As a young man I worked in a restaurant, eventually as a manager. It was the best paying and most personally degrading job I have ever held. But I had some enlightening experiences in those eight years…
About fifteen years ago I was talking to another man who worked at the same restaurant chain. He was the younger brother of the store owner at my location. He told me he did not like to eat salad because it “tasted like dirt”. What? I knew nothing of the Twelve Southerners at the time, and my folks no longer grew a garden, but as a country boy I was naturally perplexed by his statement.
I had never thought of salad, or vegetables, having an earthy flavor. Perhaps they do at times. But that is because of what they are. And occasionally a piece of sausage tastes like the barnyard, perhaps from sloppy butchering technique. I never ate a mud pie as a child so I cannot positively comment on what dirt tastes like. I also recall the owner’s son, about my age, once telling me that he hated the term cowboy so much that he was surprised that he still liked the Dallas Cowboys football team, and also mocking a “no farms no food” bumper sticker he saw. What was wrong with those fellows?
Why would a man hate the soil, where his food grew, hate the very source of his physical sustenance, and mock those who fed him by their labor? How disconnected from nature and reality is that? How urbanite. How Yankee. And Yankees they were, in sentiment and also in ancestry. They came carpetbagging down from Indianapolis to sell food to rural folk.
The Bible tells us that God placed man in a garden to tend it. Jesus Christ spoke in agrarian parables. From ancient Greece to Medieval villages to early Virginia to Russian peasants in 1917 -man lived from the soil. (And modern ones still do, in an indirect and abusive way). To work the land was the normative lifestyle for the majority of mankind until about 1750 or so when the Industrial Revolution came along. Dixie was the last outpost in “America” of not just farming but a true agrarian wordlview. And the agrarian worldview truly is just that, a lifestyle and a worldview, not just a way to make an income, as the Southern Agrarians contended as recently as 1930 with I’ll Take My Stand.
Why are farmers mocked by the elite? Why is ditch digging a pejorative, cast as the lowest of occupations, only for the stupid or lazy? Because modern man is in rebellion to God, and hates to work the soil from whence he came. To garden, even a small one in a suburban backyard, gives one a connection to their creator. There is still a remnant of agrarianism in Dixie! Yes, they garden in Vermont, but Mother Earth News is not quite I’ll Take My Stand.
And why are mausoleums becoming common in urban areas? You see, man used to understand that each of us must one day “...return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”. Soil reminds him of what he is, of his basic needs (that are *for now* artificially supplied by the system), and of his ultimate mortality and resting place. He wishes to escape the soil, even in death.
Anyway, I like the soil. I think I will go and start harvesting my raised beds of sweet potatoes after I send this essay in to Reckonin’.