Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poison Pie & Any Way You Spell It, It Always Comes Out CLAMPITT

Though I live in a trailer park, you must know there isn’t a morning that goes by that I don’t appreciate the birds that wake me up singing, even at 1:00 a.m., for this morning their awakening took me on an undiscovered trail...
Coming out of the closet, any closet, requires bionic strength. But this particular one is up -close-and-personal-gigantic which means I hope you are all sitting down.
So, I was born in a whistle stop (no longer such) where the Los Angeles border meets up with the Ventura County line. My grandparents, along with their two kids, one of them being my mom, arrived dirt poor in the middle of the Great Depression like tumbleweeds rolling in on a dust ribbon. Grandpa immediately went to work picking lemons to make ends meet.
Anyway, the closet…
So my mom grew to be beautiful and was crowned Miss Oxnard before she met and married this dashing police officer that drove a motorcycle and wore leather. They met after he pulled her over for “excessive lane changing” and totally smitten, she fell in love with the SOB…I was born in a wagon of a travelin show…just kidding.

Consequently, one thing led to another, and I was born (closet door beginning to open), Valerie Fern Clampitt to a beauty queen and an Okie from Muskogee.
Yep. CLAMPITT, and I bore the burden and subsequent abuse of that surname my entire childhood, through my adolescence and into my early twenties until I had had enough;
Heard enough renditions of Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Jed, a poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed, then one day he was lookin for some food and up through the ground came a bubbling crude, oil that is, black gold, Texas tea…
Enough teasing and taunting, enough of being called Elly May and enough of my good old dad’s not-so-pretty ways of parenting. He finally disowned me right after I graduated from college (nice graduation gift, pops.) so I disowned the name Clampitt. Legally.
Completely disowned until last night when, due to insomnia, hot flashes and a rapid succession of thoughts, I stayed awake from midnight until almost 5:00 a.m. researching my Clampitt ancestry.
And oh my, what twisted and savory lives my kin have led! The rogues and villains, such as Elias Clampet of Gloucestershire, England, who was sentenced to death for stealing sheep or the Texan/Okie brothers, Les and Jes Clampette, who spent most of their lives in and out of prison for making moonshine (my kindred flesh and blood soul cousins) and an array of wagon train cowboys and, most likely, trailer park vagabonds that have made me who I am today!
My personal favorite was one, Catherine Anne Clampet - b 1819 and who, during The American Civil War, baked poison pies after her 12.5 year old child was shot dead in her own home by soldiers.
Evidently, there was a "HIT LIST" after the Civil War, put out by the feds, which contained names of those that had been bad. Catherine Clampet Sanders was on it because of her poison pies that she baked and fed to many a soldier that came by in the days and even months  after the senseless killing of her child. It was silent, sweet retribution for her son’s death.

Well, closet doors need to be opened; hell, they need to be blown apart at the hinges. And, you know, there’s something calling me to continue my investigation...
For today, I salute you and your name and the stories that lie waiting to be told.
~tpg clampitt


  1. very awesome Val! love the story. i knew the Clampitt part, but not quite told in this way. : )

  2. Thanks Nina! Appreciate your indulgence and loyal readership! It's all interesting, eh? Life, I mean. Hope you are fantastic today!

  3. Ahhhh....the breath of fresh air and the release of the closet door swinging open. Love it and love you, Val. Thank you!

  4. You know it Ange!! Thanks for loving me in spite of it all!

  5. From twisted roots grew a beautiful flower!