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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

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
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.

When I wake up, sandpaper is crawling on my skin. At least that's what I think it is, until I feel hot breath against my cheek. The bunk bed where I am sleeping is two feet from the camper ceiling, and it's coffin-dark. I can't sit up, so I lay perfectly still, while my 8-year-old mind tries to understand sandpaper and beer-soaked breath. At first, I think someone has broken into the trailer. I must be alone, or my mom would jump up and scream. My dad would grab his rifle and start shooting. My brother would run out of the trailer and hide in the trees.

The sandpaper keeps moving, five round pieces the size of dimes. It scrapes my stomach, sliding along the top of my pajama pants, where it hesitates, then dips down. Completely disoriented, I try to scream, but no sound comes out. Holding my breath, I force myself to buck—away from the beer and abrasion, into the tightest ball I can make. The sandpaper stops moving. The breath grunts away from my face.

I'm swimming in tar. I will suffocate. I lay awake listening to the wind beat the trailer for hours.

The next morning, my dad and I walk to Fishhook Creek. I lead, he follows. I find a log, whitewashed and slippery, and inch across it to the center. My dad scoots behind me, lights a Camel, and sits down so that the soles of his black work boots just skim the ripples, which are metallic and bright.

I feet itchy and sick to my stomach, like I've been sunburned from the inside out. My dad puffs on his cigarette, exhaling streams of smoke that hang in the frosty air.

"I know what you're thinking," he says. "I know what you think that was."

I consider asking him what he thinks I'm thinking, because what I am really wondering is how the salmon, struggling against the current below my feet, breathe in the murky eddies that disappear under the grassy bank. I am imagining, in some abstract and childish way, that I will dive in the river and let it flush me downstream. I hold my breath and let my dad continue. He puffs on his cigarette, then throws the butt into the creek.

"I mean it, Tracy," he says. "I was only tucking you in."


PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

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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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