Friday, July 31, 2015

North and South: A Regionalist/Jingoist Rant.

Part I: Geopolitics

So there’s this movie (miniseries really) on Netflix that I just love. It’s called North & South and stars Richard Armitage. You may remember him from the Hobbit movies, but after you see him in North and South, you will remember him for North and South.


It’s based on the book of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell. But I digress.

The “North” and “South” of this story are not the ones that Americans think of. This is not a Civil War movie, it’s an industrial revolution movie that takes place in England. And in this case the north means Manchester (they call it Milton, but trust, it is Manchester) and the South means the New Forest, Oxford, or London, depending on who’s talking. At most, we’re talking about a distance of about 250 miles. Yet every character in the story believes that the places are so far apart geographically and culturally that their people could never be compatible.

America is a really BIG country. How would the characters in North and South react to learn that Portland is as close to South Carolina as Moscow is to Morocco?*

This is something I have had plenty of opportunities to ponder lately when talk to turns to a certain flag, presidential candidate, Supreme Court or whatever mass shooting is in the latest news. Sure, nationwide media networks and The Facebook are homogenizing culture. Very, verrrrrrrrrry gradually. In a lot of ways, The North is still The North and The South is still The South.

Part 2: Tennessee

With 2,000 miles between the Northwest and Southeast of our country, it only stands to reason that there would be cultural differences. One of the big ones that drives me crazy (and believe me, there are lots of things about The South that drive me crazy) is the old-boy culture around gaited horses.

Of course, this is #NotAllSoutherners. There are tons of decent, educated, caring people raising gaited horses in the Deep South. Also, there are probably some real shitbags raising gaited horses in Oregon. All kinds of people live in all kinds of places, blah blah blah.

But as a member of several gaited horse sales groups on Facebook, I have seen some really appalling things, and the worst of them seem to be concentrated in the cluster of horribleness that extends along southern TN into northern MS and AL.

I happened to live in that area one summer. (At the corner of Central and Lamar in Memphis, to be specific.) And two or three times that summer I drove four hours down highway 72 to visit a friend in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now for all my book learnin’ and long-distance family vacations and a generally high opinion of myself and my worldliness, I have no idea how I survived that summer. I look back at it now with kind of a fond disbelief. I was 22 but I might as well have been a chick that just emerged from the egg. What I really needed was a grizzled old broad or maybe a fading southern dandy to spell things out to me. 

Part 3: Real horses

I mean, even for a 22-year-old from central Nebraska, my naivety was pretty staggering. I was very, VERY lucky that social media was in its infancy so the audience for my idiocy was small.

Whenever I get frustrated with some young person being ignorant on Facebook, all I have to do is think of the summer of ‘04 and remember that I, too, was a garbage person until I was 27 or 28 at least.

Below is one such ignorant young garbage person.

The photo was the first thing I saw. Glancing as I scrolled, my eyes and brain said “Ugh, I hate that awkward phase yearlings go through.”

Then, double take. “I wonder what they do with all that green grass he’s standing in since the horse clearly isn’t eating it.”

Then, triple take when I read the actual ad.

I wish I had been able to get another screen shot of the ongoing conversation before the owner took down the ad. The basic story is this: She is a student at a certain institution of higher learning in Knoxville and is starving and ruining the legs of baby horses** (she currently has 3 for sale on FB) in order to pay her tuition at vet school.


Part 4: Model horses

So the other thing I want to draw your attention to is this whole notion of how wonderful it is that our little tobiano friend’s grandsire was a World Champion at The Celebration.

You’ll only need to watch the video once, if at all.

(If you'd rather go to YouTube)

In short, The Celebration celebrates horse abuse. Hooray! *sarcasm*

There isn't much I can do about this from my deep left-coast location. But one opportunity presented itself recently: A little model horse activism on the topic of big lick TWH. From their Facebook site: 
The Sound TWH Challenge is a project where model horse artists will be taking on the challenge of turning an equine mold that depicts the "Big Lick" gait and turns it into a sound and flat shod Tennessee Walking Horse. These beautiful works of art will then be auctioned off on My Auction Barn where 100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to FOSH (Friends of Sound Horses).

I decided to participate in the challenge as soon as I read the blurb. What’s more, I want to create a barefoot distance horse.
All credit to Emily, who used Photoshop to show how easily you could turn this:

Into this:

But I’m a little more ambitious than that. So I’m working on something more like THIS:

Dr. Garlinghouse and John Henry (who are at Tevis this very moment!)

I haven’t decided on a color yet, but I was thinking maybe a portrait of a certain former big-lick turned 100-mile mare?

That mare came from the South but is thriving in the West (as is her owner, as far as I can tell. :) ). If there is hope for Dixie (the horse), I think there is also hope for Dixie (the place).


*Call it about 2,400 miles. Google Maps is one of the great wonders of our time. Don’t take it for granted.

** I didn't link to his sale video because I'm letting this young garbage person's audience stay small. Sam does indeed have a cute little gait. Also, his age (2.5) perfectly matches his body score (2.5). It's kind of amazing he has the strength to gait at all. He might not be so gentle and easygoing if he were fed.