For starters, we know how to build a homecoming float out of chicken wire.


Sure, city dwellers have their special talents. They know how to navigate eight lanes of traffic (or hail a cab), where to find the best local restaurants and music venues, and when the new Major League ballpark will be opening downtown.

If you're from a small town, however, you have a different skill set altogether because small town life moves to a slower, kinder rhythm. It's more communal. You don't need to know where the best restaurants are because you know who the best cooks are, and you don't have to pay to eat their food. You just have to recognize their dishes on the fellowship table. You're not troubled with eight lanes of traffic. But you do need to know that the last county blacktop before you get to the high school will take you to the best catfish pond in ten counties.

So if you're a big-city Southerner who soon will be moving to a small town, study up. Here's what all the small-towners know:

What color your Mama's corsage should be on Mother's Day.

Red or pink if her mother is living; white or yellow if her mother has gone on to Glory.

Who will sing at every wedding and funeral in town.

Every small town has its designated soloists.

Who every teenager in town is dating.

The local ladies like to keep an eye on them. It's for their own good, bless their hearts.

How to build a homecoming float on a flatbed truck.

A skirt of chicken wire stuffed with tissue paper, a glittery sign emblazoned with your theme, a few costumed classmates to ride the thing, and boom! You're ready for the homecoming parade.

How to organize a blowout bridal tea that costs each hostess less than $5.

The secret: Every woman in your church except the bride and her mother are on the hostess committee. No exceptions for the preacher's wife.

How to fish.

Because the corner market doesn't carry any—but it does carry bait.

Where to find the best local off-road opportunities.

Translation: Where to "go muddin'."

Who the town Santa really is.

The kids all know he runs the hardware store, but they play along and wave when he tosses them candy from the fire truck on Christmas Eve.

Which neighbors just bought something "big box."

A delivery truck is big news in a small town.

Everything that Dollar General carries.

Reading glasses, cat food . . .

What to do when you meet a funeral procession coming down the highway.

Pull onto the shoulder of the road, come to a complete stop, and wait for the bereaved to pass.

The entire repertoire of the local high school band.

"Play Rocky Top!"

When the town mechanic has hired a new guy.

He has no idea what to do with that trick latch on your Chevy, bless his heart.

How to work a concession stand.

In the small-town South, all the parents are sports boosters.

What cakes will fly off the table at a church bake sale.

Chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate.