It’s not ghetto, nor ever considered a place no one wished to live, and dusty from the clay road against which it sits, this sun-scorched, weathered, dark gray, loblolly shack, placed by God on tobacco row.
It’s porch as long as the winter rains and as wide as need be to accommodate a rocker, maybe two.
Pasteboard tacked along inside walls protected, and a wood stove kept croppers warm in years when ambitions fell short and grits saved families from starvation. A thousand times I’d passed those torn and tattered structures, scattered along cotton fields and two-lane Carolina highways.
Smells of sweet Confederate jasmine, with huge magnolia trees and kudzu-covered oaks, planted a century before by plantation owners, scented, clothed and graced the landscape which sank from turn to turn into gator-filled, black water cypress swamps.
A sometimes-magical place teeming with life and the chant of frogs, crickets and the ever-present cicada sang lullabies to a rising yellow moon as it was lifted by Gods hand slowly, oh so slowly through the hot and humid austral night and then gently cradled, atop the lives of those who lived within its reach.
A small child sitting in the back seat of my father’s big burgundy Buick I watched….. Click, click, click, I would tap my finger on the car window, mile after mile as we passed one phone pole, and then another. The faint smell of sulfur, a match I would guess, then the aroma of burning tobacco would sweep past my window, my father taking another drag on his cigarette and the worn gray houses, dark in the setting sun, passed quickly by as we moved on.
It never was a place I felt I belonged or a place that belonged to me, but as time passed and years drifted I began to see that what I thought wasn’t me is not something confined in an instant, a moment, or an ambition to succeed, but is a unique fabric stitched deep within the memories of one’s heart and the genetic ancestry passed from one generation to the generation yet to come.
This is a start and maybe tomorrow will bring more to this weary mind that struggles to hold the sweetness so few today will understand in a life that blossomed….South