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Column: There are some oddities to being a thoroughbred Southerner
Ronda Rich

It has been duly noted here how odd are my ways or how my thinking doesn’t always line up with genuine logic.

Any Southerner, born and bred, has charming degrees of eccentricity. In the Southern reach of the Appalachians, however, many of us have a heaping helping of oddness.

“Quare” is the Scotch-Irish word for it. To this day, I chuckle when I recall my mountain grandmother saying about another mountain person, “He’s kindly quare.”

When I was about 13, I realized the person must really be a character if my saintly grandmother thought he was odd.

It didn’t take Tink long to catch on to the difference between Southerners and others or to learn about legendary eccentrics.

One night, I was standing in front of the vanity mirror, examining a spot on the inside of my upper lip that I had burned while tasting a sauce I’d been cooking. From his seat in the bedroom, Tink watched as I pulled out a bottle of Gentian Violet — “purple medicine” or “horse medicine” is what we called it when I was growing up — and I painted the burned spot. Appropriately, the color is purple and it stains worse than ink. Mama, Daddy, and I always attested to its healing power for horses, cows and people.

Tink pulled himself out of the chair, walked to the door and watched as I dabbed off the excess with a tissue, then held my lip so it could dry.

“What are you doing?” he asked, though he knew.

“It works,” I replied.

He rolled his eyes comically. “Okay, Tut.”

That’s his nickname for me whenever I’ve gone over and beyond the call of oddness.

Frances “Tut” Woodruff was the granddaughter of Ernest Woodruff who, in 1919, bought the Coca-Cola Company from Asa Chandler. Woodruff’s son, Robert, (once a ne'er-do-well), brilliantly took the company international and made the entire family extraordinarily wealthy, including his brother George, Tut’s father.

George was, apparently, not fond of his daughter’s carefree spirit and zany choices. He cut her out of his will but Tut refused to go down easily. She sued the estate, administered by Atlanta’s Trust Company bank, and was awarded $17 million in 1987.

“Praise the Lord it's over!” Tut, a faithful Methodist, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution when the settlement was filed.

She promptly took herself and her money to Clayton, Georgia, bought a prime lakeside house, and set up a hang-gliding company. The legend of her eccentricity grew taller than the beautiful mountains that surrounded her.

Friends of mine, who bought the Lake Burton house from her, laughingly recount how she had taken a black magic marker and labeled every drawer and door in the kitchen. Across one drawer was scrawled, “KNIVES”, a cabinet door screamed, “PLATES.”

My favorite story comes from a friend who was her banker. Somehow, despite her crazy ways, Tut wound up with Robert Woodruff’s stunning, expensive shotgun. For years, my friend tried to talk her into selling it but she steadfastly refused.

“Okay, Tut, I understand you won’t sell me Robert’s shotgun. But would you, at least, bring it by one day and let me look at it?” he asked.

Tut, owing to her peculiar ways, decided to take it to his office a few days after having a facelift. Attired in a crazy mess of clothing, including enormous ski boots, she showed up at the bank with a beekeeper’s hat and veil covering her face. She marched into the bank, masked and toting an enormous shotgun, obliviously sailing past five window tellers, each who pressed their hidden alarm button to summon the law.

In minutes, blue-light-flashing sheriff’s cars screeched into the parking lot and officers stormed the bank. Tut, annoyed by the interruption, airily waved them away.

I consider it an honor to be nicknamed after such a delightfully entertaining woman.

Y’all are welcome to call me “Tut.”


Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know About Faith.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column publishes weekly.