John and I spent the weekend in Tennessee. We arrived in the community of Wartrace on Friday evening in preparation for John to run the Strolling Jim the next morning. We’ve done races and spent time in Tennessee before but this time was different.
We were in what I would describe as a rural community. Most of the race was on two-lane, or less, roads that were not heavily traveled but when they did have traffic it was usually a tractor or a dually truck.
As I wasn’t familiar with the area, I talked to others who were crewing family members to make sure I was going the right direction on the course or where the next, best stop would be. Early on it became clear, one of these was not like the others. And that would be me.
One woman asked me where I was from. This is a really common question at an event like this because it’s always interesting to see how far people travel to participate in an ultra event. There are usually plenty of locals but a fair number of those who’ve traveled quite a distance. I assumed this is what this woman was referring to and I shared I was from Ohio.
She said, I could tell by the way you talk that you weren’t from around here. I said, oh, well I guess that’s probably true. I shrugged it off and went about my morning.
My home state would again come into question not long after. Another woman in conversation asked, where are you from? I shared, again, I was from Ohio.
What she really meant became clear when she followed it up with, “Do you say it like that?”
“What?” I asked
“O-HI- O,” she repeated with her ingrained drawl.
I smiled and said, well yes, I guess we do. In an effort to make me seem less weird I attributed some of our annunciation to the OSU Buckeyes and our O-HI-O cheer. This didn’t really do much for me so I sort of let the conversation trail off and made a mental note to keep my northern accent to myself when I saw her later in the day. I suppose I could’ve started saying “y’all” but it may have come out like “you all” and that probably would’ve made things worse.
Later in the day my suspicions were confirmed, I saw another person at an aid station and we chatted for a few minutes and she, too, asked if I was from Tennessee. I said I was from Ohio and she shared she was from Pennsylvania and she said she could tell I wasn’t from there because I didn’t have an accent.
But the best comment about Ohio had nothing to do with me. In the last miles of the race a woman ran by and saw our car’s license plate and asked if I was from Ohio. I said I was and she said, I swam the Ohio River and it was miserable. Your river is so polluted. And she continued to run on as I stood baffled and silent.
I am prepared to leave Tennessee this morning and I feel I may need a support group. Hello, my name is Angela. I am from Ohio. Yes, I do say it that way and our river is polluted.
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G