A Land Remembered is a story of three generations of MacIveys and their relationship to the environment around them. The first generation’s main character is Tobias MacIvey and he is who I related to most in the book. Tobias begins the book dirt poor and barely surviving off the land. His main priority throughout the book is providing for his family however he can. After he moves from Georgia to Florida, he starts penning cattle wandering around the swamp in the hopes of selling them. He befriends a Seminole Indian named Keith Tiger and a runaway slave named Skillit who help him with his cattle wrangling. That part of the book was important because it contrasted the hatred of the people Skillit and Keith were hiding from to Tobias’s attitude and which recurred throughout the book in different forms. Tobias goes on to make a pretty good living selling cattle and oranges from his orange grove, his character shows that you can make a good living without harming the environment and sets the stage for his descendants’ stories.
Tobias had a complicated relationship with the environment. When he first arrived in Florida there was barely anything for his family to eat so that was surely frustrating for him. Over time, though, the environment provided for him – almost like a Thank You for being respectful of the environment and in general a good person. He found cattle in the swamp and Keith taught him how to graze them without ruining the environment and eventually used his cattle money to plant an orange grove. He made his living in the most literal sense off the land and while he was respectful of it he ended up being a middle ground between his son Zech who was very committed to preserving natural land and his grandson Sol who wanted to exploit the land for profit. It’s that same middle ground that I like to think I occupy when it comes to environmentalism.
Florida Scrubland, Copyright Ted C. MacRae
This book, at least the parts covering Tobias’s life, is all about his sense of place. He moves the family to Florida because he knows the Civil War will ruin his homeland and he moves them to a place he can barely feed his family at first because of the sandy soil and wild animals. When the house burns down that was the ultimate destruction of his sense of place but all that adversity shapes and informs his perspective and sets him up to prosper in his new land. Whereas he begins the book cursing wild hogs for knocking down his fence he ends the book refusing to fence his land because he doesn’t believe that anyone should own it. An important thing to note is that it seemed as though his attitude toward his sense of place was affected by how much he could get out of the land, rather than the other way around, which I found interesting. Finishing his life with a strong sense of place and being grateful toward the environment left a legacy of sustainability to his son Zech that he carried on throughout his life and which ultimately culminated in Sol’s end of life repentance.
As mentioned, I view Tobias as the middle ground character out of the three main characters, somewhere between Zech the dedicated preservationist and Sol the exploiter. This is how I think of myself on environmental issues – I don’t go out of the way to either preserve the land or exploit it, but rather just coexist with it. I also related with Tobias when he stood up to the men chasing Keith Tiger and Bird Jumper as growing up in a military family I’ve met and befriended people from all walks of life and like to think I’d act the same way if I face a similar situation.