Thank You Ma’am
By Ralph Gordon
We respect women, our elders, and the weather here in the South. We say Yes, ma’am, no ma’am, yes sir and no sir. We know when its too hot to fish and too cold to go swimming. But one of the good things about the Southland, its never too cold to go deer hunting or too hot to play a joke on a Yankee.
We are taught, Please and Thank you are the magic words of courtesy. We address our aunts and uncles as such and our elders as Miss or Mister. The elders first name follows the title of respect, as Miss Bobbie or Mr. Bobby, as the case may be. The same principle applies to doctors in the South. Dr. Earl  comes to mind. He was our family doctor for many years, a great American and beloved healer. Dr. Earl delivered our son and many other babies in Union, Mississippi.
Mr. Joe and Miss Lillie were our closest neighbors in the Greenland community. They lived down the road about a quarter of a mile near the railroad tracks. In the summer my cousin June Bug and I would ride our bikes to Mr. Joe’s house. After a cool drink of water from his well, we would proceed to the tracks and wait for the train. We eagerly anticipated the passing of the train, especially the caboose where my uncle rode as conductor for the GM & O Railroad. Uncle Allen would be watching for us as well. From the open window in the caboose he would return our waves as the train rolled out of sight.
After our rendezvous with the freight train it was time to head to Aunt Nora Watkins’ house for tea cakes and cool aid. Aunt Nora made two kinds of tea cakes. One was think and crispy for her banana pudding. The other was thicker and made for snacks. And what snacks they were! Some things in this world are just too perfect and Aunt Nora’s tea cakes fit into that category.
There are some things in life that I would not change if I could. These include Aunt Nora’s tea cakes, there privilege of growing up on a family farm in Mississippi, and having a cousin like June Bug, to name a few. I still see June Bug almost every day at the bank where she works and like to kid her about being older than me, all of two months.
Many changes occur in our lives, whether we want them to or not. Most are brought on by the passage of time and that is not always a bad thing. Some times these changes can even be funny in an ironic kind of way. I realized on of life’s ironic moments at a high school game recently while working the concession stand. A young man about the age of ten or eleven came to my window and said, May I have a hamburger and a Coke, please? After paying for the food the youngster said, Thank you, Mr. Ralph. My wife Pat commented on how nice it was to see a young man with such nice manners. It makes you proud to live in a place like Mississippi, she said. Miss Pat, you see, is truly a gracious Southern lady who appreciates good manners when she sees them.
I made the mistake of telling my older cousin June Bug about the young man calling me Mr. Ralph. Now she will never let me live it down. But Miss Pat, being the sweetheart that she is, consoles me about the gray in my beard and reminds me that our four grandchildren like their grandpa just the way he is. THANK YOU, MA’AM!
 Dr. Earl Laird, founder of Laird’s Hospital in Union, and prominent surgeon and physician.