Rooted to the Earth

We Southerners are wedded to the land through timeless bonds that were laid down by our forefathers, an agrarian identity that is rooted in our Western cultural traditions. The earliest heroic tales from the classical age tell of Athenian farmers rising from the fields to fight off invaders or the model of aristocratic Roman virtue in the form of Cincinnatus. This epitome of Roman Civic virtue left his plow in the fields to take up arms against Rome’s enemies, then relinquished the role of dictator and returned to his farm (where he took up his plow where he had laid it).

It is no coincidence that our founders chose to model themselves in this agrarian aristocratic guise. George Washington fashioned himself as the American Cincinnatus at his plantation in Mount Vernon, Jefferson dabbled with experimental cultivation and hybridization of crops. The model of the yeoman farmer has a strong sense of cultural identity to American mythos. Even the story of the Revolution is that of a band of farmers and backwoodsmen who took up arms in defense of their liberties.

The antebellum history of planters is tilling good ground, holding courtly balls and ancient codes of chivalry befitting this last vestige of a cavalier heritage. Even the hardscrabble farmer, working tough and unforgiving land, would be forged into the backbone of some of the finest fighting men who ever existed. The men of Jackson’s “foot cavalry,” the vaunted fighters of Hood’s “Texas brigade,” the crack soldiers of Patrick Cleburne’s division; they all shared the common experience of being rooted to a land worth fighting and dying for.

For many of us, we see old yellowed images of our grand parents and great grandparents struggling barefooted through the Depression. In many ways, our kinfolk carried on that rural hardscrabble existence of previous centuries, as recently as the 1960’s. It is from such stock as this, that we have to find our own mettle. We must prove ourselves worthy of the lineage bestowed upon us. The simplest way to begin is by reconnecting to our agrarian identity, recover that lost love of freshly tilled earth, of green fields, and a hard day’s labor under the sun.

-By William Poole

One comment