|Abandoned Superfund site, Pitcher, Oklahoma|
The second house had two rooms arranged in shotgun style. The front room occupied half the house. We used it as a bedroom. A bare bedspring peaked out from under the mattress that was too small. I have a scar on my leg from the time I got my knee stuck in the spring. To prevent infection, my mother poured a bottle of rubbing alcohol on the open wound. I howled in pain.
The kitchen occupied the back part of the house. It had an ice box and a stove. We had no bathroom in the house, so my mom set up a metal tub in the middle of the room for us to bathe in. We used an outhouse down the alley because the house had no toilet. My sister and I often ran the streets in our underwear.
That shack was a real "S-Word", so was the town.
Even in the 1960s when I lived there, Pitcher was in decline. After the lead and zinc mines peaked in the 1920s, leaving behind the tailings that polluted the town's land and groundwater, Pitcher was designated a superfund site and officially died in 2009 when the city government disbanded. In fact, the Tarheel Mining District, of which Pitcher is a part, is the largest superfund site in the country.
|Betty's Drive-In, a place I remember from my childhood.|
I didn't live in Pitcher long, but I did live there long enough to experience abject poverty and to form memories of life in one of America's most undesirable places. Even though the EPA offered several rounds of buyouts, some remained in Pitcher, knowing each breath consisted of toxins poisoning their bodies. A 2010 expose in Wired chronicles some of their stories, their love of home, a home constructed of fond memories, a home literally labeled a dump by the EPA.
I've come to think of Pitcher, Oklahoma and the "chat-rats" that stayed as a metaphor for life in the Trump era. Many willingly breath in the toxic rhetoric leaching from the White House, refusing to clean up the growing superfund site in Washington D.C. As Senator Lindsay Graham explains, we must send children from the room when the news comes on if we don't want them hearing naughty words.
|Chat pile in the Pitcher, Oklahoma Tarheel Superfund site.|
There are places in our own backyards more deserving of a vulgar label than the countries and the continent Trump disparaged. Should Pitcher, Oklahoma be labeled one of them? The town did not create the toxicity that poisoned its children and swallowed its geography. The lead and zinc mining companies did that. Those who called Pitcher home and who stayed with her until they were driven from their homes deserve love and respect, just as Africans and Haitians deserve better than to have their homes denigrated by politicians.
That is, Trump can't call other places shit-holes without applying the label to the parts of our country damaged by poverty and pollution, places Trump would not think to spend the night in let alone call home. That should tell us all something about what he thinks of poor people in America.
Where, then, does Trump's rhetoric leave us?
It leaves us mired in the excrement Trump spews. Buried in his racist words and deeds rolling down on us like a river of toxic waste from an abandoned mine.
|Tuesday is Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by|
the team at Two Writing Teachers.