When I started Don't Worry about the Mule Going Blind, I didn't worry about the mule, but I had some concerns about Betty Tucker's story. I couldn't tell where the story was going—I felt like I was drawing in a child's follow-the-dots book, going from point to point apparently headed nowhere. Then suddenly, there was a map of the United States—and in this case, a fascinating story about an unsettled and unsettling life. I was delighted, and grateful that I persevered.
Life in the 1940s and 50s was hard for African American families like Tucker's in Troy, Alabama. But her father had work and there was always food on the table. Then disaster. When she was nine, her father lost his job. There was no work. The family joined the army of migrant workers who were not only mostly jobless, but often homeless. The only thing certain was uncertainty. In a timeline, the book reveals that from the moment the nine-year-old left the only home she ever had known until she was 20, she shared at least 18 addresses. Her life centered in Belle Glade, Florida the jumping-off place for seasonal workers.
An aside here: in the introduction, Tucker mentions an Edward R. Murrow 1960 documentary, "Harvest of Shame" that shows the lives of several migrant families in Belle Glade. I found it on the Internet, free. It is well worth watching, though somewhat horrifying. And it makes Tucker's own story much more meaningful.
All the roughness, squalor and uncertainty never made Tucker hopeless. She knew from the start, she tells us, she would not be trapped into this ugliness, and that one of her tickets out would be the ability to write, but then, "Life happened, and I didn't do any creative writing for thirty-four years."
Quite a life for those years. The poor girl who had to miss school to pick vegetables spent two decades with the U. S. Postal Service, and then, after earning her college degree at the University of San Francisco, many more years as a teacher. She also was (and is) a caring parent and friend. I'm glad life made time for her to share her story as an inspiration, she says, "to show teens and women in particular that with a heartfelt, sincere, and honest approach they can create a life beyond their wildest dreams."
Betty Tucker was born in Troy, Alabama. She spent many years of her youth on the road with stops in Quincy, Florida and back in Alabama. She settled in California with her five children, then worked for the Postal Service and as a teacher. Today she lives, writes and is an inspirational speaker in Richmond, California and Montgomery, Alabama. Visit her website.
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