Landfill households

Janisse Ray’s book Ecology of a Cracker Childhood shows the life of a young girl growing up with her family who owns a landfill in Appling County, Georgia. Many experiences may have been different for her, but she still lives as many children do; with rules and playing outdoors with her imagination.

The main reason her book was written was to describe the life of a young girl as she grows up in a situation most don’t encounter. She and her brothers spent many hours outside playing in the junkyard; they played baptism where one child pretended to be the shepherd and the other would be the one being baptized. Sometimes the pastor left the baptized for too long. One trait that her father wanted her to have was to know how to play the piano. He hated it so much and in the end she told her father that he would never play it again. She’d rather play outside with her brothers in the junkyard. They would be very creative at what they did in their free time. They would tie the gas tanks together and make a raft. She played with her dolls in the back of the car, pretending to breastfeed them. She loved pretending to be a mother.

His father is very smart. He knows how to get old battered cars out of the hands of others, even if the car holds a special place in the owner’s heart. His father loves animals and cannot bear to see or hear that an animal has been tortured or injured, no matter how big or small. He defends all animals, a carrier pigeon, a dog, a snake, a cake, a stork and a turtle.

Once, a turtle was crossing the road. A boy started playing with the turtle with his foot. It was a snapping turtle and presumably they wouldn’t let it go until it struck. The turtle grabbed his foot and didn’t want to let go. The boy stamped his foot on the ground and broke the poor turtle’s jaw. Immediately after the accident, his brothers told his father what had happened. After the father talked to the boy, he turned to his children. He pulled out his belt and gave them all the lashes with it. He thought he could have prevented the accident. If the kids were arguing, all he had to do was touch his belt and they would stop immediately.

Another time, his father found a dog lying on the side of the road. He gave the dog some prescription pills he had at home to relieve the pain even though he believed he wouldn’t survive the night. In the morning he went back to check on the dog and he was still alive. He restored him to health and then set him free. He found many animals and all tried to help them. He found a stork that they let live in the house. Soon after he found the stork, he built her a house in the open.

He even once saved his son’s life. Three of her four children take a boat ride and can’t swim. The two boys sat on a bench in the boat and one of them got up because he thought he saw an alligator. The other two boys flew overboard. It was Sunday and they had just returned home from church. Their father was still dressed in his suit and dived after his children just in time to save them. He would have given anything to keep them safe. He wanted to keep them so safe that he didn’t want his children to be corrupted by the outside world. He threw away the only TV they ever had right after the purchase. Also, to make sure his children were not made fun of for the way they lived, he did not allow his children to bring friends home. To avoid embarrassing situations, he did not even allow them to go to other friends’ houses.

I loved this book because it had short stories that I could remember long after reading it. Her book was very descriptive and she did a great job of showing how she grew up. It was very realistic and I hope a lot of people read her book.

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