I’m a little weird, a fact I’ll gladly announce to anyone who isn’t listening (people don’t listen to weird people who will subsequently talk about them not listening in a blog they won’t read) but as I talk to other folks I realize my upbringing wasn’t exactly normal. Or sane. Or anything that would allude to me becoming a non-dorky, semi-functional adult. The reasons I’m weird…as recounted from childhood…
I grew up on a farm. Not THAT unusual, especially in Tennessee, but a growing rarity in the days of genetically engineered cow-type things and turkeys that can’t fly. Our farm was unique in that it was organic. In the early ‘80s, that word was usually reserved for a very intense moment in the bedroom and not a way of farming. One might say, at the risk of sounding like a hipster, that we were organic before organic was cool. Farming sans chemicals requires unorthodox methods of agriculture that involve things like me dragging around a bucket of water and cutting down thistle heads in the middle of a Tennessee July (for those of you unaccustomed to Tennessee weather it’s hot in July. Like, hot enough to stick your head in a bucket of thistle water to get some sort of relief when you’re in the middle of a half-cut thistle field.) Thistles are vile, evil weeds that have thorns and quite possibly a hive of bees inhabiting them at any given moment. Organic farmery also required me to take a little miniature flame-thrower torch thing and burn weeds in the strawberry field with a magic wand of fire. I would pretend I was a roaring giant torching poor cities that dared to revolt against me and my regime, therefore justifying my actions in burning their entire existence. (Living on a farm also puts a LOT of space between you and anyone your age you may be able to play with…hence the rampantly violent imagination and thoughts of village domination.)
Another fun part of living in the middle of nowhere? Your mom has to drive you around to go trick-or-treating. The first time I went to a “real” neighborhood on Halloween I was absolutely amazed (and only slightly chagrined I wasn’t getting the official chauffeur treatment anymore.) Kids were walking door-to-door…up to doors behind which stood people they didn’t know. And they got candy. Like, a LOT of candy. Even more than the year my sister was forced to drive me around (she just took me to her friends’ houses and gave me candy so I would shut up about going somewhere else.) The Halloween traditions to which I was accustomed first involved putting together your own costume – usually consisting of a pair of my dad’s pants, his ever-present hard hat, and a pair of his boots and being, wait for it, my father. Since I was only going to see about 3 people that night, the quality of the costume didn’t exactly matter, and the neighbors knew my father and thought it was cute that I was parading around like a shrunken, curly-haired version of him. Secondly, we would drive to approximately 4 houses, walk in, sit down, chat for a moment, and possibly leave with some Cracker Jacks (or caramel apples if you hit Miss Katy May’s house. And we ALWAYS hit Miss Katy May’s house.) Finally, we would drive home to wait for possible trick-or-treaters at OUR house, which absolutely, positively, NEVER HAPPENED. So, my Halloween haul would usually include Cracker Jacks and whatever candy we hadn’t eaten before Halloween night that my mother bought every year “just in case.”
On a positive note, one advantage of living in the country is that everyone learns to drive at a very young age. Like, really young. I mean, it’s not like there’s a whole lotta traffic whizzing by, so my dad didn’t really think twice before he tossed me the keys to the tractor with instructions of driving it through town to its next destination. I was 11. After I’d graduated from farm machinery, I got to experiment with the farm truck in the back field with instructions to “not get above 3rd gear, because with the ruts back there, you’re liable to hit your head on the ceiling.” I didn’t get above 3rd that day, but I did come dangerously close to getting the truck stuck in a pile of chicken manure and only after frantically spinning tires for several breathless minutes (both from fear and the stench my predicament caused) did I finally break free of the poop’s grasp into the safety of the aforementioned thistle field. And while you may think you’d have plenty of room to drive around without hitting anything on a farm, you’d be wrong, as I took out a couple of mailboxes, part of a fence row, and a tractor manifold in my early driving career (a note to my insurance agent: Please disregard the previous sentence. I tend to embellish when I write.) (A note to everyone else: Please disregard the previous note to my insurance agent. It’s all unfortunately true.) I subsequently had quite the colorful driving history in high school, but could proudly boast about only getting 1 ticket from the 9 times I got pulled over (another embellishment, I promise, dear insurance agent.) (A note to everyone else: what do you expect from a girl who learned to drive in a field completely devoid of a speed limit?)
And there you have it. A plethora of other stories exist and they all point to the fact that there’s a reason I’m this crazy, but my mother’s calling me and I’m sure the conversation will involve an update on the chickens, the progress of her latest canning adventures, and possibly an anecdote centered around the fact that my mother’s somehow taught herself to yodel. I can’t fix the crazy, so I might as well enrich it.