Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Reject the Temporary – Embrace the Timeless

The Black Friday madness is all that anyone needs to see in order to understand a seriously flawed way of thinking. Only hours after celebrating Thanksgiving – a day set aside to thank God for all that we have been blessed with – crowds of people obsessed with buying the latest trinkets from China at a lower price push and shove to grab more “stuff”. Is anything they are buying going to last? Will it be here two years from now? Is there any possibility that it will be handed down to future generations as a treasured heirloom? No, it will end up in a landfill as a testament to consumerism as the highest pursuit, while treating the land as nothing more than a source for raw materials and a dumping ground for last year’s trinkets.

My wife and I enjoy looking through small town antique shops. Occasionally, we will find something to buy, but mostly it is a form of entertainment and a chance to see what generations past have treasured. We have noticed that, over the years, there is more and more high quality furniture and other items available in these shops at very reasonable prices. The shop owners tell us that there is no shortage of items available. Parents die, and their children have no interest in that heavy, solid wood furniture or bone china or old sterling silverware beyond asking, “What’s it worth?”

We hear the same story time after time – today, people would rather buy junk from Ikea or Walmart, knowing that it will last until they get bored with it and want to redecorate or relocate. Dump the old junk, and buy the new junk. The assumption is that there will always be new junk available whenever they need it – an endless supply of new stuff from China, based on an endless supply of raw materials stripped from the land.

Things that are passed down from one generation to the next are not just things – they are tangible connections with our past. That old sideboard in the family farmhouse is not just a worn out cabinet to store things in – it is an item that my ancestors thought highly enough of to take up precious space in a covered wagon when they moved from Alabama to Florida. It is something that each generation is shown as they hear the stories of how our family moved in the days before moving vans and interstate highways.

Don’t short-change those who come after you. Choose things that have lasting value; things that aren’t trendy that will go out of style next year; that won’t fall apart and can’t be repaired. It doesn’t have to be expensive. We have found some very nice solid wood furniture in second hand stores. We have found sets of fine china at the Goodwill store at a price not much more than what you might pay for a good brand of paper plates. Think long term. Think of your descendants. Reject the temporary. Embrace the timeless.


  1. Joe Putnam

    Good points Stephen. In 21st century America, everything is throwaway, from goods purchased to friendships to ancestral heritage. It is all about self, making mammon, and living for now. This must change for our people to have a renaissance.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      There were other examples that came to mind, but I try to keep these posts fairly short so they are a quick read. I’m glad you expanded on the theme with friendships and ancestral heritage – that’s too easily lost in the weeds.

  2. John

    Excellent message! Black Friday is a testament to the modern heart of man.

    May I have your permission to reblog?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I would be honored to have you reblog this. Thank you, sir!

  3. Heather

    All so true. I treasure the things I got from my grandparents, especially their books. And I have an old trunk that my uncle tried to set fire to almost 100 years ago, when he was just a little boy. He was killed in WW 2, before I was born.
    But to me the most important things are the stories, I am so lucky I found my grandfather’s stories so interesting, I was the only one of my siblings or cousins that listened to him talk and tell stories. I so miss the family reunions and the old stories.
    Thanks for writing this, so appropriate right after Thanksgiving and as we approach the birth of our dear Lord and Savior.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      The stories told at the family reunions really hit home for me also. This year (2019) was our 64th annual family reunion. It is held at the family farm house in Newberry, Florida. Our Aunt Evelyn has always been very generous in sharing her memories, and some years ago, I spent a day at the farm with her and my father. I made a video of them talking about their early memories, then we walked around the farm and the house as they pointed out where things used to be, what it looked like, and interesting anecdotes that they remembered. That’s something that I will always treasure.

      This was taken at our 2017 reunion. It’s the back porch of the family farmhouse that faces a field that is usually either in corn or soybeans.
      McGehee family reunion

      • Heather

        Wonderful picture!! I love it! I have a tape of my Grandpa talking, just a few years before he passed, at the age of 95. Unfortunately, I don’t have a tape player right now. Next time I have the great blessing of listening to it, I plan to try and transcribing it. I want all my siblings, cousins, my children and grandchildren to listen to it. I loved and miss my parents and grandparents so much. And I really enjoy your blog. So glad you’re back!
        God bless you always.

        • Stephen Clay McGehee

          Thank you, ma’am. It’s knowing that others appreciate and enjoy The Southern Agrarian that keeps me going. Here’s another photo that is one of my favorites. This is the field that the back porch looks out toward, along with a couple of the little ones playing.
          Farm kids

  4. Dennis L. Peterson

    Well said!

  5. Fugitive Agrarian

    I, too, share your sentimental value. Not been an antique collector per se, but endowed with some items that my consumerism conditioned me to overlook. We are often the better for our folks having the insight and forethought we lack.

    In POLLUTION AND THE DEATH OF MAN (and often in other books) Francis Schaeffer rightly castigates our plastic culture, dehumanization, and mechanicalization of everything. Mod will just never do.

    In light of that, we would do well to look even higher than our present, historic sentiments and invest in the future by ALSO and ESP. accumulating…

    …the acts of giving. For the last 7 years some entities have even dubbed today “Giving Tuesday.”

    Can we post a picture of that? That is certainly counter culture, right?

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I like the term “plastic culture” – it says a lot about where we are today.

      A year or so back, I was in need of a new office desk. I decided that I wanted one that my descendants would want rather than something that would end up in a yard sale. It cost significantly more than something from Walmart that would almost be functionally equivalent – for perhaps a year or so. In effect, I was buying it for my grandchildren rather than just for me. We (I believe) should take that view more often. What will future generations need then rather than simply looking at what we need now.

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