Residence: Columbia, South Carolina
Date of Performance/Collection: 25 April 2018
Primary Language: English
Leighton Lord is my father. Given this relation to me, I was interested in procuring some folklore that both of us participated in, but obviously from his perspective as he and my mother were the ones who set the traditions that we followed. Another unique perspective he has is being instilled in Southern traditions after twenty two years spent in Columbia, South Carolina following his marriage to my mother, a native South Carolinian. He grew up in Delaware, and was fascinated upon arriving in the South and witnessing the obsession with tradition and particularly talk about ancestors. I collected several pieces of folklore from him during a recent trip he made to Los Angeles. He currently practices law.
When I got to the South, my mother and father in law took me under their wing. They’d take me to all these parties with old South Carolina people. At one party this guy comes up to me, says “oh let’s go sit with so and so”…Oh Weston Adams. So this Adams, he starts telling this story about his ancestors, a few generations back. He starts talking about Uncle Jed or whoever, I don’t know. Then the guy that took me over says “no, no, no. We don’t wanna hear about the good Adams’s, we wanna hear about the bad ones. So he tells a story about someone who killed someone over a land dispute or something. I don’t know. The point the guy was trying to make was that they’d rather talk about the good ones, but as long as they’re talking about their ancestors, they’re happy. I always thought that was the most South Carolina thing.
This example tells of the general folk speech of Southerners. Southerners do love to speak about their ancestors and tell stories like the one my father vaguely mentions about a man of one family shooting a man of another family over a land dispute. The way my father told this made it sound like the story itself was irrelevant. In fact, that Southern story almost feels like a trope. It is even told in Huckleberry Finn. The truth, of course, is a moot point. What is fascinating is that this man is proud of an ancestor for allegedly defending the family’s honor.