He Called Me a Peckerwood

Here where I work, we have a help-wanted sign in the window. I have several inquiries a day about hours and pay and that sort of thing. Yesterday, for whatever reason, I found myself waxing nostalgic about my younger days and the many jobs I held and applied for. Some I worked at for only a day. I suppose my work ethic wasn’t quite what it should have been.

I have done landscape and maintenance(quite ironic since I can do neither of those things with any degree of skill today), worked in a college bookstore, at a cotton gin(for a day), pulled weeds in a cotton field(for half a day), been the maintenance guy at a mini-golf course(refer to the first item in this list), worked in a Christian bookstore, worked in the warehouse at a Caterpillar place, and held various jobs at two different financial institutions. I was technically not fired from any of those jobs, difficult as that may be to believe, but my position at the college bookstore was eliminated for “austerity.” I think that is Latin for “spent too much time at the pool table in the student center” but I wouldn’t swear to it.
I always hated filling out applications. I always felt like they were laughing at me and making snide comments when I left. “Did you see his tie? Who tied that thing, Ronnie Milsap?” Of course that would be assuming that I wore a tie. I often didn’t wear one on my job hunting adventures. It just seemed sort of silly to wear a tie to a place where I would likely be assigned to do some unskilled, menial task which would probably require steel-toe boots and moving heavy things from one place to another. Not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs, I’ve done plenty of them. I’ve just never done one while wearing a tie and my Sunday shoes.
I went to a place to fill out an application once that I’d never been to. It was a large building that was visible from a major highway but you had to go in through an access road in the back to get to it. The whole front of the building was glass which afforded a wonderful, unobstructed view of the large, green front lawn and the highway in the distance. I know this because when I parked and walked around the building and went through the front doors to find the person I’d need to talk to, I found that the whole front of the building was abandoned. I walked to every door on all three floors only to find them locked. When I went to leave, not sure where I needed to go, I found the doors I had entered through were locked also. I was trapped. Trapped with a spacious view! I was finally rescued but when I finally got to the place I needed to be, the guy who gave me the job application asked, “Are you the peckerwood who broke into my building.” I told him that I was, scribbled some on the application, and left. I figured that if the guy in charge of job applications thought I was a peckerwood then I probably didn’t have much chance of getting hired there anyway. I’ve never known there to be a big demand in the workforce for peckerwoods. I can remember two times in my life when I was called that and neither time did it seem to be any sort of a compliment.
Good luck to all of you who are on the job-hunting trail. I hope you find the job of your dreams today. Thank goodness I’ve already got a job and don’t have to look anymore. I’m not sure this peckerwood could stomach it anymore.
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4 thoughts on “He Called Me a Peckerwood

  1. Let’s see if I can accomplish two things here. Respond to this without getting edited, and in a short enough manner to fit on the blog. First, thank you kind Sir for bringing a new word into my vernacular. This is one that we have not heard across the pond as of yet and after looking into it, I can certainly understand why. I didn’t just Google it though; anyone can do that and determine rather quickly that its roots are in the Southern Vernacular and are deeply attached to racism. All indications are that this is the black community’s version of the N word for white southerners. Not being of Southern origin, I looked at this word a little differently. Breaking it down and moving across the pond, Pecker refers to ones courage. I know, odd isn’t it, and a little boastful if I do say so myself. Of course there like here it also refers to a part of mans anatomy. As well as a person or thing that pecks. Now the second part of that is Wood, simple enough, a hard substance grown in nature. You won’t catch a Brit knocking on wood; it’s always touched and never knocked. You also will hear it being used differently in Australia in a manner that means you have knowledge of something about someone that can be used against them.Wondering if this was merely Southern Blacks taking the word Woodpecker and turning it around to merely form a code word for Southern Whites, I dug a little deeper which included a trip to the “Level” or “Frog Level” which I hear everyone refer to the area on the South West side of Wetumpka. There I found a gentleman that I befriended a few years back who I felt sure would help me on my quest to answer Thad’s fears about this word. George is his name, un-educated I am sure, at least formally yet very wise in the ways of the world. I sat down and said “George, am I a Peckerwood”? After a good chuckle while he continued to whittle on a small piece of cedar wood he simply said “no, but you do favor one”. At my prompting he then went on to explain that he had heard that term as a young man growing up in Wetumpka, mostly used by his father and uncles and usually after something would happen where they felt they were getting shafted by ‘the white man’. The term ‘cracker’ would later come onto the scene as he grew older. He then paused and said that he thought for a long time that the use of the word was a nice way of calling someone a part of man’s anatomy without using the word. He also said that it wasn’t only the men folk that had a name, but that the women would be called “Featherwoods”. We both surmised that was just a dressed up version of the masculine version to give the women something a little nicer sounding. I asked George if this term was still used and he affirmed that it was, only now he and others he is around use it to describe someone goofy, or that is a “goob or gooden”. He said that at least in his circle, Peckerwoods and Featherwoods have all but disappeared with time. My conclusion Thad, you were either being called a goob, a gooden, a goof, a part of the male anatomy, or a southern white guy that blacks don’t like. Either way, I don’t think that this guy giving you the application was using it as a term of endearment and in fact based on the color of his skin could have been racial. Given all of that, I think he was simply calling you a “Git” there chap. I wouldn’t sweat it though, it seems to have not really consumed much of your time over the years. G'Day Thad!

  2. I knew you'd come through Wiz! Kudos to you on your research. You are quite the etymologist! One of the first three would seem to fit the bill, btw.

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