There's a real towhead. I'm surprised at how much I still look like that kid. That's a portrait of a child that knew way too much. I grew up in a community ruled by women. Some of them smart, but, ruthless, some of them beat down and dumber than dirt. None of them had any education and little opportunities. What they had was an instinct for survival. My mother had sisters. All of the sisters always lived and traveled together with their respective families. We lived many places but, mostly up and down the coastline between California and Oregon. In these places, are lush valleys where gypsies can pick fruit. Sometimes we lived in share cropper shacks, sometimes trailers, even a chicken shed once, sometimes we lived in the cars. Sometimes we'd find an abandoned mansion that held us all under one roof. Free, because it had no plumbing or electric. Those women could make a cozy camp any place. They could make do.
Men played a role too, men were deemed necessary by the women. A woman had to have a husband, that's the way it was. A single woman was a sorry and pitiful thing. But, the men in our family were all drunks, drug addicts, gamblers, criminals and worse. Only the women raised children, brought home the bacon and did anything domestic. That went without question, it was an accepted fact. The men's job was to tinker with motors, drive the caravans to the next location and mow any lawns, should we be fortunate enough to find a place with a lawn. Thier job description must have also included getting inebriated on a regular basis and inflicting fear and violence, yet, providing comedy relief when they weren't homicidal. Their behavior also gave the women something to cry about. Drama was a boredom reliever. That, and country music. Oh, things would go alright for a week, maybe a month, but, then life would throw some shit, as it's a might to do, and then, look out. Fights would break out and a woman might have to dye her kid's hair (I guess drunk men can't recognize their offspring with different hair) and take to the road. All the sisters would follow, leading the caravan of beat up vehicles back to Grandma's house in Iowa to hide out and get a divorce once and for all.
Then there would come the "makin' up" as which ever daddy had committed the unspeakable acts found his spouse and begged for forgiveness. (Usually it was mine.) There'd be more fights and threats of suicide and drunken brawls complete with gunfire. Usually him, sometimes her. There were kidnappings and fiddle playing. When you broke out a fiddle or a romantic guitar after a week of fighting, things changed. Maybe they were just worn out and needed a rest. Those were known as good times and women forgave, kids were packed up and everybody hit the road again. Sometimes Grandma closed up her house and packed up her Bible and medicinal herbs and joined the gang. Us kids all liked it when that happened because Grandma always had food and she never hit us. She didn't make us work too hard either. The way Grandma figured it, a kid shouldn't put in more than a half a days labor. At least until they reached the ripe old age of 10. With Grandma around, sometimes we stayed in one place long enough to register for school.
We got most of our school clothes at the dump. People throw out good things. We also got chickens from the dump. Grandma always had chickens for fresh meat and eggs...and company. It's a little known fact that chickens can be great company. Chickens take 21 days to hatch ( see how I still remember that?) and if the eggs didn't hatch on time, the factories would throw them out. Baby chickens would hatch in the garbage and be running and pecking all over that dump. A good childhood memory is catching boxes of baby chickens with Grandma to take home and raise. You can't do that anymore. Factories pour chemicals all over the eggs now to kill the late hatchers. No more free chickens. I also remember shooting rats at the dump. It was good practice even though I felt sorry for the rats. But, rats could get in the house and they got mean. Everybody had a rat bite story. One time I left the loaded rifle laying out, I knew better, but, I was only seven, anyhow, Dad came home on a bender and got into it with an Uncle over a gambling debt and Dad ended up shooting Uncle in the leg. It wasn't so bad though, it was a wooden leg. I sure enough took a whippin' for that one. Wooden legs are expensive. His wife had to use up half her welfare check the next month to get him another one and I learned my lesson. Kids have to learn things the hard way sometimes.
Is this the kind of stuff you want to read, Nina? It's dark and weird, but, it is the truth. I don't know if I have a book in me, or if this is just nonsense.