Monday, July 28, 2008

Across the Tracks


I guess I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I was drawn to them. They were sisters, a year apart in age. One had long straight dark red hair, the other long straight blond hair. We went to the same school and would hang out together. They lived across the railroad tracks from me.

I knew they were from a different sort of family than the rest of the kids I knew. I didn’t realize how different at the time. I wasn’t yet blinded by the prejudice that comes with age.

I was a friendly sort of a kid. I’d chat with everyone without reservation. There was an old woman that sat on her porch just about every day. I would see her on my way to the girl’s house. I’d always say hello to her, and sometimes even visit with her on her porch. She didn’t know my name, but knew I lived near by on the other side of the tracks. I didn’t know her name either.

The local kids didn’t want to know the woman. They nick named her “Martha.” She was old and fat and she was harmless. Kids just don’t like what they don’t understand. They didn’t like Martha because she would sit on her porch watching the kids playing in the street. This was her entertainment. The kids thought she was judging them by constantly watching them like some sort of neighbor hood watch cop. Everyone misunderstood the intentions of the others.

My opinion of the old woman changed one day when she figured out why I spent so much time in the neighborhood. She asked me directly, “Why is a nice boy like you going to the Hillbilly Hangout?” She was using insulting words towards the girls and their families. After that I was put off and I’d cross the tracks further south than her house.

When I think of it all now the family was indeed Hillbillies. Not so much the historic hillbillies that would come to mind like the Clampets, Snuffy Smith or Ma and Pa Kettle. They were more like biker rednecks.

They were poor, with four children, in and out of work with a father who was in and out of jail as were the friends of the parents. I was fascinated by the life style. There were loud parties with a lot of alcohol. There was always a lot of profanity in the air as well. This was not a good environment in which to rear four children, but somehow all their kids turned out OK in spite of it all.

I will continue with the story of this family tomorrow and the good and bad things I learned from the time I spent with them.

12 Comments:

Blogger Donna said...

You've certainly captured MY interest!

7:13 AM  
Blogger weese said...

we didn't have train tracks in the town I grew up in.
why is it there are always train tracks between the classes? who plans this stuff out?

8:12 AM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

I had my share of friends with families FAR different than mine. I think it gave me a leg up in life.

10:42 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Donna, check back tomorrow.

Weese, thanks for the article idea.

Lori, certainly your present family would have freaked out people in the mid-west 30 years ago. It's good we can all live in relative peace these days.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous g said...

Most of my living has been in Astoria and I guess the other side of the tracks is (was) Blue Ridge in East Astoria. Of course Blue Ridge is a ghost town now.

When i lived in Oklahoma for a few years, there were tracks and the white folk lived on one side and the blacks lived on the other. Definitely culture shock for me (i was in high school at the time)

I'm waiting with baited breath for the "rest of the story"!

6:35 PM  
Blogger Colonel Panic said...

well hell g thats a story in itself.

Why don't you cut loose with a tale of you going down to Gilley's with your uncle and getting in a scrap with that evil convict Hightower?

I just gotta believe there is a good story there somewhere.

8:08 PM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

Well, Guy, you have certainly started an interesting discussion about social classes.
You have made it very clear about your social and economic position throughout your formitive years, in prevoius posts.
Maybe you will allow me to tell it from the "other side".
The side that found my mother and brothers & I, in a welfare trailer park after our father left, never to be seen again.
Will you take the "nay-sayers" challange and hear it from the other side?
HMMMMMMMM???????
:-Q

11:55 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I've written another post regarding the social classes and the division of "The Tracks", but you will have to wait a bit since it is scheduled to be posted around the middle of August. Fell free to post your comments now or wait until then.

By the way where I lived was just on the other side of the tracks. We had rail road tracks less than 70 feet from our house. And I later bought a "Company House" on the other side of the tracks when I was 24 years old. So my views and background aren't as elite as one might imagine from this post. I was from a working class family, but my father spent his entire life attempting to rise above his roots and became successful and comfortable.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

The other side of the tracks. Another commenter mentioned Blue Ridge. I can't speak for it now but when my older bro delivered The Daily Astorian there in the 1970s, he sometimes had a helluva time trying to collect. He'd hear people talking inside and knock... and the house would go silent. He and I drove up there last year and looked at all the blackberry-choked lots and dilapidated, abandoned houses while he reminisced.

I've always talked the talk about accepting everybody for what they are, not what other folks SAY they are... and I walked the walk when I was living in the BIG CITY :), (that would be Portland) and when I lived overseas in Germany and Poland. But now that I've moved back to Astoria, I find myself being reflexively more judgemental and accepting of others' knee-jerk judgements. I wonder why... seriously? Maybe it's that I consider Astoria home and am unwilling to cut anybody any slack for their shortcomings on my "home" turf?

1:57 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Ben, are you put off by the different classes here or the influx of outsiders that are trying to turn this place into where they came from?

2:21 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Thanks for asking... but I think I'll take the 5th. I prefer not to immortalize my prejudices online. :)

12:54 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

That's OK, I'm just curious on what the locals think of people who come here from California and try to change things.

4:25 PM  

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