"I grew up in Macon, which I am told is the exact center of Georgia, but I moved North. I moved to Maryland, which I consider the North, and it was in Maryland that I realized just how Southern I am. I missed the flavor of Georgia tomatoes; the red clay; the way rain smells on a warm street; the way you see a farmer off in a field on a tractor, and you don't know him and he don't know you, but you beep and he waves and it's just people. I had this craving for the longest time before I realized it was (for) grits."
McLaurin also referred to this craving for roots. "I'm from Fayetteville (N.C.). I'm the first in my family to go away, to go to college. I've lived in Africa, I've lived around . . . but those 70 acres are home eternal."
And he pulled a small pouch out of his pocket, and drew out a plastic bag. "My brother sent me this," McLaurin said. "It's home dirt. And I've carried it with me for eight years."
There were moments of awe-inspiring solemnity, such as during one seminar on the revolution in Southern historical writing. Stooped Thomas D. Clark, nearing 90, spoke with passion of seeing small black children lynched, and of the breathtaking illumination of the South by rural electric power.