An Introduction and Interview with Shelby Toe
by his alter ego.
To truly understand Mr. Toe one must see him in his domicile, surrounded by the culture and people that have affected his writings. To do that one must journey to the far South... Southern California, that is.
Upon entering the domicile one is surprised to find the absence of any Civil War type decor or displays in the home. When asked why such decor is lacking, the answer is provided by his spouse, a temperamental Latina who says she would rather be caught dead than to let him put his "Hillbilly caca " all over "mi casa."
Mr. Toe then ushers me into a small cramped space to the rear of the house where it is apparent he is allowed to pursue his research, reading and writing. He graciously brings two glasses of sweet tea, which admittedly is just as good as that served in any establishment in Mississippi. As he sits down to begin the interview, a 6 year-old boy with flaming red hair roller blades in, takes his tea, drinks half of it and spills the rest on his lap. Without missing a beat he rollerblades away (over my feet) and out the door.
Mr. Toe takes off his pants and now clad in a white shirt, string tie, striped boxers and penny loafers, awaits my questions. A small possum scurries out from under my chair and goes to Mr. Toe's Feet, it points her little nose at him and makes small mreeping noises as he picks her up and sets her on his lap, where she contentedly goes to sleep. Somewhat taken aback, I start the interview.
First off Mr. Toe, why the name? Is there any connection to Shelby Foote?
Mr Toe (lighting pipe): Actually I admire his style of writing; very down to earth and very typical of the elder... (pauses as Mrs. Toe comes in with a frying pan and gives his pipe the evil eye... he quickly puts the pipe out) ...Southern Grandfather who tells the children about times past. I, unfortunately, am not able to stay as serious and focused as him, and tend also to lean towards the style of Joseph Heller. (Author's note: Heller is the Author of Catch 22) and Doug Kinney (a late writer whose work was often published in National Lampoon, Kinney died some years back when he fell off a cliff in Hawaii).
Shelby... May I call you Shelby?
No, you may not. "Mr. Toe" is just fine
Ummm... Mr. Toe, being in your location, isn't it strange that you are interested in writing about and studying the Civil War? I mean, after all, you are in California.
Mr. Toe: Sir, I was born and raised a Virginian. Even though I reside in the "Granola State" (California = "Granola state" - fruits, nuts and flakes) I still am a Virginian. Just because a cat sits in the oven it don't make it a biscuit. I was actually born in Fredericksburg and spent many a Sunday walking the local battlefields. Got bit by the bug at a young age and it's terminal.
Mr. Toe, It's been noted that you write about reenacting... do you even reenact?
Mr. Toe: I've been known to don the jeancloth from time to time, and even put on the blue suit on occasions.
Mr. Toe, you dress as a 'Yankee?" Pardon the expression, but wouldn't your Great Great Grandaddy be rolling over in the grave ?
Mr. Toe: Which Great Great Grandfather? Like everybody else I have eight of them. While we all gloat about how old Great Great Grandaddy Toe (our patronymic ancestor) fought with the 195th Dismounted Texas Zoauve Balloonists, we forget that Great Great Grandaddy Finger was with the 257th Irish Pipe Pa. Home Guard. That doesn't count all the uncles, cousins, nephews, etc. The chances are most of us have a Yank (or Reb) in the closet.
Mr. Toe, where do you stand on the Hardcore/ Farb debate?
Mr Toe: Well, first I think that there are many more different classifications of reenactors than two or even three. I think the main friction in the hobby revolves around two types of attitudes. Those that have superior impressions and look down on, rather than try, to assist the ones who aren't that good. And those who haven't seen the ball since kickoff when it comes to historical accuracy and do what they want to do as far as uniforms, equipment and actions on the field. In my personal opinion one is an anal-retentive snob and the other may as well be wiping his rear end with the pages of history.
Well, Mr. Toe, I see Mrs. Toe is here motioning towards the lawn mower... do I have time for one more question?
Mr Toe: Certainly, sir (this he says while donning work pants, tee-shirt and straw hat).
Though you are from the South and seem to be very proud of Southern Heritage, you seem to enjoy making southern characters and modern southerners, especially activists, the butt of your jokes... why is that?
Mr Toe: Well, I'm glad you asked that question. First and foremost what I write about historical figures is parody. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together would recognize it as such. If anyone truly feels that my meager scrawlings in any way can diminish the deeds of such great historical figures they are highly overestimating my ability and influence as a writer. As far as the way I treat modern Southerners, I feel that I am nothing more than a third rate Jeff Foxworthy who is just pointing out the silliness of the small minority of Southerners who go beyond the pale of regional pride, and who try to fight a war that has been over for many years. My Great Great Grandaddy made his peace with the "Northern Aggressors" in 1865. Since then our kin, while respecting what he stood for in 1861, have made a choice to make their state and country a better place to live. To me the true disrespect being shown to our ancestors is those who wear the "Lee Surrendered I Didn't" tee shirts and have the "Hell no... I ain't fergitting" and "Unreconstructed Rebel" bumper stickers on their cars, and who and refer to the South as "Occupied Territory." Unless they are 160 years old they didn't have the option of surrendering or refusing to become reconstructed. Such flippant remarks are a slap in the face of the brave men who faced terrible odds and in the end did surrender and become citizens in good standing. As far as the "occupied territory", there is too much shared history between all sections of the country and the South has invested too many of her son's blood at places like San Juan Hill, the Argonne, Iwo Jima, Korea, the Ia Drang Valley, Beruit and Kuwait to consider herself less than a full partner with the rest of the country in its future.
At this time the interview is suddenly terminated by Mrs. Toe, who grabs my subject by the ear and muttering "pinche veijo cabrone" escorts him to the lawn mower.
I see myself to the door.