Sweet Home Alabama

One or maybe two of you noticed probably the longest void of postings in nine years at Fragments. Time was, I would have been getting emails after the first missing post, with regular readers wondering if I was okay, since in those early years, if I didn’t blog, I was injured or unconscious. The google surfers that comprise the majority of daily visit stats don’t seem to have noticed my absence.

I have just returned from Birmingham, my home town until 1975, and fetched my mom back with me to spend Thanksgiving holidays in Virginia. We left the big city yesterday, heading north and east just ahead of a strong cold front that passed over us with great fanfare overnight.

The rare return “home” to Dixie always prompts a running inner dialogue of “then and now” and the “good ole days” while stalled in bumper to bumper traffic in places that were, in those times, “the country” and now, the worst examples of American suburbia. My lord, what have we done?

I came north with racial ruminations that could fuel a long essay, prompted by seeing “the Help” on Monday. Then I had dinner with a high school friend who has since been involved in racial justice issues in Birmingham, and who resurrected memories of the “minstrel show” tradition at my high school. Driving through our old neighborhood I remembered the black-white “wars” in 1964 between naive kids of both races who did not comprehend the seriousness of their mock battles on the power company land behind our house that year.

It struck me more than usual just how different our lifestyle choices are from most of those we knew in high school–and how the opportunities for adapting to the challenges of the coming decades differ between a locality engulfed in large-scale urbanism and our chosen and current home county devoted to small-scale agrarianism. I fear for my city friends in the years to come more than for my neighbors in Floyd. Herein, another long thread of thought, for a future blog post. Or not.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Your last paragraph is a topic I have often pondered. City and urban sprawl dwellers seem to be taking over this world, and their lack of basic awareness and interest in the natural world makes me fear for it and by extension, their own survival. Those folks certainly have the power when it comes to decisions about the future, and yet they seem to have little experience of life beyond their own subdivisions. Not a good combination.

  2. I’ve recently been struck by the difference in the lifestyles of many of my friends here in the country and some of the folks that have been living here a long time. I include myself in the granola crunchers, people who grow and preserve their own food, eschew processed foods, employ home remedies before calling the doctor, value the clean air and water we are blessed to have here. I know people who grew up here who don’t have these values at all and yet they don’t have the “culture” that comes with big city life. I don’t know that one’s physical location makes much difference when it comes to making informed choices or simply accepting what others would have us do.

  3. Yes, I missed you but maintained my silence! I am thankful for our life in the country and I wish for you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving on Goose Creek.

  4. I checked your blog every day while you were gone, and was getting mighty curious. Your ruminations on B’ham sure strike a chord with me. I was a kid in the 50’s in Knoxville, TN, and have lived in L.A. since 1968. I was living in Memphis when MLK was shot. The Civil Rights movement has been my lifelong interest. I still have good friends in Tennessee who are farmers, so everything you wrote of in this entry are of great interest to me.

  5. Wish all from Floyd County (& everywhere else) a wonderful Thanksgiving.

    Your “fragments” are reminding me of the many things for which we have to be thankful — the really important things in life.

    Thank you!