keys to it.”
“I cannot prove that God is from Arkansas, but I know for sure that He has family there.”
“You are a true Arkie if . . . you think the fall in Eden refers to autumn in Arkansas.” (Used by the Arkansas Times.)
“Pore ole Arkansas was treated by the Confederacy the same way it has always been treated by the Union—like a red-headed stepchild.”
“I have often threatened to go back home and run for public office since it seems that in Arkansas it is easier to get elected than to get hired!”
“Arkansas is the South of the Midwest and the Midwest of the South.” (Arkansas sits squarely in the Mid-South, lifts her head up to the Mid-West, leans her hip against the Southwest, and dangles her legs into the Deep South, and my hometown is on her left ankle.)
“In 1977 [the year that King Elvis died, see Isaiah 6:1], like the prophet Isaiah, the Lord appeared to me in the Holy Land [Arkansas] and sent me to the foreign mission field—in Babylon [Oklahoma]. If ever a man put his hand to the plow looking back, it is me. I only miss home two times—night and day!”
“The geese are headin’ south and we’re headin’ north, so I guess that proves that we Peacocks ain’t got the sense God gave a goose!” (The thing about comin’ back to Tulsa from down home is that it’s uphill all the way! That’s why the Arkansas River runs toward the southeast–to git back DOWN HOME! I wish I could!)
—Jimmy Peacock observation on leaving
McGehee, Arkansas, for Tulsa, Oklahoma
“I’m not an [Okie], I was never an [Okie], and I don’t ever want to be one. I am [an Arkie].”
—My paraphrase of a quote from Sean Connery
about being a Scotsman, not an Englishman,
Celebrity Cipher, Tulsa World, on July 22, 2011
“In one way at least I am a Sooner—I’d sooner be in Arkansas!”
“When asked by Okies, ‘If Arkansas is so great, why are you living in Oklahoma?’ I always reply, ‘You call yourself a Christian, and you never heard of foreign missions?’”
“When chided by Okies, ‘You can’t be from Arkansas ’cause you’re wearing shoes,’ I always respond, ‘That’s ’cause I’m no longer walking on Holy Ground.’”
“When the writer of a letter to the editor of the Tulsa World asked, ‘Why does everyone here always say “over in Arkansas?”’ I responded, ‘Because like the Children of Israel, they are “not far from the kingdom—over in Arkansas!”’”
“You are a real Arkie if . . . you have lived out of state for more than 20 years and still take up for Arkansas against all comers.” (I ought to know! See entry below.)
—Jimmy Peacock, Letter to Editor of Arkansas Times,
November 13, 1998
“Hog fans: Get back to the farm”
“If Arkansas fans want to read about the Hogs [in the Tulsa newspaper], let them go to Fayetteville. The only reason most of them are over here anyway is because they had to come to Oklahoma to get a life. This is Oklahoma, not Arkansas.”
—Unidentified caller, “Call the Editor,”
Tulsa World, October 24, 1998
“I am calling in response to the caller who said that Arkansas fans should ‘go to Fayetteville (because) . . . . The only reason most of them are over here anyway is because they had to come to Oklahoma to get a life.’ As an Arkansan, a two-time graduate of the University of Arkansas, and a religious editor, I came to Oklahoma 21 years ago from Arkansas [i.e., the Holy Land] not to ‘get a life’ but to share a Life; has this caller never heard of foreign missions?”
—Jimmy Peacock, “Call the Editor,”
Tulsa World, October 26, 1998
“Coming back [to Tulsa] from down home we stopped to eat at the Dixie Cafe in Russellville, then crossed the street to visit one of those antique/crafts/collectibles shops. I saw a small wall cross with the inscription: ‘Where would you be right now if Jesus had come back five minutes ago?’ My immediate thought was: ‘Right where I am [i.e., in Arkansas].’”
—Email written by Jimmy Peacock in July 2000