Wednesday, January 11, 2017

J. Evetts Haley and the Mind of the South

American historians often write of a contrast between the South, a closed reactionary society, and the West, free and open and characteristically American. The dichotomy thus presented is a false one.

The West is the South. That is, to the extent that the West is a theatre for heroic action, rather than just a place to start a new business, it is the Old South transmitted to a new environment. The cowboy, to the degree that he represents the embodiment of a code of life rather than just a person who tends animals, is nothing more or less than the Virginia gentleman on the plains.

It is no accident that the most famous Western novel, written by a Pennsylvanian, Owen Wister, and set in Wyoming, was called The Virginian; nor that the most memorable character in Robert Service’s Alaska poems was from Tennessee; nor that John Wayne’s best Western movie, The Searchers, begins in 1865 with the hero riding up to his prairie home in tattered gray.


  1. That really is something to think about.......

  2. Southerners tend to be more civilised, rooted, and traditional in my experience. A Southerner views his area as owned by Southerners, as a group.

    The Westerners that I've met seem to want the freedom to get rich off the land any way they can, regardless of the long term consequences to the land and to the people who are living there years later.

    And they don't mind allowing immigrants to move there, because they don't have a sense of owning the land as a group, as a nation. Provided private property rights are respected, Westerners seem fine with any number of immigrants from anywhere.

    In the South, especially several decades ago, there was much more wariness of outsiders. And we've been more prone to populism. The wealthy plantation owners wanted more libertarian values, but the poor whites have thought differently, especially after the Great Depression.

    That radical individualism is akin to Communism, which also rejects group ownership as a nation. Communists are ultimately global as folks here know, so the only group they perceive is all humanity.

    I would like for more Westerners to see themselves as living at home in a community that is theirs, not just in some temporary pursuit of wealth. Someone here might claim I'm wrong, but that's my experience. Southerners are friendly to visitors but not so welcoming to new immigrants. There's much more of a sense of group identity for the South.

    1. I believe your conclusion is right on the money.

    2. Dear Sir,
      I read your comment yesterday, started to comment, then refrained myself because I wanted to think more on it.
      As a born and bred Westerner I love the West, I love the land, I love the customs that have evolved from settling and living in this raw country.
      Yes, there are people that live in the West, that want to strip everything from her to make their fortunes. They are not true Westerners though. The Westerners that I know, that I have grown up with, worked with, and lived side by side with are not those people. The Westerners I know love the sage brush prairies, the deserts, the mountains, and canyons and rivers. They feel privileged to ranch and farm, or own a whitewater rafting business in some of the most majestic country on the planet. If I may quote an old Southern saying: Just because the cat had kittens in the oven, don't make 'em biscuits. You have to realize though, the West has had it's own invasion of carpet baggers to contend with, coming out of what I call, the "eastern" west, California, WA, and Oregon. Places filled with people who hold not one true Western value although, geographically as far west in the country as they can be. I am convinced they all have true Commie hearts, through and through and if the ocean were to take them all, it would be awesome.

      Yes, I will admit that Westerners are open to new people. It is part of the Western Code (yes, it is still alive, no matter who makes fun of it) that you don't judge a man by his past, but by his actions today. How do you think thousands and thousands of Confederates were able to pour into this country and build lives for themselves after the war. The West was a place for second chances, new beginnings and a place, for the most part, free of interfering Yankee feds. The wonderful part is that all those Confederates brought all their best customs and traditions with them.

      The West is big place. People had to help each other just to stay alive. Part of the Code is you minded your own business, but you ALWAYS are neighborly, someone's life might depend on it. You might think that isn't so nowadays, and maybe in the cities it doesn't apply so much, but in the rural West it still does.

      My only credentials for my opinion are that of someone born in the Southwest and raised in Nevada and Wyoming, and who has lived in nine Western states. My people all arrived to the West from the South, where the best part of them had settled after leaving Ireland and Scotland.

      I am a Westerner with Southern roots that run deep and I am not alone.

      Miss Violet

    3. Very good and thank you for your time composing this.

  3. I agree.
    I am a Southerner, born in Alabama and raised in South Carolina.
    I feel completely at home in cowboy country.
    - Charlie

  4. My daughter is "Grits" - girl raised in the South. My sons are sons of the South... "sweet potato pie and shut my mouth". I was born and raised in the west, moved to the South after duty with my beloved Corps, and north Georgia will always be considered 'home', despite our moving west in '10 for economic/family reasons. I guess that makes us Southern in our roots, and Western in our hearts. But we still pray at supper, we still say "yes ma'am" and "no sir"... and if you don't care for that we don't give a damn. We've got family in small towns in the south and the west, and the towns are almost interchangeable - down to earth folks who are quite a contrast to cityfolk - they don't understand us, and we surely don't understand them. Seems we share a country, but as the election showed; not much else. And, seems most of us are "angry men".
    I will leave you with an old Gaelic toast... from the Scots/Irish that began the Southern heritage..
    "here's to us, and those like us... deal the wine..." Grandpa

    1. Thanks and that is a great song and should have been really popular except for liberal scorn.