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Brandon's finally impressed - Rhonda Rich

Brandon, the smart young man who has worked for me for years, isn't impressed by much at all. He's remarkably level-headed, so fame or celebrity bounces off him like one of Penelope Ann's biscuits bounces off the floor.

He's met some of my better-known friends with a shrug of his shoulders and once, incredibly, turned down the opportunity to meet Jeff Foxworthy. He had to study for a test, he said.

Oh, but there's hope that even the toughest can be reeled in because, finally, Brandon is impressed.

I was in the kitchen, fiddling around at the sink when Brandon came in, opened the refrigerator door and pulled out a bottle of water. As he cracked it open, he leaned against the island and his eyes wandered down to the little notebook that I often tote around with me in order to scribble down notes, phone numbers and directions.

"Miss Ronda!" he exclaimed a bit excitedly. "You have Cooter's cell phone number?"

"Hmmm?" I turned from the sink and picked up a towel to wipe my hands.

"Cooter from Dukes of Hazzard. You have his cell number? Wow!"

And finally after years of plentiful opportunities, Brandon was impressed. Who would have thought that having the phone number of Crazy Cooter, the lovable garage owner on the old television show, would have caught his fancy?

"You're a Dukes of Hazzard fan?" I asked, astonished.

"Yes ma'am! I love it!"

"Were you even born when that show was on television?"He grinned. "Naw, but I watch the re-runs all the time. At school, my friends and I get together and just hang out to watch it."

Thank you to Bo, Luke, Daisy and Cooter. Finally, I have risen to some heights of admiration in Brandon's eyes. He, like millions, is a fan of a show and its characters that will never die. The show has a homey approachability about it and it does what Southerners have always done best: laugh at ourselves.

Back to Cooter. It's almost by accident that I have his phone number. I was filling in on Atlanta radio one morning for a friend and had Cooter on the show to talk about one of his enterprises. For the record, he's one of the most likeable guys you'll meet. He's the kind that you cheer for and you're glad to see reveling in the American dream.

Speaking of that: The reason that my notebook was opened to Cooter's phone number is that I had just begun reading his autobiography: "Redneck Boy In The Promised Land." I was planning to call to see if he, his beloved wife, Alma, and I could get together for dinner and discuss his new tome. First of all, the book is worth buying just for the title. And what it truly says about our great country: Every American has the equal right to chase opportunities and make dreams come true.

For Ben Jones, born outhouse-poor in rural Virginia, that has been the greatest gift. He chased education to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, found fame and success as an actor and then became a U.S. Congressman from Georgia.

I called him. He called me back. Then, when we found we couldn't juggle our schedules for dinner, we began to talk about his book."I love this book," I said.

"Thank you," he replied in a characteristically humble tone. "It's the result of 65 years of research."

Cooter's 65?

"Did you really have the same dorm room as Thomas Wolfe at UNC?"

"Sure did."

That, of all, was my favorite piece of information from the book. Crazy Cooter, a redneck Southern icon, once laid his head in the same room as Wolfe, an intellectual literary giant. That is a gift born only of a free democracy.

Isn't America great?

Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)."