Hollerin’ Hungry with a Ham on Your Back

Sunset on Moon Lake Photo by Delta Bohemian

Sunset on Moon Lake Photo by Delta Bohemian

By Poor William
(Clarksdale, Mississippi)

No sir! I cannot take credit for the fine title of this whim. Mr. Lil John McKee, my lifelong vato of less ill repute than I, shares “Colemanisms” with me on relevant occasions.

They are birthed, reconfigured or passed along by another childhood friend of ours, who I will not air out here, as I have not secured his permission to do so! In the Delta, airing somebody’s bidness out in public is like asking his or her daddy how many acres he farms! It just ain’ done! Though, I reckon I aired him out a bit in the “ism” category, but “that’s alright!”

In the South, we love sayings braided with humor and common sense. Most of the truly pithy ones are not inspired by the erudite, pundits, politicians, or the comfortably wealthy; they are usually birthed from the experiences of people with much in common with the blues greats—folks dealt a tough hand who don’t complicate life with solution-less thoughts, but who are able to find a creative outlet for hardship, finding jocularity and grace in most situations.

So, what does “hollerin’ hungry with a ham on your back” mean? The caustic answer: “Quit bitching ‘cause you ain’ got it so bad!”

Most kids hated hearing, “Eat your dinner child, they’s people in China starving!” And, it was not considered good manners or worth an ass-whuppin’ to say, “Well, you can mail ‘em what’s left on my plate!”

Think a judicial caning in the Philippines hurts, say that to a Southern parent of any ilk, even if they’s blue-blooded liberals of convenience, and kids would be begging for Buford Pusser to beat their asses with a green, McNary County pulpwood stick!

Back to the ham, I digress often. If we got a ham on our back, then we gots no business hollerin’ that we are hungry. I am as guilty as those ingrates I talk about who do it often.

Only in America and other first-world countries do the indigent and governmental dependents have more access to amenities than did Kings and Queens of days of yore!  Nutrition, access to basic health care (hospitals cannot turn anyone away) including over-the-counter antibiotics, pain-relievers, and sundry health-care products are affordable and readily available if one makes it a priority.

One does not even have to hit a lick at a snake in most developed countries in order to have food, a roof over his or her head, and some protection from the ruthless, who would by their intrinsic nature take whatever they could, because they can and because mankind is “fallen!” I do not believe that men and women evolve into better human beings as a result of governmental intervention or without divine intervention.

Back in the day, Royalty died often from pneumonia, dysentery (fancy name for diarrhea), hunger, marryin’ close cousins, and sicknesses that are easily cured today. Yet, I will bitch if my beer is not cold enough, my sandwich is not perfecto, or I have to wait five minutes to get medication that will heal what physically, ok, or mentally ails me. It’s time for Poor William to not just be thankful, but to stay thankful.

I had a professor in Bible College—stop laughing, I was Cumma sum Lordy—who said the “hallmark of a Christian was thankfulness.” I believe he had a fine view of how a Christian or anybody should roll. When I am thankful, I am centered and more apt to focus on the needs of others instead of just my own selfish self.

Oprah Winfrey said, ““Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Thankfulness keeps negativity at bay, and when folks are positive, life is just plain better. I sure do enjoy being around folks who are positive!

Hey man, can I hold your ham for ya?


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