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See You In A Hundred Years

by: Logan Ward

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See You In A Hundred Years
by Logan Ward
Benbella Books

Has the stess of today's world with instant communication (Internet, cell phones, and texting), long work hours, and hectic urban pacing made a life on a rural farm seem appealing?  Author Logan Ward decided to take this to an extreme.

Back in 2000, Ward (a free lance writer) and his wife left their fast-paced world in New York City with their 2 year old son in tow.  The idea was simple on the surface.  Ward and his family would live for a year on a rural farm in Virginia with only what was available 100 years ago.  This meant no car, no electricity, no phone, no refrigeration, etc.

Ward had traveled to third world countries before and lived in them.  That prepared him mentally for the challenge. 

This book, which is at times humorous, but mostly touching and poignant, really is about a journey.  Ward is a native of South Carolina.  His wife Heather is from Alabama.  Like many Southerners of the post-baby boom world, they felt the need to flee the South and all of its constraints, both perceived and real. 

See You In A Hundred Years chronicles this hard journey home for Ward and his family.  The stress of NYC gets replaced by the stress over the lack of rainfall during the summer and concern about having enough food for the winter.  Instead of becoming closer with his wife, they work from dawn until dusk leaving little time before exhaustion takes them off to sleep.

Ward even has several encounters with parts of the South that he wanted to leave behind, from real estate speculators to fast driving cars uncaring of the dirt roads beneath them to some "just this side of drunk and violent" hunters that trespass and he fears will endanger his family.

In the end, Ward's book, much like life itself, is about the home you find as you set out to take a journey somewhere else.  Ward proves that the present and all of its technology can never be ignored, but his quest ends up bringing him, his family, and his new community in rural Virginia together.

There is a critical moment in the book when Heather's family visits, and she cooks a meal for them.  This brings her parents to remember their own southern and rural pasts.

Ward struggles with the past and his relationship to it throughout the book, but a discussion with a friend helps him gain some clarity.

[W]hen I got to college, I vowed not to take a single history class if I could help it.  The past had alread happened.  It was dead." And so Ward ask his friend John who had also moved from a big city (Washington DC) to restore an old farmhouse, "why bother about the past?"  He answers him:

I don't think the past should dictate the future, but it's a good foundation.  Passing down culture from generation to generation is one of the things that separates man from other creatures.  Personally, I want that link to the past.  We find ourselves through the long trail of those who've come before us.

In that sentence, one of the main reasons for Swampland.com's existence is understood.

Like Patterson Hood and the Drive-By Truckers epic "Southern Rock Opera", See You In A Hundred Years marks the journey of a Southerner (really two Southerners because Heather is one of the book's brightest lights), and his return home.  Never to be lost is the understanding that a place is the people that live there, and what they make of it.

- Jim Markel

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