Ecology of a Cracker Childhood – Book Synopsis

Junkyard Families

The book Ecology of a Cracker Childhood by Janisse Ray shows the life of a young girl as she grows up with her family that owns a junkyard 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 that his book was written was to depict the life of a young girl as she grows up in a situation that most do not encounter. She and her brothers spent many hours outdoors playing in the junkyard; they would play baptism where one kid would pretend to be the pastor and the other would be the one being baptized. Sometimes the pastor would leave the baptized under too long. One trait that her father wanted her to have was to be able to play the piano. She hated it so much and eventually told her father that she would not play it anymore. She would rather play outside with her brothers in the junkyard. They would be very creative in what they did with their spare time. They would tie gasoline tanks together and make a raft. She would play with her dolls in the back of the car, pretending to nurse them. She loved pretending she was a mother.

Her father is very smart. He knows how to take old beat up cars off of other people’s hands, even if the car holds a special place in the owner’s heart. Her father loves animals and cannot stand to see or hear that an animal has been tortured or hurt, big or small. He stands up for all animals, a homing pigeon, a dog, a snake, a tortes, a stork, and a turtle.

One time, a turtle was walking across the road. A boy started playing with the turtle with his foot. It was a snapping turtle and supposedly they do not let go until it lightnings. The turtle grabbed a hold of his foot and would not let go. The boy stomped his foot on the ground and broke the poor turtle’s jaw. Soon after the incident, her brothers told her father what had happened. After their father talked with the boy, he turned to his children. He pulled out his belt and gave them all whippings with it. He thought that the could have prevented the incident. If kids were fighting, all he had to do was touch his belt and they would stop immediately.

Another time, her dad found a dog lying on the side of the road. He gave the dog some prescription pills that he had at the house to ease it’s pain even though he believed that it would not survive the night. In the morning, he went back to check on the dog and it was still alive. He nursed it back to health then set it free. He found many animals and all of them he tried to help. He found a stork that they let live in the house. Soon after finding the stork he built a house for it outdoors.

He even saved his son’s life once. Three of his four children go for a boat ride and do not know how to swim. The two boys sat on a bench in the boat and one of them stands up because he thought he saw an alligator. The other two boys went flying overboard. It was Sunday and they had just come home from church. Their father was still dressed in his suit and dove in after his sons just in time to save them. He would have given anything to keep them safe. He wanted to keep them so safe that he did not want his children to be corrupted by the outside world. He threw out the only TV that they ever had soon after they bought it. Also, to make sure that his kids did not get made fun of for the way they lived, he did not allow his children to bring friends to the house. To avoid awkward situations he did not allow them to go over to other friends’ houses either.

I really liked this book since it had short stories that I could remember even a long time after reading it. Her book was very descriptive and did a great job of showing the way that she grew up. It was very realistic and I hope that many people get to read her book.