Don't Show Your Tail

originally in Abilene Families

I was raised in the South by a good Southern momma, who sprinkled good Southern advice throughout my life as liberally as Paula Deen uses the butter. Some of it involved silverware, some of it involved marriage and babies, but the most everyday useful advice involved how to treat people.

Much of it I heard frequently enough that I rolled my eyes to hear, and little of it made sense until I lived it and experienced it. I think educators call that a kinesthetic learner. For instance: “Don’t go burnin’ any bridges.”

I did not understand this phrase. I was not prone to pyromania. Bridges were prolific in my bayou-strewn town, but I was never tempted to set one ablaze.

I didn’t fully understand this advice until I lived in a small Central Texas town and needed a temporary job. It was an awful job that paid okay, and I didn’t put my heart into it. I showed up late, did just enough to keep my job, tuned out when reprimanded by The Boss, and was thankful when it was over.

Imagine my horror when I showed up to interview for a job I wanted to find that The Boss was one of the people joining the interview process. Truly a V-8 moment. “Don’t go burnin’ bridges.”

I don’t use that same phrase with my kids -- maybe it just sounds old fashioned to me now. But I have a similar phrase they have heard all too often: “Abilene’s just too small to act that way.”

You know what I mean. We all run into each other coming and going in this town.

A friend can vouch for this. She got into a bit of a honking, shouting tousle at school drop-off. Still fuming, she pulled up at the gym for her exercise class... next to the same driver from the school. Abilene’s just too small to act that way.

A young friend thought he would test the limits of where he could go on his bicycle, knowing he was heading into forbidden territory by crossing a very busy street. A friend of the family reported it to his mom. He still has no idea how mom found out, but the short answer is, “Abilene’s just too small to act that way.”

Momma had another Southern phrase: “show your tail,” which means to act rude or unbecoming, not reflecting your proper Southern raising. You don’t want to show your tail when the town is this small. Or ever.

Children aren’t the only ones who have this lesson to learn, and perhaps we should teach our kids to act right no matter which zip code they live in. Maybe an elected official berates a fast food employee when the salad has the wrong kind of cheese? I’m guessing that not only the employee but everyone in the establishment will remember that at election time. Abilene’s just too small.

Maybe a church leader or pastor wonders why people are tuning out the message of “love thy neighbor” from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Then he shows his tail by having no patience with a local business employee, or being beyond rude and demanding with a waitress after church on Sunday. Abilene’s too small to act that way.

The world we live in is becoming smaller all the time. Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and email are allowing the world to come to your front doorstep, if not your back pocket. So, not only is Abilene too small to act that way. The world is simply too small to be impatient with your fellow man.

As I peruse the Valentine cards and expressions of love this month, I will also consider those folks who test my patience the most. Oh, I won’t buy a card. My valentine to the cashier who takes too long, the waitress on her first day, or the driver who turns in front of me only to drive at a turtle pace will be kindness, patience, and gentleness.

I won’t go burning’ any bridges. The world is just too small to act that way. Momma will be proud.


Roxanne said...

"I did not understand this phrase. I was not prone to pyromania. Bridges were prolific in my bayou-strewn town, but I was never tempted to set one ablaze."

Made me laugh. . .and I was told the same thing as a child, AND interestingly enough, when I left Abilene so many years ago. As I was writing my letter of resignation, Mr. Stovall said, "Remember. Don't burn any bridges. The education world is small." And my, oh my was he correct!!!!

Rebecca T said...

for you comment about being patient with the cashier who was taking too long... A long time ago I was being a really old lady at Dillard's who was trying to return something that she had had for too long. They had to get a manager and blah, blah, blah. I decided at that moment, that if I'm too busy to be patient at that moment (you know, when push comes to shove) that I am JUST TOO BUSY! I stopped wearing a watch then too so I couldn't keep checking it. I slowed down and try to be not too busy.

Design by Deluxe Designs