Published 8:44 am Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The eastern side of Richland County showcased “The Shores.”

Simply residing in the gated community provided its inhabitants a considerable amount of prestige. The massive dwellings rimmed Shore Golf Course like a Roman Coliseum.

The huge abodes were more museum than home, adorned with such paintings, furniture and pieces deemed “rare” by hired appraisers. Most rooms were seldom visited, much less used, except to showcase inanimate objects and make their contribution to that delicious term called “square footage.”

Slick Audis, Porches and BMWs zoomed through the crisscrossed streets like pieces on a game board, displaying their owners’ toys while shielding their identity behind tinted glass. The Shores’ inhabitants were divided by a fairly identifiable line between “old money” and “new money,” with considerable advantage to the former.

While the “new” people had yet to really figure out what to do with their riches, the old had long since settled the dispute and embraced the tried, established and expected course that dictated the proper social etiquette. Western Richland found more jeans than suits, more fields than golf courses, more tractors than BMWs. Its residents entertained thoughts and developed schemes around that mystical, magical, addictive word called “land.”

How to work it, rent it, farm it, buy it, accumulate it. Working larger and larger acreages required bigger and bigger equipment. Bigger tractors, planters, sprayers, combines, discs and bank accounts.

The answer to “how much land do you work?” became synonymous with how a man saw himself. A 28-foot disc was more significant than one 24 feet. A tractor with just 10 more horsepower or a combine with a tad larger cutting swath seemed to feed its owner’s reputation and provide an unmatched but short-lived feeling of satisfaction. To “pick up another farm” was an intoxicating achievement that ultimately served to fuel the thirst for more.

So western and eastern Richland, though far different in demographics and lifestyle, were actually more similar than not. For every world has its unseen ladder of success. Only the rungs are different.

Rex Alphin is a farmer, businessman and contributing columnist for The Tidewater News. His email address is