I grew up in a mobile home. No, I don’t mean my parents were constantly on their cell phones. I mean my house was delivered already assembled on the back of a flatbed truck. Many of you may think negatively toward this type of childhood. While my love of NASCAR and collection of The Charlie Daniels Band albums would be more than enough evidence to support that claim, not all of it was bad. Just most of it. One headshake-inducing memory of mine is me lying in bed, listening to the sound of the wind blow against the discount aluminum siding. Imagine hiding inside an empty oil drum while Albert Pujols beats on the side of it with an aluminum bat. That’s about what it felt like to lie in bed as a child and be unable to sleep because of the fear that I would wake up in Oz.
Fortunately, my house never tumbled. But what did tumble were the tumbleweeds that would blanket the property after a windstorm. My mobile abode was placed in the center of about one acre of land, and when the wind blew, the tumbleweeds would flock to the property like obese children to the cafeteria on pizza day. Once the wind died down, my dad’s pyromania would flare up, which meant a towering inferno fueled by these trespassing, tumbling intruders was on the horizon. The flames would occasionally become a hazard to low-flying aircraft, such as the Luftwaffe of crop dusters that would dump pesticide on the cotton fields that surrounded my house. (Side note: Just last week, my old elementary school had one of its buses peppered with pesticide by a rogue crop duster. Ah, some things never change.)
Perhaps the most amazing facet of trailer life was the unsettling amount of cars that graced our property. I awoke one Sunday morning to find three Cadillacs in our gravel driveway, each with its own distinct hue: metallic pea, rust orange and trash white, if I remember correctly. With my dad ever the bargain hunter, how much do you think he paid for these cars? $5,000? $10,000? Try $100. That’s right, he purchased three functioning automobiles with a single bill. I don’t think that’s ever been done in the history of mankind. These three dent-covered rust heaps would take up residence between his cement mixer and used camper shell. Not only did the cars have dents, my house did as well. Whenever I would play basketball and the “Space Jam” basketball my parents got for free from Little Caesar’s would accidentally bounce against the house, my mom would lean out of the kitchen window with wooden spoon in hand and tell me “not to dent our house.”
It wasn’t until years later when I would finally realize the sheer awesomeness of that statement. Luckily, my dad had won a lifetime supply of Bondo at the county fair that year.
Putting dents in the house wasn’t the only hazard I encountered while playing basketball. With the aforementioned multitude of Detroit steel occupying my parent’s property, there were many inherent risks associated with living at an abandoned used-car lot. Once, an errant jump shot resulted in my ball landing in a pan of used motor oil. My ball instantly went from being fully orange to looking like the sun during an eclipse. Unfortunately, having oil on the ball didn’t make my basketball skills any slicker.
Another thing that wasn’t slick was our front door. Not to copy Jeff Foxworthy, but you know you’re a redneck when the back door is considered the front door and the front door is considered a wall. I don’t think I have any memory of our front door being operational. The only way to open it was to stick a slot-head screwdriver into the deadbolt and pry it open like archaeologists opening a tomb. I would go over to friends’ houses that had functioning front doors and consider them rich. Of course, anyone who had a stationary house was considered well-off.
The country-living experience ended at age 13 when my parents gathered all their savings from years of shopping at Kmart and bought an actual house. I remember being so excited about having such luxuries as a concrete driveway, cable TV and a backyard without a sign that read, “danger: septic tank.” Still, I cherish every single memory I have of growing up in a mobile home. If anything, it made me appreciate the luxuries most city folk take for granted.
Now, what time is that NASCAR race?