I was raised in the South. Not just the South, but a small town in the South. My hometown had a vibrant uptown. Shops and restaurants surrounded the lovely court square. The town supported two busy country clubs. The city was interested in education for their children and many students attended college. It was a great place to grow up and call home.
From a personal perspective, my family was active in the community. I went to football games on fall Friday nights. I never thought about guns or getting shot. I had a horse growing up. Out on the trails, I never saw a deer stand and I never worried a hunter might shoot me or my horse. In fact I never thought about hunters.. My dad and the people he knew never went hunting. They never even talked about hunting. I never knew anyone that went hunting. In fact, I never thought about guns.
At the grocery store recently, I picked up a Garden and Gun magazine. Supposedly the magazine is the “Soul of the South”. I am wondering…whose soul? The magazine is truly beautifully laid out. It has a Southern privileged feel. The food showcases the art found in Southern kitchens. The ads are Southern upscale…the longing for those beautiful places by the marsh and touching the Atlantic or maybe a Blue Ridge mountain retreat where sunsets are hand painted. Then there is the hunting. Houses with dead deer heads adorning the walls. The homes are elegantly appointed with a focus on killing wildlife. I never lived in this South. Never.
The fascination with guns and gun ranges is quite new. Many private golf clubs, also feature a shooting range. In fact my hometown now has one of the largest shooting ranges in the South. This is so foreign to me. One of my best friends growing up, never mentioned hunting the entire time I spent with her, and yet I saw her son’s picture on social media and he was surrounded by dead birds. Many parents proudly have their young children pose and smile with a dead deer, gun in tow. I never saw this growing up. My friends played typical sports and my parents played golf. In fact my dad never waited anxiously for hunting season, he just played golf. The country clubs are struggling now in the town where I once grew up. Not so much the hunting. I saw a post on Facebook where hunters are killing deer and chopping their heads off, I guess to adorn their walls, and leaving dead bodies on roadsides and in the woods. Is this really “the soul” of my birth?
I was up in Davidson, North Carolina Thanksgiving afternoon at Fisher Farms to take a walk on the beautiful rural trails. The guns were firing all around and dogs were barking and howling in the distance. My dogs, Maggy and Atticus, were quite uneasy…it was an eerie walk. I was glad to get back to the safety of my car unscathed by stray bullets that I feared might be traveling by. This is not my Southern home.
My home is one of graciousness to neighbors and strangers. It is yes ma’am and no sir. It is sweetened ice tea and long summer days. It is short winters and nights by a roaring fire. It is progressive and a little sleepy. It is holding farmland as sacred and neighborhoods as a continuum of big front porches. It is debutantes and tomboys. It is not guns. I never remember a love affair with guns. I miss the true soul of the South. Imperfect and yet growing. At what point did it all change. It certainly looks enchanting in Garden and Gun until you walk into the woods and come face to face with a doe and her babe. That is the moment you truly find who you are and your true Southern soul.