Southern Seen

Meditations on Past and Present

  • Author(s): McGehee, Larry T.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2005-04-28
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $19.95 | Buy Now

While working at the University of Tennessee in the early 1980s, Larry T. McGehee was looking for a way to share the wealth of history, politics, art, and culture with the residents of the South’s small towns. He hit upon the idea of a newspaper column that would run in the region’s weekly papers. Through his stories, McGehee encouraged people to look at the people, places, and things around them with a fresh set of eyes.

Southern Seen collects McGehee’s numerous columns exploring the South’s history, inhabitants, mannerisms, food, and foibles. The book is divided into eight categories: outdoors, place, education, people, conflict, food, play, and religion. His subjects range from the outdoors and the creatures that inhabit it to the Civil War and its battle sites to unique southern symbols and the South’s particular culinary delicacies. The author celebrates the traditions and work of the harvest season and extols the beauty of migrating hummingbirds and the rare delight of a southern snowstorm. McGehee meditates on the drastic changes machines and inventions, such as air conditioning, have brought to the region, and he looks for lessons in the mighty floods that occur in the contemporary South.

The columns, by turns funny and poignant, biting and sweet, celebrate the past and look to the future. The wild turkey, once common in the backcountry brush, is now an example of a vanishing forest population, and local farmers’ markets strive to sustain the livelihood of embattled small family farmers. McGehee applies the legacy of the Hatfield-McCoy feuds to the regional and international strife of modern times and examines the sacrifice and contributions of the South’s young men who served in the wars of the last century. He revels in the pride of each part of the region for its own unique barbecue and delights in the memories of the small-town drugstore, which offered everything from health advice to a cream soda.

Through the stories of famous figures, local residents, and the folk traditions that shape everyday life, McGehee celebrates the diversity of life in the South and offers irreplaceable insights into what continues to make the region unique.