REVIEWSrnThe Fall and Rise ofrnthe House of Hardyrnby Thomas FlemingrnOur Fathers’ Fields: A Southern Storyrnby Jamea Everett KiblerrnColumbia: Uni’versih- of South CarolinarnPress; 444 pp., $29.95rnAnoted Southern literary historianrnonce took me to task for wastingrntime on polemics. The scholar’s task, hernsaid, is to search out the facts and makerncoherent sense of them. In the long run,rnthe trnth of histon.- v’Oidd ineitably correctrnthe fictions of ideolog’. At the timernI was skephcal, and in the succeeding 20rnears my skepticism has only increased.rnNo matter what “facts” are laid on therntable, most people —most educated peoplern—continue to accept the textbookrnversion of history they learned in highrnschool, whether the subject is Pericleanrndemocracy, the character of Richard III,rnor the American War Between thernStates. In diis fixed race of American discourse,rnthe most common exceptions arernnot the independent minds who live examinedrnlives, read serious books, andrnform their own conclusions, but the oneleggedrneccentrics who, having climbedrnonto a hobby horse, cannot dismountrnand must delude themselves into thinkingrnthat they are rmining a race whenrnthe’ are only rocking iir place, interpretingrnPlato’s myth of Adantis as histor}’ orrngi ing anyone but Shakespeare the creditrnfor his plays.rnMost of what we think we know is propaganda,rnand if we are lucky we have hadrnour character nourished on wholesomernpropaganda. George Washington is arnmore interesHng character than the layrnfigure created by Parson Weems, but it isrnnot bad for children to grow up believingrnthat the Father of Our Country was obsessivelyrnhonest. Usually, however, it isrnthe ignoble and dishonest propaganda ofrnAmerica-haters that we now learn inrnschool: the lie that Jefferson is known tornhave carried on with a slave, the lie thatrnFranklin Roosevelt was a brilliant andrnprincipled friend of the common man,rnthe lie that Reconstruction was anythingrnother than a brutal and disgracefulrnepisode lin our national history. In myrnexperience, the best antidote to eil propagandarnis not a more wholesomerncounter-propaganda (e.g., Paul Johnson’srntrivializations of world historv) butrnauthentic first-hand material. Anyonernwho has read in good faith WilliamrnHerndon’s memoir of his law-partnerrnand friend Abraham Lincoln can neverrnregard the 16th President as a saint, andrnany honest reader who spends a few daysrnwith James Kibler’s Our Fathers’ Fieldsrnwill come away w ith a fresh perspectivernnot onlv on the South but on Americanrnhistor)’.rnIf honest)- is to be the theme of this review,rnI should confess that I have knownrnand respected Jim Kibler for several )earsrnand that I regard him as one of die finestrnliving historians of American literature.rnHowever, as much as I have admired hisrnwork, I never thought him capable ofrnproducing such a book as this. In 1989,rnthe 200th anniversar)- of the F’rench Revolution,rnProfessor Kibler bought thernHardv plantation on the Tyger River inrnNewberrv Count), South Carolina.rnSince then he has spent his fimc, his energ)-,rnand his money on restoring the BigrnHouse, replanhng the gardens, and burrowingrnthrough the Hard) familyrnrecords. The result is something like arncore-sample of the American experiencernfrom 1786, when the propert)- jiassed intornthe hands of the Hardys of LunenburgrnCount)-, Virginia, down to 1973, whenrnMiss (i.e., Miz or Mrs.) Alice Hardy, byrnthen in her 80’s, sold the plantaHon andrnnroved into Union.rnTo me, Newberry Count)- has alwaysrnmeant a boring section of road betweenrnColumbia and Greenville, an area of thernstate where, as I recall, there was notrneven one place to eat along the highway.rnLike manv’ parts of the South, the area isrnhaunted b)- ghosts drat sometimes seemrnmore real than the New South promotersrnand politicians who now dominaternthe region. In writing the story of onernhouse and one family, Kibler has playedrnthe part of an Odysseiis, traveling backwardsrnto find his home; and likernOdysseus, who fed the ghosts in die underworldrnon blood that gave them thernpower to speak, he has brought beforernthe reader a succession of Hardy ghosts,rntelling us of their everyday lives: what itrnwas like to farm such a place 150 yearsrnago, the trees they planted and the foodrnthey ate, hov the men of the family graduallyrnbuilt up their estates, and how thernwomen, black and white, kept the peoplernfed and clothed.rnAny social system has its saints and itsrnvillains, and the dominant class of thernantebellum South can show both sorts.rnThe Hard)-s, being neither, may be aboutrnas exemplarv- a family as an historian canrnhope for: Prosperous and successful, theyrncould match neither the power and st)-lernof the Low- Country rice planters nor thernbaronial majest)’ of a Wade Hampton,rnreputed to be the richest man in Americarnon the eve of the War Between thernStates. Kibler does not hesitate to pointrnout that, as a community, the Hardyrnplantation worked in both senses of thernword. The wliite owners w-ere involved,rnhand,s-on, in the day-to-dav- operations ofrnthe place, while the black slaves workedrnhard and were taken care of It was notrnEden, but the testimonies of ex-slavesrncollected in the 1930’s are nostalgicrnrather than resentful. Kibler quotes atrnlength from the narrative of Feaster ofrnnear-by Goshen Hill Plantation. Feasterrnremembered the good food and goodrnfimes at Fourth of July barbecues, but hernalso remembered an abusive overseerrnwho tried to have his way with the women.rnOne day, when he and his brotherrnJohn were picking berries with theirrnmother and other women, the overseerrncame up:rnHe argued vvid both mammy andrnol’ lady Lucy; and dey kept tellingrnhim dat de nrissus want her berriesrnand dat dey was ‘ligious wimmensrnanyhow and didn’t practice no liferno’ sin and vile wickedness. Finallyrnhe got down ofiFn his boss and pullrnout his whip and ‘low if dev didn’trnsubmit to him he gwine to beatrndem half to death.rnThe boys ran away to watch. Thernoverseer takes off his clothes and laysrndown the whip, at which point the womenrn”grab him by the goatee and furtherrnDECEMBER 1998/29rnrnrn