Rebuilding a Trailer
Story from Shane Star
Edited and Photography by Viki Eagle
Growing up, I always told myself I would go as far as I can in life to support my family. At the end of the school year, my mother and I were kicked out of my grandma’s house in Wolf Creek. I had lived there for the past 10 years. My grandmother felt I was a bad influence on my younger brothers when in reality all I wanted to do was protect them from negativity that lived in my household. I stood up to the injustice I saw and took action to protect them. Regardless of it all, she made the decision that I had to go. However, that meant to her I was not welcomed.
So we left and moved to Pine Ridge. That’s when I encountered the toughest challenges in my life such as avoiding all of the negativity that town has to offer. Pine Ridge had oppressing negativity such as alcoholism, high dropout rates, drugs, and just negativity from all the people on the reservation in general. It’s like they can’t handle seeing someone doing better than them. They always brought someone down and you needed to know people to get a good job anywhere.
Not only did I have to deal with all the negativity, I also had to live in a trailer that was in horrible shape and definitely not ready for the freezing northern winters. It was white tan color and in my eyes literally four walls put together
However, I thank God I wasn’t the only one living down there. My stepfather Jorma moved in with us when I got kicked out.
Together, Jorma and I fixed that trailer throughout the summer before the fast approaching winter. To describe the work we put into it was physical labor. Long days outside in the hot sun and while others enjoyed their time off we were working to survive.
We got the materials but the whole trailer had something wrong with it such as the lack of heat, flooring, structure and electricity. We always had to go get water from a valve outside in the back yard because the trailer did not have running water. We started to fix the vital things first, like all the ways the potential -30 degree wind chills could cut through the crack of walls during the winter.
The entire front yard was practically a jungle of plants surrounding the trailer. We chopped the plants down with one manual weed whacker. Jorma and I took turns giving as much force as we can swinging at these plants and switching off to catch our breath. We put up siding up to prevent most of the cold air from coming in the bottom. To survive the winter we put a wood stove in the living room for the source of heat.
I learned so much about life in general like how important school is and if you wanted to make it in this world, you had to work for it. Jorma always lectured me throughout the whole period we lived there because he wanted the best out of me. He taught me what he learned throughout his life. His stories meant so much to me and stuck with me in those times. All this really made me a better person in the end and now I’m thankful for my struggle because it taught me so much. It really helped me through many aspects of life. It was the tough way to learn but it definitely made me who I am.
I ended up moving out of that trailer at the beginning of 2012, outside of Pine Ridge. The trailer isn’t there any more. There is no evidence it is even there or ever existing. When I moved out I felt really sad and happy at the same time. I had so many memories in that trailer but I knew I was going to live in a better place to live so I looked ahead instead.
Shane Star is a current first year at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology studying Civil Engineering and fellow recipient of Gates Millennial Scholarship 2013. Look forward to more stories from Shane Star on his Gates experience coming up.