Thursday, June 17, 2010

Where Do You Hail From?

My parents, my people hail from Louisiana, north and south.  In March and then again last week Mr. Flavius and I had the pleasure of driving through amazing, beautiful, verdant Louisiana.  Such contrast from  parish to parish, rolling hills to farm land, low lying delta and bayou, marsh, lakes, rivers, forests, towns and country.  Sadly, it has taken me until now to really understand how deeply I love the places where we roamed and played as children, the places where my ancestors lived, loved, fought, and died.  It is an incredible state full of the kindest strangers you might ever meet.  I wanted to share with you a passage I found in the U.S. archives written about my mother's hometown.

"Dotted down among the iron clad hills of Claiborne is the charming and peerless little city named after the great Grecian bard. As will be seen from the account of Claiborne, it ranks among the finest of all the hill parishes of our state, and its people as possessing all the traits of real ante bellum hospitality. So is this little city like its surrounding. Its inhabitants are generous, whole-souled and hospitable, and possess the rare intelligence that always shows itself so plainly in those towns which have always had good schools.
The schools of Homer have always been presided over by teachers of the very highest excellence. The Homer Masonic Female Institute has ushered from its portals girls whose subsequent careers, as mothers, wives, authors and teachers, have added lustre and fame, to their alma mater, and culture to the community within whose limits their lives have been spent. The Homer Male College has laid the foundation of many a collegiate education, and furnished many a bright boy all his parents were able to give him to battle against the world and make life a success. The votaries of mixed schools, of males and females, have gained the ascendancy, and these two honored institutions are now one, presided over by a gentleman of scholarly attainments, crowned with habits of piety and religious devotion.
Situated in the midst of a people of thrifty and frugal habits, Homer's trade has always been very large. New trade centres, brought into existence by lines of railroad, have diverted its trade from a distance to some extent, yet its local trade has increased with the increase of population, and it enjoys a fine trade now..." (from North Louisiana, by F. H. Tompkins, 1860)
My mother's high school English teacher was the niece of Margaret Mitchell.  My great-grandmother's dear friend was Rildia Bee.  She used to bring her son, Van, to Homer to give piano recitals for all the students.  In 1958, he went on to become the first American to win the Tchaikovsky Competition.  This is the same town that Walmart has shuttered its doors only four years ago.  Incredible, isn't it?  Ye, who were once whole-souled art now forsaken . . .
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
  To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
  And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore,
  Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
    Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
  Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
    Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.
                    -Ode on a Grecian Urn, John Keats
the court house on the square

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