Life was never easy. Not for those people. They clung to the sides of the low wooded mountains like goats. They scratched an existence out of the dirt and the forest, and they lived their lives with a toughness you won’t find anywhere else. Hard days celebrated by summer nights with white corn liquor drunk from dirty mason jars, sat in creaking rocking chairs on the porch, while lightning bugs hung in the air like fairy dust, and cicadas screamed an incessant chorus high in the hard-woods. Winters took what summers gave; summers gave what winters took. The circle of life, the circle of death, depending on which side of 20 you were on.
Things happened back there, that summer I was 15 and out looking for trouble. What could a kid from the Valley know? A kid who always had meat and potato suppers and shoes on his feet? But I fancied Ruby. I’d seen her with her ma when they came to town with baskets of tomatoes and summer squash to sell, and skinned rabbits and fresh eggs. She was a pretty thing with a serious face. Her clothes were rags, her feet bare, but lots of kids had bare feet in the summer. Hers was nearly black.
Turned out she had a husband, and her not even as old as me. Turned out she was newly carrying a little one, but you couldn’t see it yet.
But I was a kid from the Valley. I had a Schwinn with a bell on it. I didn’t know anything about the kind of life those people lived, back in the Appalachian hills.