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Posted: May 7, 2017 5:00 a.m.

The Esoteric South: What the old folks used to say vs. that's what they say

As a young boy I fondly remember my Grandmother talking oftentimes about what the old folks used to say. The old folks used to say this; this old folks used to say that. The old folks had a lot of things they used to say, and I always got a kick out of hearing about it. As a rule, the old folks were good people who believed in doing the right things and doing things right. They believed in hard work, fair dealing and living the Golden Rule (the original one, not the other one). They sounded like good old folks to me. 

One thing that really stuck out to me as a child was just how old these old folks must have been. Because if my grandmother was talking about them, they had to be fairly old because my Grandmother was old. But then she'd talk about hearing about what the old folks used to say when she was a little girl. "Man," I thought to myself, "these old folks sure were old!" She would also talk about her Grandfather, my 2nd great grandfather, and the man I was named after, talking about what the old folks used to say, and that got me really thinking about how old these old folks were. But once I heard from my Grandmother that he remembered his parents and other older relatives talking about hearing what the old folks said when they were children...well, I knew that we were talking about some really, really old people here. 

The old folks used to say you never should plant your garden until after Easter. Now, I didn't have any real scientific data on this or anything, but I can recount at least a few instances in the past few years where people I knew who planted their crops before that holy day ran into trouble because of a late frost. So, don't plant until after Easter. That's what the old folks used to say. 

A lot of what the old folks used to say were basically proverbial sayings, or proverbs. "You can catch more flies with honey than you can vinegar," or, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," and many others of the like. Based on what I've found, at least some of these probably wind their way all the way back to the days of antiquity. Regardless of how old the saying, expression or thought was, it seemed to be carried through generations and generations of existence through oral tradition. Folklore. So, there again, when we're talking about what the old folks used to say, we are indeed talking about some really old folks. 

A fair amount of what the old folks used to say seemed to be rooted maybe in superstition, or old wives' tales; however, at least a fair portion of those sayings and beliefs seem to be true. For instance, the old folks always knew that the lunar cycle had a major impact on our lives and many other things as well. Just ask anyone in law enforcement or public health if that is actually the case - they will respond in the affirmative. Chicken soup good for a cold? Scientifically proven. Vinegar for cramps? Works every time. Vinegar for a whole host of other things? Most definitely. There's a lot of stuff kind of below the surface or forgotten about that the old folks knew which would behoove a lot of us to know now, in this writer's estimation. 

So, when talking about the "old folks" in the expression - "that's what the old folks used to say" - just know that we're talking about good, godly & hard working folk going back dozens and perhaps hundreds of generations. 

On the other hand, when we're talking about "they," in the expression, "that's what they say," we are talking about an entirely different thing. They seem to be the ultimate & proverbial peanut gallery. Everyone's a critic, and everyone's an expert, especially when it comes to telling others how they should live or do things. 

My favorite description of the "they" in that's what they say came from my Granddaddy McCart. I've been hearing about this one ever since I was a kid & I've always loved it. Ole E.M.'s thoughts on this bunch was this: "The 'they,' in "that's what they say? They're the biggest bunch non-knowingest folks who ever walked the face of the Earth." Ha! I've always gotten such a kick out of that one! Unfortunately I never got to know the man who was my Father's Father as he passed on about a year and a half before I came on the scene. As anyone would tell you who knew him, he was about as good as any that was ever made, but he obviously had strong feelings on this particular issue. 

They, to use the parlance of the younger folks, seem to be the haters, and we all know that haters are gonna hate. They seem to love to mess with folks, tell them what, why & how they're doing it wrong, but without any constructive criticism or offering up any solutions. Well, I, like almost all of us, have found myself in the "they" camp, but not too often. I try to avoid it. 

While stirring this write-up in the mental back burner over the last few weeks, it got me to thinking about some other things as well. This generational divide we've been seeing in our society. These Millennials, though, right? To the older generations, I guess Generation X ain't lookin' too bad these days, are we?

Of course, there's been a good bit of consternation and agitation on behalf of the younger and middle generations pertaining to the Baby Boomers. To me, all of this is unnecessary. We have our differences, sure, but so much more unites us than should divide us. When you get down to the heart & soul of things, we all basically want the same things for our families, our community & ourselves. At least, I think so.  And for the record, let me just say that while this younger crop may seem a little strange & aloof, many of them seem to be absolutely brilliant. And with the older ones - the old folk - I think you always have to remember everything they've been through. They've seen so much, and I believe they have a lot of wisdom & life experience to give.

You can then look at the big picture of things, and see that there is obviously division in the house, in so many things. Politics, religion, college football teams, etc. Well, I just think we always need to the think about what our country was founded on - the actual mechanism/document, the Constitution - and remember what made it possible. Compromise. And the other key - Communication. Or to quote a Pink Floyd song - "We just need to keep talking." 

I think the old folks would agree, and probably so would they. 

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