The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chambray Shirts and Barbed Wire

         The summer I was seventeen, I worked for the Youth Conservation Corps. It was an all-girl team. We worked in the Mark Twain National Forest, doing a variety of things. We cleared trails. We dug post holes--by hand. We strung barbed wire. My choice of clothing (in that era) was chambray shirts--hand embroidered with the female power symbol, among other things, and worn blue jeans patched with colorful scraps of denim--and those clothes worked when doing the YCC work, too.
photo by Rural Explorer

         It was the summer I smoked grapevine. (We were convinced we would get high.) It was the summer I fell in love with an Arkansas artist who--when we parted--said he'd kiss me good-bye except he had some "chew" in his mouth. And it was the summer I learned how easy it was to be fierce--as long as I stood on my own two feet.

        Since the only guys on our crew were the park ranger (he drove us to our work every day) and the night caretaker (he killed the rattlesnakes and kept an eye on us), all the work was done by the young women. We sweated, we strained but we perservered.

       One weekend, as a treat, we went to visit another YCC site in Arkansas. (Enter and exit the artist with the horrible tobacco drool.) This team was co-ed, and we quickly discovered that the girls on the crew made a habit of hanging back, claiming the work was beyond them, so they could rely on the guys to do the physical labor. 

        There are times when I have to send off a submission and I don't get the chance to share it with my writing critique group. It's all on me. There are times when I bring a story to get critiqued and it doesn't have a title, and I'm tempted to just rely on the group and ask, "Hey, what should I call this?" But really, it's my responsbility to name my baby. There are times when I flounder with a piece, but I channel my critique group members and usually--not always--figure out where I should go with it.

       Obviously, being part of a crew or group makes me stronger, but if we all work together and pull our own weight, we...are...fierce.



  1. For some reason, "Towanda!" popped into my head.

    Okay, to fully appreciate the ensemble, and with Crocs still a glimmer in the inventor's eye, did you wear Earth Shoes with your chambray shirt and jeans of many colors? And was that tobacco a plug sliced with a pocket knife, or a dip of snuff? This inquiring mind wants to know.

    Who is passing around this misinformation? I demand an investigation. Two of my older cousins tried to entice me to smoke grapevine, though they didn't tout its purported medicinal purposes. And somebody, probably the grapevine high promoter, informed five girls (of which I may or may not have been one) that they could all get drunk on one beer poured over a Sonic cup of ice, and sipped through a straw.

  2. Awww we miss you. If you want to know about my outdoor adventure, venture over to my blog.

  3. Love it love it love it! And who invented that grape vine thing? A really smart grape grower who lost his harvest? If only I could convince the neighborhood teens that you can get high on ash and maple seedlings...I'd get my flower beds weeded!

  4. Girls in chambray shirts with female power symbols, getting dirty outdoors, doing it for themselves? I missed this how, exactly?

  5. MZ--Some of us are fiercer than others--at least with a pen. ;)

    Val--How did you know? I loved Earth shoes. When I worked for the YCC I wore work boots, but off the parties, it was Earth shoes and moccasins and Converse tennis shoes.

    Linda--No, you didn't miss me because you were cruising around with Bill.


    Tammy--That's a marvelous idea. Perhaps I can convince my neighborhood hooligans that sweetgum balls, when burned in their fireplace, is a hallucinogen?

    Fireblossom--You would have loved it...It was one of my favorite phases of life.


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