A couple of years ago, I was out on an errand for our 4-H club, delivering lollipop thank you bouquets to strangers when I happened upon a part of Laramie that I had no idea existed. My past experiences with trailer parks and rural poor areas filled with white people have generally not been good. I used to work as an outreach counselor to teach literacy to women from those areas, and let's just say that the people living in those places had a lot invested in letting me know that, despite the difference in our class status, they were better than me because of the color of my skin. In addition, I was the "do-gooder" interloper driving a wedge between husbands and wives, parents and children, abusers and victims by challenging generations with the belief that they could make their lives better by breaking the cycle of poverty and illiteracy. I was always by myself and, while there was never any real violence, sometime things got tense. So, when I found this neighborhood of trailers and hodgepodge houses with yards full of rusty trucks and farm equipment, my body responded. My hands shook, my heart beat faster, my mouth felt dry, but I had the kids in the car, and I didn't want to teach them to fear and judge based on experiences they never had. I played it cool, voice laden with false cheer, music turned to low. The girl thought it was all some fun adventure, but the boy didn't quite buy my charade. He nodded, once, succinctly, and stared out the car window murmuring about guns. You see, he too is familiar with the South and rural areas. We drove in circles for a while over the dusty, gravelly, lanes, trying to find some indication of name or number to help us find the person we were looking for. When I finally found my destination, I hissed (gently) at the kids to stay in the car, picked my way through the tall grass and weeds pushing through the concrete driveway, and tried to decide which one of the many doors was the front one. I knocked on the one in the middle. It took a while, or at least it seemed like it did, for anyone to open the door. I was just about to leave when a man peered out of the third door. Besides him being white and older than me, I have no recollection whatsoever about what he looked like, but he was friendly. We chatted at cross purposes, his version of 4-H (animals, ranching, and markets) radically different from my own (science, technology, art). The kids, always happy to meet a new kind person, jumped out of the car and chased the dogs barking at us and weaving through our legs. I handed him his bouquet of sweets. He stared at it awkwardly while I muttered thanks for his support of 4-H, and the conversation dwindled and stilled. On our way out, away from this pocket of reality and back towards our home, I noticed that all of the piled up rusty cars, trucks and machine parts were quite pretty in their own way. Like hedges delineating boundaries, marking transitions between past and future.
Rust Truck Hedges