Great Meadow Village

I've mentioned elsewhere that fictional Darby is a composite of many New Hampshire towns, but in particular of Westmoreland, Dublin and Sullivan. I envisioned the nice cape cod and colonial style houses you find in New England towns (the Dot McCurtin house); newer places, less quaint but functional (the Dorne house); rundown, funky places like the Elman spread; and shacks and cabins and a tree house; also mansions, like the one found on the Salmon estate. Trailers, mobile homes, manufactured homes, whatever you want to call them also figure into the landscape.

Some towns, such as the one I live at this writing, zone out mobile homes. By contrast, in fictional Darby, like many New England towns, almost anything goes. "It's my property, and by gosh I'll do what I want with it." That idea is always in conflict with its counter measure to preserve and protect property interests through legal means, the purview of the well off. In rural areas in New England people who can only afford to live mobile homes are often driven to unlikely places, like in a woodland with no nearby services, or in low areas that often flood.

In fictional Darby, the first mobile home that appears is at the end The Dogs of March when Howard Elman replaces his burned-out home with a trailer. Decades later, in Howard's Elman's Farewell, we find that a for-profit corporation has built an entire mobile home community, Great Meadow Village, a common occurrence throughout the country. What happens to Great Meadow Village in Howard Elman's Farewell I believe is typical of the fate of many of those communities.

"Great meadow" is a term that comes up frequently among English place names in Colonial America. Take a nice long look at a "great meadow", then take a similar look at a trailer park; now consider how corporations often name their entities without regard to the way language resonates over time and perhaps you'll see a little sarcasm in my name for the trailer park. Note also that the site of Great Meadow Village is in the same location of the Jordan shacks of A Little More Than Kin, an earlier Darby novel.

In the New England countryside, and indeed throughout the United States, yea, the world, from New Hampshire to New Mexico, from both sides of the Great Divide, from the Cajuns of the Louisiana bayous to the boat people of China ("drifting twigs," as they are sometimes called), you will find in the dwellings of ordinary working people a certain dishevelment that mirrors the natural landscape. Example: Recently I drove through the beautiful hill country of central Texas when I came upon a yard of junk cars, horse corral, trailer home, ramshackle wood deck; outside the family sat around an open fire and a grill. It was a scene right out of one of my books, though a couple thousand miles away. To my eye the scene fit perfectly into the surrounding cacti and mesquite bushes, no lawn.

That's difference between people with ordinary and extra-ordinary income. Regular people find ways to fit themselves into their landscape. Their more financially successful brethren show of their wealth by imposing themselves upon the landscape.

For me the real offense of a trailer park like Great Meadow Village is not the close-order living in flimsy structures (the poor have always lived in such circumstance), it's that the materials used, sheet metal and plastic, and how the structures are placed, in a grid, just appear out of place in and an insult to the natural landscape. I can't help think that such environments are not good for human happiness.