Reflecting by Steve Batson 9/25/97
The hand of God was held heavy on the south following the war... it was a time of reflection and retribution. We were a great people brought low and humbled for our pride. My great-great grandfather W.D. Batson, 16th South Carolina returned to a land ravaged and occupied. Most of his brothers and cousins were dead or crippled. There was no disability, no pension, no help, we were a people cast out and cast down. As Milton so accurately stated in Paradise Lost about a crippled Satan, another who was cast out and brought low, all that was left was to shake your fist at heaven and cry that it was better to rule in hell than serve in heaven, for the choices were made and die was cast. But as Milton also observed, we are men, not angels, and for us salvation is in the fall.
However, if the fall was terrible, we certainly found our salvation in it, for these people endured, and grew in God. They plowed their fields, set their hand to the soil, loved their children and their God and lifted one another up... and revisionists be damned, they did it across color lines. In the south, we are a people of paradox and we understand this. We hate and love but have never doubted our importance to one another. There has never been and never could be a Hitler from the south, we are too interdependent and too intertwined.
How poor were they? W.D. Batson's grandson, William Tave Batson, had one toy in his entire childhood. One Christmas he took a quarter, his entire savings for the year and started to the store to buy fruit for the children's Christmas... on the way to the store he lost that quarter... he spent all day and all night looking for the quarter... it was not found and there was no Christmas, except for Christ... which generation is poorer ? Wealth is certainly a relative value and this was a full generation after the fall.
Tave's grandson, can remember the delight of bathing in a tub under his grandmothers
supervision on the back porch of a small clapboard house, while his father and grandfather
talked politics, cotton, mules and men. He remembers walking in the fresh plowed furrows
of the red clay and breaking up clods behind his grandfather and the mule. He remembers
the cold sting of bright December mornings that meant hog killing weather... A time of
celebration where men and women, black and white gathered in his back yard to kill, cut,
dress, cure, and divide the meat for the coming year. He remembers hauling water to the
big drums to scald those hogs... and he remembers the kind black hand that taught him to
hone the knife and cut clean so that nothing was wasted. Country ham cured in a way that
will be lost with his father... and cold mornings in front of a coal heater. He also
remembered Amazing Grace.... sung one more time because the spirit is moving...and the
still quiet of Bill Utsey's oar as the powerful man pulled the john boat against the
timeless Edisto... a river that like all rivers is oblivious to the coming and going of
man... all this and more, all gone... for the old south like the new is truly gone with
wind... Sold out to Yankee industrialist and southerns of like bend who sing the praises
of the new most high... industry, growth, progress.... Have more, get there quicker, die
younger... you can't smoke in public but you can drink water polluted by the heavy metals
of industry.... Stop progress no, reflect more yes... For if Lincoln was right about
nothing else, he was right when he said that no foreign prince or potentate could ever
water his horse in the Ohio... the enemy is within, the enemy is us. As much as we change,
we remain the same.
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