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Seller Inventory MX. Items related to Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. Janisse Ray. Publisher: Milkweed Editions , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:. Synopsis About this title Chronicles the author's childhood in the rural forests of Georgia, her fundamentalist upbringing, and her battle to save the longleaf pine ecosystem of Florida and Georgia.

Review : The scrubby forests of southern Georgia, dotting a landscape of low hills and swampy bottoms, are not what many people would consider to be exalted country, the sort of place to inspire lyrical considerations of nature and culture. Ray currently lives in a farmhouse in Baxley, Georgia, with her son. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title. Search for all books with this author and title. Customers who bought this item also bought. Stock Image. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood Ray, Janisse. Published by Milkweed Editions New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1.

Seller Rating:. New Hardcover Quantity Available: 3. New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood Janisse Ray.

My mouth was dirty as was my dress, and my feet were perpetually dirty, and Mama would pop me in the bathtub and button me into a ruffled dress dotted with flowers she had handsewn on her Singer. But she'd need to peel potatoes for supper or slice a mess of okra, and I would stand looking out the screen door until I worried it into opening, and when she found me, I would again be dirty. When I was bigger, I could get up into the trees, especially the chinaberry, which had grown quickly and notched after a couple of feet.

I would sit in the tree and wait, listening for something—a sound, a resonance—that came from far away, from the past and from the ground. When it came, the sun would hold its breath, the tree would shiver, and I would leap toward the sky, hoping finally for wings, for feathers to tear loose from my shoulders and catch against sweeps of air.

The ground was hard, unyielding, but it wanted me, reaching out its hard, black arms and rising in welcome. I would lift and run along it as fast as I could and think again of soaring, of flying, until I was breathless and oily with sweat, and then I would collapse to the earth. I could unhook the chain from the nail on the post and leave the yard, but I wasn't allowed to go far.

The junkyard was dangerous, strewn with broken glass and shards of rusty metal. A rusty nail could send a streak of inflammation into the bloodstream, Daddy warned, causing lockjaw that might clamp your mouth shut like a beaver trap, even in the middle of supper, with a chicken bone hanging out.


There was no way to undo lockjaw. All kinds of accidents could happen in the junkyard. A bad cut would mean stitches with a thick, curved needle.


Or you could get poisoned the way Steve, my younger brother, had when he drank motor oil. He was four or five, hanging out with Mama and Daddy at the shop while they worked on a motor, the rest of us at school. Daddy had drained motor oil into an oily green Coke bottle, and left it on the oil-stained concrete floor of the shop. Since it looked like Coke, Steve reckoned it was, and so sure was he, he never tasted the virulence until it was too late.

He had to have his stomach pumped out, which meant a big hose down your throat. Besides, the junkyard was giant enough that little girls could get lost and not find their way out.

Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

Wild mongooses or orangutans with big yellow teeth would chase you and even catch you and who knows then what would happen. Bad men might have climbed the far fence to steal car parts and hit you over the head with an adjustable wrench and kidnap you. All of it had to be true. My sister and I slept in the back bedroom, and one night I woke to hear the cement blocks of the back steps complaining as someone climbed them.

I heard the latch of the screen door rattle.

ECOLOGY OF A CRACKER CHILDHOOD by Janisse Ray | Kirkus Reviews

It held. The steps rasped again. Because I was too frightened to call out, I lay petrified, waiting for noises at my own casement, listening to the seconds tick by on the windup clock in the living room, hearing nothing more and still nothing except my father's snores in the next room, until finally sleep drowned me. I dreamed I was sitting on the cold toilet, trying to pee.

The bathroom was made of windows, glass on all sides, and beyond the windows was darkness. Then I saw something—a monster, a man—coming for me, out of the darkness, and I peed desperately so I could rush back into the warm quilt-swaddled bed I shared with my sister before the evil arrived. When I woke it was morning, beautiful eastern sunlight casting the room to sunflowers and the bed flooded with urine.

One night Dell, the middle brother, woke and looked out the window that was level with his bed.

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He said he saw two men carrying off radiators, one in each hand. They were climbing the fence, leaving, when he wakened and saw them. He never thought to shake anybody or call out, although the next morning he crossed his heart and hoped to die if what he said wasn't true. Radiators were stacked here and there, scrambled in with all the other junk, so there was no way of counting those left to see if any were missing, nor could we find footprints. No matter, I believed him. Hadn't I, not long before, heard the screen door rattle in the middle of the night?

Daddy bought a piano even though we had an organ, stuffed it in our undersized house and started sending my sister and me to piano lessons. Mobley taught in a cold concrete building near the elementary school, and we walked there after school one day a week for a thirty-minute lesson. I hated piano. The next week I would beg again.

Ecology of a Cracker childhood

I hate piano I don't understand any of it. Finally I said contentiously, trembling at my rare boldness, "You're wasting money on me. I can't learn to play piano. I want to be outside. Mobley—but that week's lesson was my last. I would rather be sitting in this certain pine tree I loved.

It was within hollering distance of the house and eyeshot of the shop, and I was allowed to go to it when we weren't working, before homework, and even if I hadn't been allowed, I would've sneaked there anyway. Bluejays criticized each other in the tree and fussed at me as I rode the lowest pine limb as if on horseback, not knowing enough about anything but eager to live, listening to the wind in the needles that was sufficient music.

Almost every summer afternoon a thunderstorm would build in a corner of the sky until it burst and, in its bursting, alleviate a portion of the intense heat and humidity of southern Georgia, lightening the barometric pressure so people forgot to be irritable. Thunder would clap and rattle the sky, followed by strikes of lightning that tore clouds open like paper bags.