Sunday, June 29, 2008

Home By The River

Required Summer Reading part 2

Home By The River by Archibald Rutledge

This a true story of coming home again. It takes place in coastal South Carolina at the ancestral home of Archibald Rutledge. When he returns in 1937 after a forty-four year absence, Hampton Plantation is over-grown with weeds and deserted. The house is surrounded by two thousand acres of land bordered on the north by the Santee River. It's been in his family since 1686 when a Huguenot ancestor fled France.

Rutledge tells of the river, the other great rice-growing plantations of the region, and the wildlife that thrives in their midst. Because of his families ties to the land that go far back in history, his stories go to ancient times. We hear of Indians, primeval forests, and legendary storms. Rutledge also tells of the gentle and refined social life at Hampton Plantation. This is not a sugar-coated romantic South, but one fleshed out with real people and places.

My favorite tales in Home by The River are about the birds and the forests. Because the aspects of the property are so varied, from swamp to brush to dry woodland, a wide variety of wildlife are found there. Some are migrating species and some call it home all year. The rice fields attract songbirds, game, and water fowl. Rutledge describes the combined voices of all these birds as a "medley rather than a chorus".

The book includes many photographs of Hampton Plantation, it's furnishings, and people who lived there. A parish church and neighboring house are also shown. Archibald Rutledge uses an old southern romantic voice that transports you back to another time. It's a sweet dream to escape on for a summer vacation.

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