In the mountains of Southwest Virginia, there is an old story that has been passed down for generations about a crowded diner in the heart of a small town, a snooty waitress and a customer wearing dirty “bib overalls.”
Before we get into the story though, it’s probably a good idea to take a moment and explain what a pair of bib overalls actually are, as the working man seems to be an endangered species in modern-day America.
Made of denim, bib overalls are worn over one’s clothes and offer an added layer of protection when working outside. They have long been associated with rural men in the Southern United States, especially farmers and railroad workers.
As the story goes, deep in the heart of Carroll County, in Virginia’s western panhandle, almost midway between the state lines of West Virginia and North Carolina, an old farmer had been working tirelessly in a hot summer’s field.
Hungry, he did something out of character for him — he drove into town and parked his rusted truck alongside the street and proceeded to walk into the most popular dining establishment in town for a quick bite to eat.
As the bell affixed to the door began to clank as it slammed shut behind him, all eyes in the restaurant drew to the old man wearing dirty overalls.
Looking with disgust at the man’s grass stains, dirty boots and scraped hands, the folks seated in the booths (wearing their suits and ties) acted as if a hobo had entered the establishment and would attack at any moment.
“I’m sorry sir, but you can’t come in here,” said the waitress in the most condescending tone she could muster, adding, “You’re just too filthy to be seen in a place like this.”
A handful of days passed and around lunchtime sometime the following week, the old man climbed back into his puttering old truck and once again drove back into town.
Even dirtier than he was the previous week, the aged farmer once again felt the stares of the entire restaurant as he again heard the door close behind him.
“I’ve told you sir, you can’t eat here. You’re just not the type of person we want in this restaurant,” said the waitress, this time even more rude than the previous time.
The old man smiled and then said to the woman, “You can’t tell me that, because I just fired you.”
“Last night I closed the deal with the owner of this restaurant and today I am the owner of this establishment, and you’re fired.”
The entire restaurant looked at the sweaty old farmer wearing a stained up pair of dirty overalls in an entirely new light — he was the richest man in the building.
Indeed, one cannot judge a book by its cover, or a man by his clothes.
Men in denim built this country… men in suits destroyed it.
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