A salute to Anson County


Leon Smith - Contributing Columnist



There is the story of a poet who came to Anson County to write poems and sing songs in the schools. He loved living here so much that he decided to move his family to Anson County for good. But when the grant funding ran out, and a freeze was placed on renewals, he had to look elsewhere for work. Just before he moved away, he penciled these words on a yellow pad:

Anson County: A Two-Word Definition

Then he began to sing whatever words came to him. At first they came line by line.

I want to thank you …for the County in which you live…..

She’s a Dandy, and she has so much to give…..

I love her…I hope it’s plain to see…..

And I stand to salute her, Dear Anson County.

He had no tune in mind when he started singing the words. But as always happened, when he reached the third word, a tune showed up to buoy the words along. When he finished the first verse, he realized the tune sounded a lot like the one in George Jones’ “I’ve Had Choices.” Maybe the poet’s version of the tune fit his song so well because it sang of choices, too. George sang of choices he shouldn’t have made, and this very day he was singing of a choice he did not want to make.

So like every good folk musician since Woodie Guthrie, the poet kept all the chords to this borrowed tune because they echoed the emotion in his song , but he changed the melody enough to keep him from getting sued or accused of plagiarism. He chose his own words which brought their own special rhythm.

After he had sung his first verse twice, he put his banjo down and wrote more words:

Poet came here…and he wanted just to stay…

Funding ran out… and he had to move away….

What he found here, if all the world could see….

They’d all come a-running… down to Anson County.

This verse, like the first one, came in ten minutes or so.

The third verse was not born so easily. The poet had known for months that Anson County was funky — not the funky that describes being heeby-jeebied, nor the funky that describes the moldy smell of a mule’s armpit, but the one that connotes the real stuff, the simple essentials, down close to the ground where the real stuff lives, and a word which connotes deep feeling, whether happy or sad.

So he started the verse this way:

Was a Dictionary…in an old abandoned trunk ….

I thumbed though it …’til I found just what I’d ????

He sang it again, but could not get past the second line.

“What in the world rhymes with trunk?” he asked himself. He went down the alphabet: bunk, dunk, funk, gunk, hunk, junk, lunk, monk, punk.

“Oh man,” he said, then threw his pencil down , stood up and walked over to the window. There he saw the word Wadesboro written on a building across the street. That sight triggered the memory of a pronunciation that was really funky. But what was it? What was it?

Finally, the word came in syllables: “Way… Way … Way gee…Wage ee burr. “

“That’s it. That’s it,” he thought. “Wage ee burr.”

He really liked the way folks stretched “Wage ee burr” out. They plasticized words in other ways too: taking out a letter or two in “Liez-vuhl” and “Case No-field” and “Poke-tuhn” and “Buns-vuhl,” but substituting sounds in “Petes-luhn,” and “Ants-vuhl” and “Maw-vin.”

“An Anson County verse written with Anson County abandon,” he said to himself. Once he got laid back, his task was easy. All he needed was a word that meant thought, but rhymed with trunk. He knew just what he would do. He would substitute some sounds, to force that thought into submission.

Was a Dictionary…in an old abandoned trunk

I thumbed though it …’til I found just what I’d… thunk

He smiled at the newly minted word, then finished the verse:

In the entry for the word funk-y…..

Just a two-word definition… Anson county.

Just a two-word definition…my dear Anson county.

Finally, he sang the verse through without stopping:

Was a Dictionary…in an old abandoned trunk

I thumbed though it …’til I found just what I’d thunk

In the entry for the word funk-y…..

Just a two-word definition… Anson county.

Just a two-word definition…my dear Anson county.

Then he penciled in the chords, and walked over and sang the whole thing as he looked out the window.

Then the poet left the yellow sheet on his desk, and took his banjo and his suitcase to his car. As he drove up U.S. 52 toward Ants-vuhl, he wanted to cry.

Leon Smith, a resident of Wingate who grew up in Polkton, believes the truth in stories and that his native Anson County is very near the center of the universe.

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Leon Smith

Contributing Columnist

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