Chapter Six: Editor’s Introduction and Notes Regarding L. James Richardson

Let’s be honest and forthcoming, unlike most of the people of Vine: I am not L. James Richardson. Far from it. I am a historian and Vine resident, and the number of people who have been able to hold those two qualifications with a straight face over the last 200 or so years is vanishingly small. 

Not much is known about L. James Richardson, Vine’s first official historian. He is a signatory on some founding documents, a listed secretary on most meetings. It’s believed his family were poor English migrants who lived in squalor in South Carolina or Georgia, but he clearly received some sort of education. Unaccounted years in his biography were embellished by Richardson himself, who, when not working in his official capacity as town historian, was a prodigious drunk and a blowhard. He claimed a Harvard education, also claimed his grandfather was the third son of an indifferent Norwegian lord who made his way to America to find gold and earn a fortune to get in the good graces of the French nobility. Is any of this supported by primary sources? Shit no. Of course, all information we can access in Vine is limited, by Council decree. So history, myth, folklore, genealogy, even physical evidence found in the ecology of Vine—all are bizarrely intertwined and the distinctions between them at times unknowable. 

That’s where I come in. Look, I might be a drunkard, but like Socrates, I know what I don’t know. One thing I do know is that ol’ L. James had some pretty rose-tinted glasses about Vine and its founding and mission. Now me, I’m not some stuffy settler dork. Am I doing a definitive history of Vine with this book? Hopefully. Remains to be seen. Anyone reading this might find me simultaneously more rigorous and yet less rigorous than L. James Richardson. Truth, however, turns out to be a little more complicated than the settlers would have you believe. 

If it helps—I suppose it should be obvious—I was born in Vine, raised in Vine, left Vine for only two years to go to Seminary half a state over, and was dragged back to Vine by cosmic forces I can only begin to understand just before last call at Gentleman Jim’s. I didn’t even finish Seminary, for Christ’s sake, but feel as though a book like this might be similar work, if with a slightly different aim. At any rate, suffice to say that this place—this supposedly consecrated land for God’s chosen people in the Americas—Vine grabs ahold of you. You are not the one who decides when you are released. 

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