We traveled a lot when I was growing up. My dad was a contractor and had to go where the work was. Well, at least that’s part of the story. I’ll save the rest for later. The point is, when one travels, one needs transportation.
We needed to go toward the mid-west, from California, or Florida, or some place hot, to find work. My dad came home with an old bread truck. He gutted it, installed a bathroom and kitchen, built beds, and voile`, we had an RV. I don’t really remember RV’s back then. Without TV I had no idea what was out there in the world.
My sister was pregnant with her first child and, if I remember correctly, her husband was in the military, so she was living with us. So, Mom and Dad, brother and sister and me, headed out on the road in our home-made RV, ending up in Indiana.
We parked fifty yards or so from a river, and there we stayed. My dad and brother went to town in the mornings, after a few hours of fishing of course, to find work. I chased butterflies and June bugs, played in the dirt, and the water, and sucked the sweetness out of honeysuckle and enjoyed the shade of the big willows at the river’s edge.
I mentioned my sister’s pregnancy for a particular reason. Actually of couple of reasons. The first is that she was craving sweet corn. And we were in Indiana. And poor. But my brother was swift of feet, and not afraid of the dark. We ate a lot of corn that summer.
The other reason for the mention of pregnancy was the fact that months later, when Sis had the baby, in Florida I think, we still had the Wonder Bread RV. Mom had a laundry basket, a chrome frame on wheels, with a canvas bag hanging from it. The bag had three sections, divided by canvas panels. I remember Mom taking the scissors and cutting out the dividers, then putting in a piece of wood, a pillow, and the baby. I don’t know how they managed to lock the wheels so the basket-cum-cradle didn’t roll, but I do remember that the motion of the truck rocked the canvas bag, and the little baby girl slept like…well, much better than a baby.
When we camped, we usually had a fire pit outside, even if there was a stove inside, because of the heat. I remember grandma’s skillet, handed down to my dad when she died, a deep thin, iron skillet, filled with Crisco for deep-frying the fish, and potatoes rolled in aluminum foil on rocks inside the pit. We all loved fish, which was a good thing since work was not so reliable. A thirty-nine cent loaf of bread, and a mess of fresh fish, and we were happy as hogs at the dump.
That old iron skillet was handed down to me when my dad died. It had been in the family since my grandma married around 1900. It was stolen from me during hard times as an adult. But I never forgot how well it cooked. Food just tasted better from that skillet.
You’ll hear about the Wonder Bread RV again, no doubt, for other things happened that summer in Indiana, and across the country. But no matter where I’ve lived, or what wonderful foods I’ve been blessed with, I can still feel the sticky air of the mid-west, and the taste of some of the best corn I ever had, roasted over a fire beside the skillet where the fish fried.