I was just watching a program on late night TV named” Alaskan Bush People,” I became inspired by the recollection or affinity or maybe call it an appreciation for the people we grew up with and or the place of our youth. I might have been influenced in this by the Double Smokey Martini I was drinking as a nightcap (I’m weaning myself off Nyquil).
I was inspired to write as my poetic juices seemed to be flowing extraneously. The program is about a family of seven living off the grid in southeastern Alaska. Their patriarch is a man named Brown who came from an upper middle class family in Texas. They were well-to-do by my standards in that his father had a small private plane.
Mr. Brown’s father, mother and sister were all killed in an accidental plane crash in a Texas thunder storm which made this young man an orphan. He took his inheritance and insurance money and fled to Alaska. I have been there and I know his torment, to just run and run and seek adventure and even death, to lose oneself in obscurity, to embrace that which threatens you and to smoother oneself in the mystery of it all with a whole lot of self-pity.
I was and still am impressed by their down homeliness, their embrace of Mother Nature and to God’ ultimate plan which is Mother Nature. Their unwavering grit and self-reliant nature. These are not my people nor was I raised in Alaska but this is the topic of this discourse.
I worked in the oilfields for thirty years. I was blue collar but in no ways dumb or uncouth. I consider myself intelligent with a lot of down home common sense. I have never considered myself better than anyone nor a snob who looks down on people of a lower class or less education than I.
One day I and my crew of workers were going to lunch and as we transgressed the parking lot to the restaurant I noticed a car with a homemade sun roof. I laughed and pointed it out to my companions. This unknown person had taken an ordinary window and installed it in the roof of his not so modern vehicle. It was rough and had been bolted on and epoxy applied to make it weather proof. He could actually open the window like a sun roof to let the air in.
I was pleased and laughed and somehow appreciated his ingenuity and was somewhat making fun of his endeavor. My companion who was of Hispanic descent laughed also with his blue collar humor and remarked and laughingly chastised me for making fun of it. He stated that this person was one of his people. No more was said as we laughed and continued our journey into the restaurant.
When I watched this program tonight, I was moved to come in here and write about my people.
My people are an earthly people as well and akin to this Brown family. Even though we do not live in the same environ we share a comradery. We love nature and we cling to our Bibles and our guns.
I am not a red neck back woods bumpkin as the progressive democratic liberal people picture me to be. I speak with a classic southern accent (north Florida or as some say LA, lower Alabama) which has now turned into a southern Texas drawl being I have lived in Texas for twenty something years.
I cling to my roots in that I am attached to the earth. I plant flowers and maintain my yard and garden. I plant vegetables and raise orchids and plant every flower I can think of. I harvest my own tomatoes and love okra and green fried tomatoes. I eat stuff with my fingers. I often laugh at the thought of John Kerry trying to eat a taco with a knife and fork. Those people are not my people. The privileged and or the elite, the aristocracy of America, the Clintons, the Kennedys, the Hursts, the Trumps etc. etc.
I am a blue collar retiree from the oilfields. I worked 17 hour days and eighty hour weeks with no scheduled days off. I worked hard and earned a good living. I raised a family and built a home and never received any government assistance. I saved my money and built a nest egg. I am drawing social security, but I paid into that. I receive Medicare but I also paid into that. I pay a supplement for my insurance and I am now paying three times what I used to pay for medical insurance because of “Obama Care”. I made it on my own, though my mother helped me a few time, as I have helped my daughters. It is the way of the world as it should be. We should not depend on government for our welfare. Charity belongs to the people and the church and if the poor have to listen to a sermon that may change their lives then all the better.
Getting back to the topic, I came from a different place as we all do. My childhood and my experiences are different than yours but we are called back when we remember the experiences of growing up and of our families and kinfolk: aunts, uncles, cousins and personal friends not mention our parents and siblings.
I was raised in North Florida and I was poor, but I really didn’t know it. I never went hungry nor was I abused. What I experienced I thought was normal for everyone. My kinfolk were down to earth and still are, all of them. My people were all hunters and outdoors men. We fished and hunted, planted spring gardens and ate vine ripe tomatoes and okra and collard greens. I believe everything I ate back then was fried in lard in a black iron skillet. We would catch the fish and clean them right there and fry them in cornmeal along with some hush puppies with sweet onion fried in the same fish grease along with some sliced tomatoes right there on the bank of the creek.
All of us have had different jobs and raised our families as it was our job. My generation is fading but the next is prospering and still another generation is coming to bloom. My people are mostly blue collar; carpenters, contractors, teachers, preachers, etc. Some of them don’t attend church but some do but they all acknowledge God and Saving Grace.
We are still attached to the earth in that we plant gardens and love flowers. Almost all of us have dogs and some even raise honey bees. We still hunt and fish as we are able and enjoy the ocean, ponds, rivers and lakes. We all still delight in nature and can appreciate the magnificence of God and Nature.
I called my wife outside this morning to show her the four baby Martins sticking their heads out of the hole as the mother was attempting to feed them. One of my Bantam chickens is sitting on nine eggs which will hatch in a few days. I let my dogs climb into my lap and lick my cheek and I let them accompany me to the mail box and they delight in riding in the front seat of my pickup. I don’t mind the dog hair because I love them as I would a child. I scatter feed every day for the wild birds and I delight in all the doves and songbirds.
My mother used to delight in seeing the wildlife in her pond like the otter that visited or the ducks that alit. She fed her turtles watermelon rinds and fussed at the squirrels that ate her pecans. You couldn’t leave her house without a bag of something, citrus fruit or vegetables.
I remember coming home and having to shell fresh peas, and laundry on the clothesline. I remember sleeping with no air conditioning or water coolers, just an oscillating fan. I remember the frogs croaking loudly and the buzz of mosquitoes and of the bites of dog flies and yellow flies. I remember soaking my nail-punctured foot in kerosene and the awful taste of some of those home remedies. I never saw a doctor or went to a dentist until I joined the service. Tears now well up as I remember my mother and brother and sister who have passed and left me alone. I will follow soon but I rest assured that there is another generation who will fondly recall as I have, their people.