Tuesday, July 01, 2003

My First Friend...

I met my first friend from up here through one of my homesteading lists, before the move. Gaynell, I thought for sure, was originally from here. I was wrong. But she came here from New York on the heels of a man as a young girl. She ended up settling here, getting married and having three kids. She's been here 30 years, and that's about what it takes to be an insider.

I'm aware of how I'll never truly be "from here." I come from a place where it's like that. I'll always be a native Blufftonian, but here...I'll be buried on the "stranger's side of the street". Gaynell has been here long enough for folks to forget she came originally from New York....plus, she married a local boy and bore local children.

Through emails, we chatted and I revealed myself not to be one of the idealistic homesteaders who come, fail and leave. I knew what I was coming for and knew what I was willing to do. My house is very comfortable. It is not off-grid. I have plumbing. I have no romantic illusions about subsistance living.

Gaynell taught me about what to do here and how to stay out of trouble. It isn't as hard for me as for non-southerners. I grew up in a rural environment with its own set of cultural oddities. I spent my summers at my grandfather's farm in Tennessee, so I knew so I had an idea of what mountain life would be.

Still...some of the customs were strange. For instance, it is considered bad form to speak directly to one of the menfolk without first going through his wife. If I need to hire a man to come fix something or dig some post-holes...I will go through a female relative. Many of the churches segregate men and women during services. Being a single woman in the backwoods is fraught with complications.

I've only been here nine months at this point. I think I've earned the respect of the locals, but I'm still a fresh outsider. I still have much to learn. Each time I run into another cultural snafu...I'm on the phone to Gaynell for an explanation.


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