Mary Fahl sang the beautiful song, “Going Home,” for the movie Gods and Generals. Such lyrics and tune that reached into my Southern psyche as to remind me of what the fight was all about.
They say there’s a place where dreams have all gone
They never said where but I think I know
It’s miles through the night just over the dawn
On the road that will take me home
I know in my bones, I’ve been here before
The ground feels the same though the land’s been torn
I’ve a long way to go the stars tell me so
On this road that will take me home
And when I pass by, don’t lead me astray
Don’t try to stop me, don’t stand in my way
I’m bound for the hills where cool waters flow
On this road that will take me home
I often treat books in a way I treat old, favorite, movies (picture shows) that I watch over and over, over the years, I reread them. I have read Gone with the Wind twice, None Shall Look Back twice and Absalom, Absalom three times (for this one it was because I am slow and it took me three times to understand it: once in high school, once in college and once twenty years later). I have read (though when I was much younger) The Yearling and Tom Sawyer each, at least, three times, though I read Huckleberry Finn but once–didn’t care for it.
I have also read The Catcher in the Rye twice. I read it when I was in my teens, about the age of Holden Caufield, the protagonist, and though I found it humorous at the time I, moreover, pitied him for the New York home he seemed to have either never had, or had lost. Prep school was not home schooling.
All of this is to make a point: A contemporary author whose books I have read more than once, Dr. James Everett Kibler, writes keenly on home and the rich meaning of it. My only regret is he has not written more of them.
I love the topic, the settings, the characters and the stories. Dr. Kibler’s books are (in my opinion) poetic treatments of prose, all such that anyone who loves his own home understands that home is a place of seclusion and contentment. Even in homes, which probably includes all of them, where there is, or has been, from time to time boisterousness or anger and perhaps even regret and shame there usually is a grace that generates peace and love through family. It is a place to fight, and even die, for. Concrete and speeding cars and fast (fat) food restaurants are not a place of home nativity. The personification of the interstate highway system is a psychotic domestic executioner
In one of Dr. Kibler’s novels, Walking Toward Home, one line which I have quoted elsewhere as it is a favorite of mine, a character by the name of Kildee says: “Guess the best thing dirt roads do…is they slow people down. The world’s too much in a hurry, and usually with no place to go. Everything flies by in a blur. And people get to where they don’t belong anywhere and ain’t from no place at all.”
Dirt roads take you home. Interstate highways take you to traffic jams.
Interstate highways take away land which were places for homes once, and fields of cotton and corn. Now fields grow corn for ethanol for cars so more freeways will be needed to take away more fields for corn. . . what?
It has often been acknowledged that the North was (and still is) the navigation society, the South the (and still is) agrarian society. From Memory’s Keep alluding to what Triggerfoot would have thought, had he been aware of Thomas a’kempis’ words: “‘Those who travel seldom come home holy.’” Holden Caufield did not, nor did Yankee commercial ships. Travelers necessarily leave their homes, and with it, part of their souls.
To my home in Houston, I much prefer visiting my son and his wife in NE Louisiana where he lives in a house in the woods surrounded by more woods with neighbors, few, but themselves lovers of the land and the homes that are part of them.
I sit out on his front porch in a rocking chair (I bought him three so I would have one to sit, rock and smoke my pipe in) an awning of trees shading while providing for jay birds, red birds, occasional tapping woodpeckers and the melodic mockingbird once in a while, with his three dogs alternately sleeping and watching me watch them, then occasionally bolting and chasing after a squirrel or a rabbit taking a shortcut. If early or late enough a deer prances by probably sourcing the pond in the back.
It was this part of the South where my wife was born and reared before we married and became Houstonians. Her roots Louisiana, mine deep in the Mississippi earth. Our son loved this area of Louisiana so much he left the concrete city for this piece of land and dirt and gravel roads. It reminds me of Triggerfoot’s thought of the young grandson of Mr. Pink, Eugene, again in Memory’s Keep:
He thought of Eugene, jetting his way over a darkened continent, rivers silver like silkened thread below, mountains looking like anthills. Abstraction, telescoped distances, global village mentality, it must lead to this and the word ‘provincial’flung as carelessly as a justification of pulling up ties.
I brought her home last year and I buried her in the Southern Louisiana soil of her birth. One day I will again lie beside her, our markers traditionally facing east. Not only will we be facing the rising sun, we will be facing Mississippi. We both will be smiling, for where we are and what we see.
At some point in my youth, I was called upon to memorize a poem, Requiem,by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has locked itself in my memory forward until now.
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me;
“Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”
The South will always be my home.