Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Looking for longleaf, sometimes finding it

Lawrence Earley, author of Looking for Longleaf, spoke today in the "Centering the South" series sponsored by the Center for the Study of the American South. Actually Harry Watson announced at the beginning that the series will hereafter be named the James A. Hutchins Lectures, for a 1937 UNC graduate and football star in whose name a portion of the renovations at the Love House are also being made.

I blogged about Earley's book when it came out. It's a fascinating story of a major historical feature in the landscape of North Carolina and much of the South. His slide presentation told the story beautifully, especially about the production of industrial turpentine and the damage and waste that resulted. He said that if he'd been writing the book 15 years ago, he could not have subtitled it the "fall and rise" of the longleaf pine--more like the fall. But an amazing turnaround has happened: the trees are being valued for what they are, in some cases even replacing the faster-growing loblolly. Tree farmers are realizing that there are other uses their property can be put to while they wait for the slow harvest: leasing for hunting rights, for example. It's not a terribly optimistic picture, but I think it qualifies as good news.

My turn in the Centering the South/James A. Hutchins Lectures is up on September 27, when I'll be speaking on Elizabeth Spencer's novel The Voice at the Back Door. I'm delighted that Spencer, just back from a trip to England, is planning to be there too.

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