on the wild and the house trailer


Just as the mountain started it’s upward slant from Columbus City Road, just above my great-grandmother’s field and catfish pond, just up from the river and all the camp grounds, was our house-trailer, at the end of a steep dirt road, rain-washed and lined with stumps. I lived there my first four years, and it was not squalor or messy or piled thirty crashed yard-cars high. 

It was all light, work boots, and rocking chair, my parents in their young, poor, and passionate art, painting, hunting, and making do. 

I had a pony, and I helped my daddy feed hogs and goats. We saved our table scraps for the dog, didn’t throw much away.

We planted strawberries in a side field in the sunny cold of early Alabama April. I wore a vest. He had a five-gallon bucket of bream fish, and at the bottom of each dug post-hole, we threw one fish flopping, covered it in black dirt, and then planted strawberries, their heart-shaped leaves, sweet promises.

I didn’t know you all didn’t grow up that way, planting, swinging in a tire, fearing yellow jackets, hearing the wildcat scream  down the pines’ megaphone. 

I remember off the back was a small porch, where my legs dangled yards above the ground, hanging over the hill toward the river. Daddy used posts of cyprus, and I peeled the bark as it dried, and I held it to my nose, and the sky was flamboyant, all birds on pink, the wind stealing my hair for their nests.

We were all together wild and dependent,

and that was my most free.

amberhaines
About me

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21 Comments

brittney
Reply January 8, 2010

I wish we all could have grown up that way. I get glimpses of such a childhood from my husband's stories, and how he wants our baby boy to grow up the same. I experienced fragments of growing up planting and fearing yellow jackets - I even have a vivid memory of those yellow jackets and blackberries - and I agree with him.

Oh, and I think it is beyond neat that you had a pony!

    Amber
    Reply January 8, 2010

    Brittney, I did have a pony, but in my memories, he was a wild stallion. Once I sneaked out when daddy left home. I wanted to prove I could ride him without help, so I tried climbing up his tale. Our dog kept the pony from trampling me to death, and then Daddy sold the pony to a man name Peanut.

    I couldn't make this stuff up.

Jo@Mylestones
Reply January 8, 2010

I love learning about you this way. I could gaze all day at the pictures you paint in our heads.

deidra
Reply January 8, 2010

We all grow up thinking everyone's got what we've got. And then we get older and start bumping into others who knew a different thing and it makes us each so much richer to know the different thing we never knew before.

jolyn
Reply January 8, 2010

I love what Deidra said.

My husband's from Alabama. He would never claim to be a poet, nor would he even want to. But oh does he have a way with words. I'm of solid midwestern stock and never heard metaphors spoken the way my husband breathes them effortlessly. I think all native Alabamans have a bit of poet in them, whether they like it or not.

Ol' Seth
Reply January 8, 2010

Jolyn,

The first time I visited Amber's native homestead, her father told me stories about ol' Peanut, and ol' Stumpy, and ol' Roy (the dog) and described someone named ol' something as "drunker than a boiled owl." Every time I visit, I learn some new expression that flam-buzzles me. I agree with you--all Alabamians have a touch of poet in them. Some deeper than others, I suspect, but still there nonetheless.

Kimberly
Reply January 8, 2010

Oh, how I long for that kind of freedom...

Kelly
Reply January 8, 2010

oh good grief - MUST you write so beautifully? Amber, this taks my breath away - and there, even that is trite after reading about a life I now want to have lived myself, just to have written this!

"It was all light, work boots, and rocking chair, my parents in their young, poor, and passionate art, painting, hunting, and making do."

I do hope our kids remember us in this way...

Corinne
Reply January 8, 2010

It sounds dreamy in a hard working, look up to the sun smiling kind of way.

Janna
Reply January 8, 2010

How do you pronounce bream, 'cause we call it something that sounds more like brim? This is you at your best, and that last paragraph is perfect.

Amber
Reply January 8, 2010

Joanne, I have to get rid of some of those pictures here just to keep myself in order. Some things are starting to blur together from those early days. I don't want them to. Thanks for looking at my pictures with me.

Deidra, I would love to see, hear, read what you had, what you saw from childhood. I'm feeling a guest post request to you.

Jolyn, when I go back, some of the things I hear amaze me. The metaphors are nonstop. Last time I was with TN family, my aunt talked about her allergies and said her eyes looked like the bloody ponds. The bloody ponds refers to the two pond filled with blood at the Battle of Shiloh in the CIVIL WAR! We have so many metaphors because we have very long memories. The Civil War!

Seth, let us not mention Cooter Brown.

Kimberley, I long for that freedom, too. That's why I write.

Kelly, you're one to talk. Thank you, and I have a safe feeling that your kids will remember you that way.

Corinne, you've got it right on. Sometimes I don't know how much of these things I'm imagining, but I guess when it comes down to it, I don't care if I'm remembering it wrong.

Janna, Yes! It's brim. I looked it up, though, and that's how google told me to spell it (bream). I'm such a horrible speller. So many words I say, but I've never seen in print. Reading more would probably remedy that.

Aimee
Reply January 8, 2010

West Virginians share some of these metaphors. Cooter Brown being one of them. I grew up in southern West Virginia in Mingo County, which is more rural. My husband grew up in town near the capitol. He has often referred to things I say as Mingo Lingo.

My great-grandmother would always say, " 'Pon M'honor" which is short for "Upon My Word and Honor." But I always thought she was saying Palmolive and as a child, never understood why she would say the name of a dishwashing liquid. Honest to goodness, it wasn't until she died when I was 15 did I know what she was really saying.

So have you read anything by Rick Bragg and if you have, don't you love him?

    Amber
    Reply January 8, 2010

    Aimee, I have read some of Rick Bragg, enough to know that I he knows my language, knows my people. It's some good stuff.

    I can totally hear "pon m'honor"

deb
Reply January 8, 2010

Oh my.
Thank you.
I am most free now, tethered to life, but still longing for that kind of childhood
and through words such as these I get pieces. Thank you.

Minnesotamom
Reply January 8, 2010

I lived my first three years in a trailer park. They didn't have the stigma then that they do now. I remember going 'round the bend to play at my friends' trailer, the brown carpet in the living room, playing in a plastic kiddie pool outside...that's about it. I'm sure I wasn't scarred by the experience, anyway.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus
Reply January 8, 2010

Your wild freedom catches my breath and takes it somewhere up in that wind that stole your hair.

You, ... sweet you.

Thank you
for sharing
you
with us.

Aimee
Reply January 9, 2010

I've been reading "Ava's Man" and love it. I'd like to read more, of his works and others, but more often than not, I'm reading things that rhyme or talk about the potty. :-)

jenni
Reply January 10, 2010

You are wonderful. Where have you been all my life?

Boy Crazy (@claritychaos)
Reply January 10, 2010

I love story-time at The Run Amuck.

I LOVE it.

thank you for the telling.

xo elizabeth

goldengirls59
Reply January 11, 2010

You should write a book about your experiences growing up. Many of us don't grow up that way and I think it's really intriguing. I bet it would be a best seller!

JennieLynn
Reply July 29, 2011

I'm extremely late on this - I recently found your blog and have been catching up :) My dad grew up in Alabama and most of his family is still down there. I emailed your words to him - I know he'll cry bittersweet, missing tears over them.

I can't begin to tell you how beautiful your writing is and how I learn something valuable from every post I read. Thank you so much :)

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