The Old South.This class is changing me. It’s challenging everything I grew up believing and hold close to my heart. It’s making me separate truth from fiction.
It’s not what I was expecting.
Most importantly, it’s helping me grow and realize where I came from and how I got to where I am. It’s letting me see the faults, as well as the strengths. It’s showing me that it’s more than thank you notes, graciousness and manners—yes, I always knew that, but those are the first things that come to mind when I think “Southern.”
I’ve never thought so deeply or felt so passionately about or emboldened by a class before. Maybe it’s because the subject hits so close to home (literally), or maybe because it’s a stage in which romance and tragedy unfold, but I am in love with this class.
I am in love with the South. To me it is, or it was, a simple equation: Southern=hospitality. Of course, it’s more than that.
There are so many things that trouble me that we read; stories of slavery, honor, gender issues and political episodes unravel before me daily. The issues we read about from two hundred years ago feel so current in many ways. I’m beginning to see a link from where we began and how we got to where we are today.
We are talking about hunting as a point of honor and pride, and it just evokes such a sense of emotion. It’s a right of passage, something that every boy looked and looks forward to. Hunting as a sport was so important to the old Southerners, as it is today.
It reminded me of my brother getting his first gun for Christmas one year. I have never seen someone so ecstatic to receive a gift. He was shaking, and he’ll kill me for saying, he even shed a few tears. And then a few years later he received his first bow, to much the same response. This is just one example of how the past and the present are linked and how pride is such a central them of the South.
I’m beginning to learn that pride is the key to humanity in general. What links the South, West North and East respectively are not necessarily complete cultural differences. It’s pride in where you’re from and the traditions that brought you to where you are.
In the beginning, I had preconceived notions of what this class would be like. They were shaken on the first day by a one of the most brilliant professors I’ve ever had. At first I thought it was going to make me ashamed or embarrassed of where I came from, but it has made me more proud. I’ve seen complicated issues that I never knew existed. I’ve seen complex systems that have had such a huge role in bringing me to where I am today.
This class has been the largest testament to the old adage, “knowledge is power.” I feel emboldened by my journey through the Old South. “Southern born and Southern bred” is my point of pride. Learning the starting point from which that pride comes has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life.
It’s vigor of life that brought me to this sprawling land of mossy oaks and magnolias, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
*All photographs courtesy of Garden&Gun magazine.