Friday, July 20, 2007

Easy Rider

I caught the tail end of Easy Rider on AMC the other night. I'd forgotten what the redneck in the pickup says as he sticks the shotgun out the window.

I don't remember the exact words, but it was along the line of "Dontcha think you need to get a haircut". Something like that. I should have written it down.

The movie was released in 1969, but those kinds of words were chilling to me two years before the movie was released.

I'm not sure where that scene in the movie was set, but the overview looks like the River Road in South Louisiana, running alongside the levee on the Mississippi River. In 1967 I was a high school senior living in Baton Rouge, on the North end of where the River Road takes you. Just to the East of Baton Rouge is Denham Springs, a Klan town at the time. They had an annual Klan rodeo where Deputies would pin a badge on their Klan sheets, strap on a gun belt, and direct traffic for parking to the rodeo. I'm not making that up.

One afternoon myself and a friend, Joe Doody, were driving back to Baton Rouge from Covington, where we'd been visiting some girls. We stopped at a roadside bar in Denham Springs. We went to an empty end of the bar and ordered two beers. A handful of locals were congregated at the other end of the bar.

"Where you boys from", one of them asked with a very deep redneck drawl.

"Baton Rouge", I said, trying to put a little bit of a coon-ass french twinge in my pronunciation.

Then another voice rang out, "Ain't they got no barbershops in Baton Rouge?"

The accent was redneck. The tone was mocking. We did not have long hair. You could not be a high school student in Louisiana in 1967 and have long hair. But clearly we were not local boys, and just as clearly the redneck Klan supporters in Denham Springs didn't like outsiders, even if they were only from the other side of the bridge over the Amite River.

The movie Deliverance was still 5 years in the future. But I could hear that Banjo music anyway.

Joe or I, neither one, had touched our beer. I turned to Joe and said, "You ready to go". I said it quietly.

He nodded yes. We paid for the two beers, got up and left.

In the telling the story doesn't sound all that chilling. I guess you had to have been there to understand what the Klan was in small (and small time) Southern towns in early 1967. I was nervous. Real nervous.

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