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Mockingbird Song

Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes of the South

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Mockingbird Song
    Book Description:

    The American South is generally warmer, wetter, weedier, snakier, and more insect infested and disease prone than other regions of the country. It is alluring to the scientifically and poetically minded alike. WithMockingbird Song, Jack Temple Kirby offers a personal and passionate recounting of the centuries-old human-nature relationship in the South. Exhibiting violent cycles of growth, abandonment, dereliction, resettlement, and reconfiguration, this relationship, Kirby suggests, has the sometimes melodious, sometimes cacophonous vocalizations of the region's emblematic avian, the mockingbird.In a narrative voice marked by the intimacy and enthusiasm of a storyteller, Kirby explores all of the South's peoples and their landscapes--how humans have used, yielded, or manipulated varying environments and how they have treated forests, water, and animals. Citing history, literature, and cinematic portrayals along the way, Kirby also relates how southerners have thought about their part of Earth--as a source of both sustenance and delight.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0519-7
    Subjects: Biological Sciences, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xxi)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xxii-xxii)
    (pp. 1-37)

    In March northern Florida is blessed with azure skies, shirtsleeve-warm days, and best of all, the transporting perfume of orange blossoms wafted upon gentle breezes. Natives greet their early spring happy in a seasonal rhythm denied Floridians in the tropical South. Visitors from still-frigid northern places are simply overwhelmed with enchantment. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, a thirty-one-year-old journalist traveling from Rochester, New York, arrived in the lakeside citrus groves twenty-odd miles below Gainesville in March 1928, and her enchantment became permanent. She and her husband had come for a late-winter vacation, to visit her brothers-in-law, Yankee settlers who had established orchards....

    (pp. 38-74)

    A long century after the Chickasaws, Choctaws, Cherokees, Creeks, and Seminoles walked, rode, or sailed westward to the Territory, about seventy brutal years after the white Mississippi kingdom of slavery fell in fire, and at the very moment its successor, a reorganized cotton empire of mules and sharecroppers, was disintegrating, Vernon Presley built a modest house in East Tupelo, a slightly raffish town later incorporated into Tupelo proper. Presley’s vivacious wife, Gladys, was heavily pregnant—there would be twin sons—and Vernon made them adequate shelter re-flecting their Depression-plagued class: a shotgun house of two in-line rooms. (The name derives...

    (pp. 75-112)

    Before 1800, ‘‘widowed’’ landscapes throughout the western fringes of the Euro-conquered South became public land. During the RevolutionaryWar, beleaguered state governments made cession treaties with sickened and retreating native nations, principally to provide bounties for soldiers, war widows, and anyone who aided the cause of independence. Virginia reserved much of what became Kentucky plus an enormous slice of what became southcentral Ohio for its veterans. And Georgia, by means of a remarkable lottery, distributed what amounted to nearly three-quarters of a big state to more than 100‚000 men, women, and families. The lottery was ‘‘democratical’’ by design, and it evokes,...

    (pp. 113-155)

    The very first history of Virginia—Robert Beverley’s, published in London in 1705—glimpses the delights of great planters’ domestic lives and much else of nature and the countryside. At William Byrd’s Westover on a warm day, Beverley luxuriated in Byrd’s honeysuckle-covered gazebo, hummingbirds fanning his face. Beyond Byrd’s carefully fenced big house and crop fields, though, there was wilderness-apparent, plus innumerable packs of swine running at large and amok. ‘‘Hogs swarm like Vermine upon the Earth,’’ Beverley wrote, ‘‘and are often accounted such, inasmuch that when an Inventory of any considerable man’s Estate is taken by the Executors, the...

    (pp. 156-200)

    In the opening scene of the film version ofTo Hell and Back, a slight, wiry, teenaged version of Audie Leon Murphy (1924–71) stalks prey in the scrub of the Texas Blackland Prairie. Murphy carries a single-shot .22-caliber rifle loaded with his only bullet, and he must succeed in the hunt. His father has deserted Audie’s mother and their dozen children. They are cotton sharecroppers without credit or sufficient family labor— most of the children at home are too young to work. Audie (then called Leon), the oldest boy remaining and bitter about his father, assumes responsibility and brings...

    (pp. 201-256)

    During the 1970s—the decade of jogging and tennis—Americans began to put on weight. Three decades later, public health officials declared an epidemic of obesity. The phenomenon is national. Midwesterners, ever stereotyped as husky, are now bulky; even Californians have added heft, but Mississippians are the fattest Americans—yet another doleful ranking for the Magnolia State. This vast succulence Americans have layered upon themselves corresponds, of course, to the suburbanization of the population. Americans drive more than ever and walk and climb probably less than ever. Very few American cities are walking ones. New York, however, the borough of...

  11. Chapter 6 CITIES OF CLAY
    (pp. 257-311)

    Throughout the temperate and tropical zones of the globe, agriculture made possible the highest expressions of civilization—that is, towns and cities. As the Mesoamerican Neolithic revolution diffused northeastward, first through what we call the South, thousands of towns and not a few large settlements we might term cities appeared. Cahokia, east of present-day St. Louis (and arguably southern), was the largest, but other populous, year-round, and well-forti-fied towns thrived across the South all through the Mississippian era and into the long period of European invasions. European and then African pioneers met native southerners who were civilized in the essential...

    (pp. 312-330)

    The suburban Georgian Clint Mathis, only twenty-five, addressed the U.S. experience of invisibility (or humiliation) in quadrennial World Cup competition on the eve of 2002 match play. A fleet and improvisational striker whose boyhood hero was the unglued Argentinian star Diego Maradona, Mathis was instrumentally blunt about U.S. soccer’s unglorious past: Deal with it and move on, he advised. At little later, in South Korea, Mathis—suddenly appearing with a badly fashioned Mohawk haircut before at least 3 billionfutbolfans on global television—scored the goal that put the United States into the cup quarter-finals. By 2004 he had...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 331-356)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 357-361)