birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I never had a hometown. I hardly remember my birthplace, having left there with my parents within a year of being born and only visiting it once, years later, for a health foods distributors' convention. The town we later lived outside of, to which my parents drove every morning to go to their college teaching jobs, was not my hometown, although we would all, off and on, live near it and work in it for years.

The place where I lived for ten years was no town, bit was my real home town. If anyone was ever blessed by God to have anything, I was blessed to have lived out in the middle of nowhere from age 5 to age 15. We lived out in the woods on a lake, with two tiny towns ten miles on either side of us and the big college town even further away.

My hometown was no town. My hometown was four and a half acres of woods, was a big open house on a lake, was even more space for the first five years, when no other people lived on our side but just us five and a very long winding dirt road and woods and creek and woods to run through and grow up in. My hometown was a big wooden house that had been built for parties by the mother of the 15-mile-away bank president in the 1940s. Wide open split level inside and huge sliding glass doors opening onto a long screen porch above the lake. My father on a college professor's salary didn't want to afford it, but my mother insisted. When I laid my eyes on it for the first time, I uttered in five-year-old amazement, "this looks like the country club."

We drank iron colored pump water, picked pears and muscadines for Mama to make preserves, built a three-tree tree house till Hurricane Camille blew it down, raised stray dogs from off the highway, cut our own cedar tree at Christmas, watched and listened as the interstate noises grew louder and heavier with trucks and traffic, swam in the lake, mapped the coast of huge rocks left from an old strip pit, made secret pine needle hideouts far outside of shouting distance from the house, caught crawdads in the creek and giggled hidden under the bridge as cars rumbled overhead, walked home from the bus top on the highway on long hot afterschool afternoons, past dirt roadsides full of dewberries, red and yellow ochre rocks, long past overgrown logging roads...this was our hometown. We were blessed to live and move and have our being there.


A Good Kind of Town to Call Home