The old guy looked to have traveled around the sun about as many times as I have. A wisp of an old guy, five-six or thereabouts, and 130. He had on a blue plaid shirt and a bolo tie closed with a silver eagle. His hat was a waterproof trilby, somewhat the worse for wear, but it had a "Missouri" logo, the word and an outline map, on the front. We were looking at an old McCormick-Deering tractor at the tractor and antique show.
"She looks to be about as old as we are," I opined.
"Ay-a," he said, "she's got some age on her."
"You from Missouri?" I asked. "I see you are advertising the Show Me State." (I pronounced it "M'sura"-- you can tell stuff about a Missourian by the way he pronounces the name of the state.)*
"Ay-a. I lived up to Kokomo for forty-five years, but I went back to Missouri a while ago." (He pronounced the name with the "ee" sound on the end.) "Ya can't really go back, though. Nothin's the same. Nothin' around there anymore but cotton fields and rice."
"Yep, Tom Wolfe had it right: you can't go home again. So you live down in the Bootheel?" (Put two and two together, you see.)
"Yes, I do. Grew up there, prolly die there."
"David," I said, "nice talking with you." I offered my right hand. He shook with me, said, "Bill. Take care now."
*I one time read somewhere (how's that for citing my source?) that Missouri is the only state whose name is consistently pronounced in more than one way, even by Missourians. Politicians, it is said, will often use two different pronunciations in the same speech in an effort to appeal to a "broader audience." Well, perhaps so. Politicians are notorious for their ability to come down on both sides of the fence without ripping their trousers.