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Southern Stories
Jan 27/17

Famous Southern Men We Would Call ‘Dad’ Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

My Southern dad raised me like a boy. He never called me “princess” or “sweetheart” or “delicate flower.”

As a preteen, I swept floors on construction sites until I was old enough to drive to Home Depot for more brooms. Or sheetrock. Or load up the top rack of a suburban with 2x4s. Ultimately, my dad saw children as functional additions to the family, the way a farmer would back in the 1920s, and he would’ve adopted more if he could. You don’t work, you don’t eat. Well, it wasn’t all that dire. It was more like, you don’t work, you don’t get Coca-cola with your lunch.

As the oldest, most compliant child in the brood, I arguably served as both son and daughter for him. And my young penchant for responsibility meant I reaped such masculine rewards as a BB gun for Christmas when I was 10 years old. Soon after, he put a shotgun in my hand and took me hunting, after I demonstrated my ability to hit a soda can from 10 feet away and resolutely dust myself off to raise the gun again when it inevitably kicked me to the ground. We saw one squirrel on my first and only hunting trip, and I refused to shoot it. I could be a rebel at times.

In short, I never got comfortable peeing outdoors. Or being outdoors at all, really. I much preferred curling up in a cozy chair and reading about the wilderness in books like Gary Paulsen’s “The Hatchet.” Yes, transporting myself into a life of self-sufficiency and hardship on a printed page was far more preferable to actually being in one. And though my dad wasn’t perfect — whose is? — I’m thankful for the practical knowledge he passed to me and the person I am today.
But just the same, here’s my list of perfectly imperfect Southern men I sort of wish would’ve raised me instead. Feel free to play along, and give us your Southern dad picks in the comments. Heck, discuss it over the dinner table — your dad probably has his own favorite Southern father figures.

Bill Clinton
This has nothing to do with his success as a president, mind you. And maybe he’s not the best role model when it comes to, um, restraint. But he’s has a larger-than-life personality, and we can all agree Chelsea turned out just fine, though we could attribute much of that to Hillary. Really, I sort of wish Bill Clinton would’ve been around in my formative years to teach me about charisma and connecting with people from all walks of life. Then again, maybe he would be better as an uncle. Uncle Bill. I like that.

John Besh
Not to be confused with John Tesh, this Louisiana-born chef would’ve taught me to make a roux by the time I was 3. The Bayou Magic spice mix my real dad liked to pour over ground beef, fake-dad John Besh wouldn’t even feed that to the nutria. Boudin from a package? Never. Imagine bonding with dad over homemade beignets on Sunday mornings, that is, when he’s not out running one of his nine restaurants. Imagine me as the world’s first really annoying preschooler foodie. “This pizza sauce isn’t made from scratch? I’m going home.”

Lyle Lovett
Though I would worry about inheriting that trademark schnozz, Lyle Lovett would make a great dad if only for the sake of consistency. He’s won four Grammy Awards, and that was back before they started giving them out for looking good in hot pants. He’s so charismatic, he managed to snag Julia Roberts as a wife for two years, much to the dismay of people with eyesight. He’s smart, agreeable, talented and nobody can really hate him. Maybe he’s not a flashy showman-type, but that’s not really what you want in a dad.

Loudon Wainwright III
Where do I start with this guy? He’s got a song called, “I Wish I Was a Lesbian,” which is quite possibly the best song ever written by a man about a woman’s perspective. He raised the very talented, very self-assured Rufus Wainwright, and a daughter named Martha — more poet than singer — with a positively angelic voice who was prompted to write the song, “Bloody Mother F*cking Asshole” about her father. Any man who can inspire that kind of sentiment and keep a good relationship with his daughter is probably doing something right.

Steve Martin
Of all the men on this list, Steve Martin is the one I’d most readily date, and that might be creepy. But if this Texas native were my dad, I wouldn’t have those sorts of feelings about him, right? He’s a philosopher, comedian, performer, banjo player, and maybe the greatest man who has ever lived. He’d never make me shoot at squirrels. 

Treat your old man this year. Click for Father’s Day gift ideas.

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