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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

The Source of All Things

Recently released as a full-length memoir, The Source of All Things was first published as a feature article in BACKPACKER in December 2007. This is the full-text of that article.

by: Tracy Ross

Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi
Photo by Paolo Marchesi

The Source of All Things Cover Image

Now a full-length memoir, The Source of All Things by Tracy Ross is available from Amazon.com and other booksellers.

I started contemplating suicide on a regular basis when I was 14, as it dawned on me that no one was going to help—no matter what I said or did. My grandmother, a stoic with her own skeletons, refused to get involved. She listened to my reports at her kitchen table while she prepared elaborate duck or pheasant dinners for her hunting friends. But she never confronted my dad. And my mom, who'd already lost one husband, wore her denial like a heavy coat.

I can still remember the look on her face when I handed her a poem I'd written, one morning after my dad had been in my room. She read half of it—I can't remember what it said—then folded the paper over. My dad was standing close enough in the kitchen to intercept the missive, but he didn't see it. Why I didn't give her the poem in private, I don't know. But when she peered up, her eyes burned their own message back. "Please, please stop telling me this," they said. And so, one night in the middle of August, 1985, I ran away.

It's late, and I'm lying stomach-up on the living room floor, with one leg sticking out of a faded yellow nightgown with Tweety Bird on the front. I'm pretending to sleep as the wind screams across the lava flats, rattling the windows of our house. And my dad, dressed in a terrycloth robe and reeking of Old Spice, hovers a couple of inches above me, so that I can feel the heat coming off his chest.

I squirm, and he backs off. I roll over; he inches on. I jerk my head and lurch my body—still pretending to sleep, but showing him that I know what he's doing and that it's making me sick. My dad and I twist around like this until he decides I'm too restless to lay on top of tonight.

He gets up and stares at me, then goes outside for a smoke. When he comes in, he turns out the lights and heads to bed. I listen. Teeth brushed. Covers back. A little moan. Asleep.

When I hear him snoring, I put on my pink-and-black Vans and slip out the front door, careful not to let the wind slam it shut. I run to the end of our driveway and turn north, toward the Perrine Bridge. This is the night, I think, that everyone will remember, but no one will understand. I am running to the bridge, which stretches across the Snake River, nearly 500 feet in the air. When I get there, I will walk to the very center. I will climb on top of the railing. And I will jump.

The nights I was abused have become like dreams, some locked in a vault and others softened around the edges so that they sometimes seem almost tender. But there are others, terrifying aftershocks that flash out of nowhere—visceral as if they'd happened yesterday.

Lying in my sleeping bag a half-mile below Sawtooth Lake, I can't get the bridge, the Tweety Bird nightgown, or my desperate 14-year-old face out of my head. It's 3 a.m., and I'm staring at the roof of my tent. A thin layer of condensation has turned to ice, which keeps shearing off into my face.



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Maelduin
Oct 15, 2012

"It never happened with boys", yet your brother set a cat on fire and threw it in the river? I think you need to talk to your brother about what may have happened to him in secret.
I salute your courage and grace in writing this.

Maria
Oct 14, 2012

Tracy: I am so sorry for what you have been through. However, I really don't think you should have any dealings with this man. He raped you; a child. There are no excuses. It should negate anything positive he ever did. He belongs in jail, as does your mother and anyone else who knew anything about it. tDo not let him babysit your kids. Do not have anything to do with him.

Victoria
Dec 03, 2011

When I first read this article on the train in 2008, it really hit home. It still hits home. Thank you Tracy for being brave enough to face him and tell the story. I don't feel as alone with the "secret" that I keep.

Kimberly collaso
Aug 31, 2011

How could you let him babysit your kids?!!?!?

Chris
Apr 29, 2011

Great stuff. Saw yr interview and googled this article. Have lived and hiked in AK, CO, ME, where I camped with my prime abuser. Have been working things through with that person past 3 yrs, and writing about it. Helps, and things are better. Keep it up. God bless.

Deb
Apr 28, 2011

For you who don't think her story shouldn't have been in this magazine, I think things happen for a reason. Maybe her story reached out to someone in need,

Dave Morris
Feb 23, 2011

Beautiful writing Tracy. I hope you are well.

Joy Martinez-Stranksy
Jan 21, 2011

Congratulations Trace, you finally did it.

Tira Scott
May 30, 2009

The beauty and honesty of Tracy's journey is as breathtaking and awe inspiring as the Sawtooth Mountains themselves. Bravo to this brave author, couragous yet as lovely and delicate as a robin's egg. Her story belongs here because humans and nature go together. Both are as delicate as a spring trillium and as dangerous as an avalanche. Bravo Tracy... Keep writing, it is your gift to others.

sk
May 14, 2009

Brilliant imagery & searing pain - one of the most well written and touching stories, I've read in a long time.


gen
May 14, 2009

wretched story, but beautifully written. Really captures the essence of growing up in southern idaho, as well as hiking and camping around red fish lake. I've been gone a long time, and didn't know they had succeeded in getting some salmon back in redfish. Fantastic!

Joseph Kennedy
May 11, 2009

The last reader is right. It deals with an ugly topic. This is story that does not belong here. In fact, it does not belong anywhere. No one should have to tell it. But she did and with grace and courage. Showing how the living a independent and active life outdoors helped her overcome anger and hate. And gave her the strength to confront her former abuser with calm restraint. Thank you, Tracy. I now have a new favorite writer.

Shauna Marsh
May 03, 2009

I think this is a phenomenal story. Thank you for sharing it. For those who do not think think this magazine is an appropriate place for it- you have a choice. Do not read it.

Susan
May 02, 2009

Congratulations on your win and telling your story. I, too, was a victim of rape and abuse. You are a strong woman, and I wish you respite from the demons.

alex
May 02, 2009

congratulation. a have spent the last hour reading your essay, written in a foreign language for me.

michaeldraznin
May 01, 2009

congrat's on the win this evening. must be something of a mixed experience, but wonderful nonetheless. wish i could read the article in its entirety on Backpacker.com. unfortunately, it seems to be only partially available...at least for my browser. that aside, well done!

Jody Reale
May 01, 2009

Yes.

Nick City Reprise
Apr 24, 2009

This article was really well done, great use of the word maw. With twitter stealing news clips before you can even get a good lead-in sentence, this is how writing is going to need to be in the future. I know what the trails look like but this article is about much more than hiking, great gonzo style.

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