Ecology of A Cracker Childhood
By James Calemine
“One crow sorrow, two crows joy:
Three crows a wedding, four crows a boy
Five crows silver, six crows gold:
Seven crows a secret never to be told.”
Born in 1962, Janisse Ray grew up in the coastal plains of southern Georgia—near Baxley (Harry Crews’ childhood home). Ray’s book of poetry, Naming The Unseen, won the 1996 Merriam-Frontier Award from the University of Montana where she also earned a creative writing degree.
A naturalist, Ray has written essays and poems in a wide variety of newspapers, magazines and several books. Ray’s book Ecology of A Cracker Childhood represents a fine example of inimitable southern literature. In Ecology, Ray writes about growing up in a junkyard along U.S. Highway 1, near the Okefenokee Swamp and the Florida state-line. Ray’s childhood playground was the parameters of the brutal geography of where her father’s junkyard was located.
Her stories about ways of life, hardship and the awesome ecosystem where they lived provides a rare glimpse into a way of life most people nowadays never even hear about. In every chapter Ray writes about facts indigenous to South Georgia, which even includes folklore, biology and comedic strands of storytelling that capture’s the reader’s attention.
Chapters in the book include indelible descriptions of local pine farms, her family tree, black & white photos, her father’s junkyard, origin of the term ‘Cracker’, poverty, poisonous snakes, salamanders, The Altamaha River, music, her mother, recipes, a plethora of birds, religious beliefs, wildflowers, local history and a variety of other unforgettable stories.
It’s not a sad, boring or scientific story, but one of the human condition…and love. The way Janisse Ray writes in Ecology of A Cracker Childhood makes any native of the land beyond proud…