“When you’re a kid, you don’t know you’re white trash,” he said. “You don’t think about things like that. Hell, I didn’t even know we’s poor until high school.”
Well. Poorness is all relative. He might’ve had less than the folks living in Antebellum estates. But his family was wealthier than, say, most raccoons.
“It finally clicked in my brain,” he went on. “Got home from school one day, Daddy said he’d come into a lotta money.”
“Turns out, it was only a few-hundred bucks. He strutted like he was a millionaire. Told me he was gonna buy me a new bedroom, since I’s sleeping with my little brothers in the same bed.”
The next thing his daddy did was drive to Montgomery to a family friend’s mobile-home dealership. On the rear lot were rusted single-wides, ready for the dump.
“We walked through’em,” my friend said. “Looking for the nicest one, they were disgusting. Rat nests, mildew, just gross.”
After selecting a dilapidated single-wide. His daddy’s friend let them have it free—only charging a few hundred for towing it.
That same evening, when his daddy got home, he invited his work friends over.
He went on, “Daddy and his buddies got drunk and cut one whole side off our house, with chainsaws, while Mama’s in the kitchen fixing supper.”
Two nights later, the new trailer arrived. They sandwiched both homes together, connecting them to make a double-wide.
“Having my own room felt like being rich,” he said. “I still had no idea it was so trashy until a kid made fun of me at baseball practice. Honestly, I didn’t understand what white trash was. Still, it made me cry.”
Years went by. He grew up. Moved away. He went to college. He did well for himself. He bought nicer clothes, some dental work. Eventually, he was working a pretty good job, making a decent living.
As a grown man, he visited the same mobile-home dealership as before.
“I was gonna surprise Mama and Daddy with a new trailer. Even put money down on a double-wide. Thought maybe they deserved something slick.”
It was a bad idea.
My friend went on, “Daddy got pissed off. He was like: ‘Hey, who do you think you are, buying a man a home without asking? I raised you better’n that. Besides, it’s my job to help YOU succeed, boy. Not the other way around.’”
My friend took a moment to sniffle. “I realized something. Daddy might’ve been poor, but he never took hand-outs, and he worked like a dog for us. If he’s white trash, maybe that’s just how it is.”
Well, I see your point.
Except, that daddy of yours ain’t trash.
Jerenell Gorbutt - September 23, 2016 12:17 pm
In Baldwin County ALabama, you know that we hear a lot about White Trash. We see a lot of additions to already leaning trailers. Some of the brightest smiles and most pleasant young people are waiting for us to pick them up on those dirt road (the ones with more dirt than gravel) when we offer to give someone a ride into Foley from Lillian. White trash is one thing, poverty another. In these parts, you can have three generations living on one piece of land (as you well know) in some form of cobbled together trailer (s) and you may have some members that are white trash…but the others are there temporarily due to poverty.
I read you everyday and continue to share you with my friends. Keep on writing. You have some amazing stories to tell. ms j
deby su sweatt - September 23, 2016 2:56 pm
every dang day you make me want to be a better human.
Maureen - September 23, 2016 9:13 pm
We were pretty poor as kids – four girls crammed into one bedroom, hand-me-down clothes – but our Dad was a proud man who worked hard and would have scorned hand-outs. We destroy too many people forcing them to live on charity…