The last couple of years have been busy ones, here in the South. Mississippi finally ratified the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the vote. At Billy Bob’s, in Fort Worth, Merle Haggard stood all 5,095 customers to drinks. And in Hardwick, Georgia, Daniel Sargent, 27, a one-legged and legally blind diabetic armed robber, escaped from a state prison by climbing over a 12-foot fence. (He was captured, according to newspaper reports, “within yards” of the institution.)

In the course of a single trip, an Amtrak Miami-to-New York train hit and killed a woman running on the tracks in Georgia, smashed a pickup truck in South Carolina, and plowed into a flatbed truck in North Carolina. Maybe we Southerners ought to move a little faster.

North Carolina is celebrating its 400th anniversary, and Princess Anne came to help. A local paper described the plans for her visit and announced that “In addition, a flotilla of sailing ships from Elizabeth City led by Walter Cronkite will sail into Manteo Harbor that weekend.” Nearby, at New Bern, freshwater fishermen landed a 240-pound bull shark. Some thought the eight-foot-long person-eater had been lured up the Neuse River by increasing salinity; others speculated that he was fleeing Walter Cronkite.

A copy of the Gettysburg Times for Lee’s Birthday 1984 has only now trickled in. (My subscription must have lapsed.) It reports that Mr. Jeffrey Stouffer of Sharpsburg, Maryland, was on trial in Baltimore Federal Court for receiving stolen goods in connection with the theft of an 1861 photograph of Stonewall Jackson, valued at S20,000.

In Dallas, meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Student Support Organization at Southern Methodist applied three times for formal recognition to the SMU student senate. Three times, the student senate said no. After the third turndown, the president of SMU was finally heard from: “Organizational recognition,” he said, “is inconsistent with the goals, purpose, philosophy, and religious heritage of a Methodist university.” Does that mean it’s wrong?

Who’d have thought students would be the ones to uphold standards in institutions of higher education? But it’s so. At Washington and Lee, the student government requested that the faculty require students to wear coats and ties to class. (C’mon guys: make it a “non-negotiable demand.” Didn’t you learn anything from the 60’s?) And in Charlottesville, Mr. Jefferson’s university, not to be outdone by W&L in the standard-upholding department, removed the Muzak from its telephone system. Formerly, callers put on hold were subjected to the ear-wash that we have grown all too accustomed to in public places—orchestral arrangements of “Penny Lane,” that sort of thing. A faculty resolution prompted by embarrassment at the thought of long-distance callers being treated to a hundred violins playing “Feelings” did the trick. The assistant vice president in charge of such affairs said some people told him the music was “the most grievous problem to confront the university in 200 years.”

Elsewhere in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Clemson got a new basketball coach. When Cliff Ellis left the University of South Alabama, the Tampa Tribune‘s headline was “ELLIS TO LEAVE USA FOR CLEMSON.” Another land-grant school, at the other end of the South, found a new use for cow manure. According to an article in the Daily Texan, while restoring an old building at Texas A&M the Aggies contrived to make new bricks look old by smearing them with the stuff, a process called (the story says) “organic patination.”

As sociologists, street cops, and political bosses know, only carefully controlled lawlessness can keep a system of unworkable laws working. Federal controls on diesel fuel made even less sense in Louisiana than a 55 m.p.h. speed limit in Nevada. When they began to be rigidly enforced after some years of looking the other way, even good Americans were driven to seek Federal aid. Mr. Tee John Mialjevich of Delcambre, president of the Concerned Shrimpers of Louisiana, appeared before the House Subcommittee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries to say: “We need help, now that we can’t buy hot fuel anymore.” A typically out-of-touch Congressman asked him about “hot fuel”: “Is that a special mixture for fishing boats?”

In other political news, 1984 North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Lauch Faircloth (he lost in the Democratic primary) said of his hometown of Clinton that it has the only McDonald’s in the country that serves “McChitiins.” About the same time, Fritz Hollings, whose sense of humor doesn’t entirely’ make up for the disreputable company he keeps, suggested that Southerners aren’t excited by the issues that apparently vex other Americans. When a reporter for the Yankee press asked him how his stand on a nuclear freeze would go down in Alabama, the senator allowed as how most Alabamians thought a nuclear freeze was a popsicle. And the authentic voice of the South was heard once again from Billy Carter’s filling station. Eddy Rogers of the local seed and feed store told the Wall Street Journal that he was going to vote for Gary Hart in the primary because “he’s the only candidate I never heard of until February.”

Maybe Jimmy wasn’t so bad after all. Free-lance smart-mouth John W. Aldridge describes the former President in a recent book as “a redneck peanut farmer from Georgia.” Would that it were so.