Wednesday, 20 April 2022 18:54

Farewell, Jigs Gardner

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Farewell, Jigs Gardner

Barry MacDonald — Editorial

The St. Croix Review, and its readers, have lost a prized writer. Jigs Gardner has died. He was a benevolent cranky person. His essays always appeared in the last pages of the Review — his placement never meant that he was the least among us; rather, it meant that we were saving the best for last.

Jigs first appeared in our journal in the August 2004 issue. Jigs was a passionate seeker of the truth long before he came to us. His was a life in search of weighty and lofty significance and satisfaction. He found his treasure in his marriage, in his family, in his love of excellent literature, and in the tenacity of farming — he had to discipline himself to absorb the hard lessons that nature meted out to him.

When I first read Jigs’ writing, I recognized the quality of a genuine American. His stubborn self-reliance was prominent from the beginning. He did not sugar his opinions. He told us exactly what he thought, and he did it with vigor and detail.

The readers of The St. Croix Review went on a journey with Jigs. We experienced his youthful dabbling with socialism, involving the ’60s myth-making of a return to “the country” for societal renewal. We watched his, and his wife, Jo Ann’s, disillusionment with leftist nostrums, as the Gardners were hard put to wrest a meager living through farming a small homestead in Vermont. Jigs and Jo Ann found that they had to learn skills that were unsuited to a faculty lounge. The Gardners cleared forests, plowed with horses, canned vegetables, made maple syrup, slaughtered livestock, managed cattle, and did a dozen other chores. They ennobled themselves by turning these chores into forms of art.

Along the way with Jigs, we encountered all sorts of people who thrived in the backlands of America. These were people who were unused to the vaporously wordy, commercialized, sophisticated, and cynical ways of city people. Jigs brought to life not the middle-class strata of fly-over country but the people who struggled with the rigors of the country. They were self-reliant because they have had to be. Nature demands respect and adaptation to her ways. Too many Americans nowadays behold the people that Jigs presented with contempt. Country people are uncouth in the eyes of sophisticates.

Jigs recognized in rural communities the genuine heritage of America. Country Americans embody the virtues of simplicity, practicality, endurance, intelligence, and resilience. These plain folk are the roots of America. As “globalizing” Americans turn their backs on our heritage, we lose touch with the qualities that have brought our prosperity.

Jigs Gardner also wrote 91 essays on literature under the title “Writers for Conservatives.” There is plenty of criticism in these essays — Jigs revealed shoddiness and human frailty — such as dishonesty, fraudulence, nastiness, and conceit. Jigs had an acute sense of what a “culture” is. He well described the strengths of people who live in out-of-the-way places. He chronicled the slow dissipation and disintegration of these communities due to the dispersal of generations as children are absorbed into the larger culture. There is a sorrow that runs through Jigs’ essays. Jigs wrote about what it means to be sincere, honest, well-intentioned, and hardworking — and he showed that these virtues are always endangered. Jigs demonstrated what it means to be conservative.

Jigs has passed away, but his writing deserves to live. Both of the titles that he wrote under, “Letters from a Conservative Farmer,” and “Writers for Conservatives,” are separate from the daily news cycle. Jigs epitomized enduring American themes. Jigs inspired and elevated. The majority of our readers haven’t read his early essays; and I guess those who have will appreciate a re-reading of them.

We will republish his essays from the beginning. After this issue his essays will return again to their accustomed place in the rear of the Review. The material is as fresh today as it was originally. The essays are timeless. Jigs reminds us of what it means to be American.   *

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Barry MacDonald

Editor & Publisher of the St. Croix Review.

www.stcroixreview.com
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