Carolina Christmas: Archibald Rutledge's Enduring Holiday Stories

Carolina Christmas: Archibald Rutledge's Enduring Holiday Stories

Carolina Christmas: Archibald Rutledge's Enduring Holiday Stories

Carolina Christmas: Archibald Rutledge's Enduring Holiday Stories

Synopsis

Carolina Christmas collects for the first time holiday stories of Archibald Rutledge (1883-1973), one of the most prolific outdoor and nature writers of the twentieth century and the first poet laureate of South Carolina. Some of Rutledge's finest writing revolves around his vivid memories of hunt, hearth, and holidays. These memories are celebrated in this keepsake collection of enduring stories and poems, further augmented with traditional recipes and food lore associated with the season.
Archibald Rutledge spent decades teaching at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania. All the while he supplemented his income through his writings in order to support a growing family and restoration efforts at Hampton Plantation, his ancestral home in coastal South Carolina--now a state historic site. Each Christmas, Rutledge returned to his cherished Hampton Plantation for hunting, celebrations of the season, and renewal of his decidedly Southern soul. This annual migration home meant the opportunity to enjoy hunting and communion with nature--so vitally important to him--and to renew acquaintances with those living on neighboring plantations and with the African American community he immortalized in his book God's Children.
Rutledge wrote dozens of stories and poems revolving around the Hampton Hunt, fellowship with family and friends, the serenity of the winter woods, and his appetite for seasonal Southern foodways. Edited by Jim Casada, this collection highlights the very best of Rutledge's holiday tales in a vibrant tapestry through which Christmas runs as a bright, sparkling thread. In these tales of Christmas past--each representative of the author's sterling literary reputation and continuing popularity--Rutledge guides us once more into a world of traditions now largely lost. But to tread those forgotten trails once more, to sample and savor the foods he loved, and to experience vicariously the sport he so enjoyed is to experience the wonder of yesteryear.

Excerpt

Hampton hunts and wildwood walks are experiences I have shared vicariously with Archibald Rutledge from the days of starry-eyed youth to the present. As a youngster his stories in Field & Stream and Outdoor Life so entranced me that I carefully timed my visits to the barbershop in order to be sure to face a lengthy wait for a barber’s chair. That wait ensured ample opportunity to read and savor his latest contributions to the magazines. Many of the finest of those pieces dealt with the Christmas season, and the passage of two generations and appreciably greater familiarity with his work has merely served to reinforce my enchantment with the writings of this squire of the Santee.

That enchantment, along with realization of just how deeply the celebration of Christmas figured in his love of Hampton Plantation, underlies this work. Only after one reads and ponders the dozens of Yuletide stories he wrote does full realization come of his passion for the season’s traditions and the way they had long been celebrated at his cherished home by the river.

Hunting was an integral and important part of the season, a welcome escape and chance to reconnect with the good earth of the Low Country after months of exile in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where Rutledge taught for thirtythree years as he endeavored to raise a family and somehow resurrect the faded glory of the familial home. One senses that when the long train ride south ended, a burden lifted from Rutledge’s mind, and for three weeks or so, year after year, his spirits soared, and he gained new inspiration for the poetry and prose that flowed from his pen in impressively prolific fashion.

To be sure, Old Flintlock, as he was known to family and friends, hunted in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t the same, though, for in his hunter’s heart nothing quite matched the hallelujah chorus of a pack of hounds triumphantly coursing a whitetail, an approach to outdoor life that ran like a sparkling thread through the entire fabric of Southern sport. He would enjoy the thrills of the chase virtually every day of the Christmas break, and when he wasn’t hunting deer there were always wild turkeys (then hunted in fall and winter rather than spring), quail, waterfowl, rabbits, squirrels, woodcock, snipe, and more. Joyful as the experience was, Rutledge savored it even more thanks to sharing the Hampton hunt with his sons, extended family, and neighbors. in fact once Arch Jr. was gone, dying while still a young man, things were never quite the same.

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