Several years ago, I visited the Red Harbor farm where I was born. My parents had been sent there in the 60s and had lived there for more than twenty years.
In its heyday, the farm was a thriving community, boasting eighty thousand residents. In the late seventies, people started to leave, returning to where they had come from.
Despite property and isolation, I loved the farm and those carefree days when I roamed the fields and woods like a wild animal with my friends.
These photos are from the trip. The farm now houses several jails, whose wardens commute daily to a nearby city where they own a condo in a high-rise complex.
Many of the places I remembered as a child, though abandoned and in ruins, still exist, including the Ice Cream Parlor, grocery store and the apartment where we lived for many years.
Flannery O’Connor said, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough informaton about life to last him the rest of his days.” To this day, I dream of the farm now and then.
Here is the excerpt from my short story, “Ya Ba – A Mute,” published in the Redivider Journal and nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
I did know a boy who was a mute when I was living on the farm. He was my next-door neighbor’s only son. Bald and skinny, he smiled a lot and liked to play pranks on other kids.
EXCERPT FROM “YA BA – A MUTE”, STORY OF A FALSELY ACCUSED MUTE BOY
“It was early summer – time to pick raspberries. “Let’s go to the orchard next to the river,” I suggested.
“My baba will be back in two hours. Do we have enough time?” Third Root said.
“Trust me,” I said impatiently and yanked the basket from him. Wearing it like a hat, with it covering half my head and only allowing me to peek through the space between the twigs, I leapt towards the riverbank. I was so familiar with every road, every house on the farm that I could smell where I was even if I were blind.
We raced along a potholed dirt road used mainly by tractors and cows, trotted through a dried-up swamp, and climbed the riverbank, extending more than ten li – all the way to the New Start Farm, where a heavily-guarded jail was stationed. In front of us, the Bo Yang Lake stretched its full length like a giant white dragon, which, according to my baba, would eventually merge into the Yangtze River at a city called Nine Rivers. Smelling the diesel from the passing fishing boats and hearing the humming of their engines, we chased each other along the riverbank. In a short while we arrived at a Mandarin orange orchard, where a dozen leafy raspberry trees grew alone the fence. Cheering, we dashed towards them…
(To read the complete story, please write to me.)