A Midwesterner’s Introduction to the South and Southern Food — Part 6
A Confederate general, named Nathan Bedford Forrest, fascinated me. My interest was held captive by Forest. I found him to be an anomoly in my mind because he professed to be a Christian and yet owned and traded many slaves. I had also read that he was the first grand dragon of the Klu Klux Clan. At that point I had no idea that slavery was endorsed by many Christians that owned plantations or had the money to buy slaves for their businesses or homes. I would never have guessed as a teenager that I would someday walk the high points above the Tennessee River where Forrest had ridden and killed people to protect his freedom to deny black men, women, and children their freedom.
A college friend and I studied his military tactics and recognized his prowess and intelligence in the art of raids. Forrest would appear with his calvary when least expected, strike with overwhelming power, and then disappear into the dense forests not to be seen until his next attack. I became convinced the South would have been much wiser to avoid huge battles with the Union, and instead rely on the strategy of Forrest–the use of small bands of committed Calvary trained in the tactics of surprise and retreat. Fortunately for the unity of the republic, it didn’t and the Confederacy couldn’t compete with the numbers, resources, and leadership forwarded by the Union.
My getaway involved five days in the home of a friend’s family. I was comfortable going to a tobacco and cattle farm because my parents were sharecroppers on a large farm in Iowa. I ogled the house as we came up the driveway. It was so big. It appeared three-times larger than the Iowa tenant house of our four member family. A few towering oaks and maples hid part of the view of the long ranch style house. White columns stood elegantly across the front porch. I guessed many a cup of iced tea had been consumed while relaxing on the inviting porch swing. Despite the fact that Mr. Mark raised tobacco, I would never see a cigarette or pipe smoked within view of the house. However, I did learn that the Grandma living in the house often snuck away to her bedroom for a dip of snuff—a habit that no one else found tasteful. Few tobacco farmers realized or took seriously that their tobacco plants held a strong potential to lead to mouth, throat, or lung cancer.