This post has been generously written by Linda Clare, author of the The Fence My Father Built (Abingdon Press, 2009).
Linda grew up in Arizona, where trailers are about as plentiful as cactus. As such, we're proud to host her as the resident expert.
In The Fence My Father Built, when legally separated Muri Pond, a librarian, hauls her kids, teenage Nova and eleven year-old Truman, out to the tiny town of Murkee, Oregon, where her father, Joe Pond lived and died, she’s confronted by a neighbor’s harassment over water rights and Joe’s legacy: a fence made from old oven doors.
The fence and accompanying house trailer horrify rebellious Nova, who runs away to the drug-infested streets of Seattle. Muri searches for her daughter and for something to believe in, all the while trying to save her inheritance from the conniving neighbor who calls her dad Chief Joseph. Along with Joe’s sister, Aunt Lutie, and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri must rediscover the faith her alcoholic dad never abandoned in order to reclaim her own spiritual path.
Homemade wooden steps leading up to the door; sleek silver tube on wheels (Airstream); concrete block holding up the trailer hitch; corrugated aluminum skirting, concrete blocks where the wheels used to be; trailer hitch; clubhouse with laundry room and a pool; screen doors; senior citizens wearing visors, walking little dogs; white siding with avocado green trim, rust stains from rain streaking the trailer’s siding, postage stamp-sized yards with lined with crushed red lava rocks or white quartz; a sea of trailers dotting sand dunes; Added-on porches with fiberglass roofs, carpeted with green Astroturf, festooned with wind chimes and whirl-i-gigs; “overcab” camper on blocks in neighbor’s backyard; luxury fifth wheel with pull-out porch and satellite antenna; KOA campground with concrete pads and electrical outlets; trailer parks with double and triple-wides that don’t look like trailers; muddy paths between trailers; aluminum awnings over the windows; tiny “tear drop” trailers that fold into tent trailers that sleep six; hibachi sitting outside the door.
Low popcorn ceilings; walls of thin grooved dark wood paneling, table that folds against the wall, hallways so narrow you have to turn sideways to pass each other; bed that takes up the entire room; extra bunk over the living room sofa; tiny bathroom, toilet that doesn’t really flush; bathtub so small you’d have to sit with your knees bent; propane stove with two burners and no oven; half a refrigerator; rubber bands on the paper towel roll; floor moves if you jump up and down; green shag carpeting from the 1970s; breakfast nook with cracking vinyl seats that convert to a bed; built-in compartments for food, clothing and linens; built-in TV sets, lamps and other electronics; matching designer furniture of better quality than found in many regular homes; shaking walls when the washer spins, steam billowing from the dryer vent.
Creaking of the floor when you walk; hearing the neighbors whether you want to or not; Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Yorkies and other small dogs barking incessantly; country-western radio stations; trucks grinding into gear; laughter of old men from the pool table room; laughter of older women around the bridge table; televisions blaring; children’s laughter; moms calling their children home; guitars strumming; lawn mowers; leaf blowers; tinkling of windchimes; banging screen doors; crunch of tires on gravel drives.
Cookies baking, casserole dishes; Old Spice on men at the clubhouse; Emeraude perfume on women at the clubhouse; roses blooming in June; cigarette smoke; smells of fried chicken, burgers or other meats; barbeque lighter fluid; motor oil and dirt; fresh-mown grass; moldy leaves; wood smoke from a campfire; mildewy smell after winter.
Hot dogs cooked over coals; eating s’mores; taste of rain in the air.
Bumpy feel of corrugated aluminum siding; hard roundness of a trailer hitch; rough scratch of unfinished wooden railings; cool smoothness of vinyl cushions; velvety feel of plush furniture; slick feel of slippery wooden steps after a rain; icy smoothness of icicles hanging from the roof; shag carpet on bare feet; sticky marshmallows and chocolate from s’mores; feel of gritty sand in the carpet.
--The words you choose can convey atmosphere and mood. (From The Fence My Father Built)
I followed Aunt Lutie across the living room to the kitchen area. It was a good five foot walk.
The broken down, green and white single-wide mobile home, with room additions sticking out in all directions, looked more like a child’s homemade fort than a place to live.
--Similes and metaphors create strong imagery when used sparingly.
Example 1: (Simile)
The trailer’s tiny kitchen looked like it had been built for elves.
Example 2: (Metaphor)
The trailer park was a battlefield surrounded by corpses of junked out cars, broken bicycles and blowing trash.