My mother was born in the hills of eastern Kentucky, and moved to Indiana as a child. She always felt like an exile; the hills were her true home. So she was a big fan of all things Southern, from hayseed comedies to Glen Campbell
We drove down in a camper in the summer of 1973, about a month after I saw two boys kissing at Longview Park Pool, to visit her older brothers, uncles and aunts, and sundry kinfolk left behind in the hills.
My Uncle El lived in a cabin like that in the Beverly Hillbillies, with electricity from a generator outside, and tv, but no running water. There was an outhouse back by the chicken coop.
There was no town, just a feed store a mile away, where you could get ice cream and candy, if you didn't mind eating it beside giant bags of fertilizer.
No teen idols -- even the teenagers listened only to Country-Western music.
They only got one tv station, from West Virginia, with The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family on Friday nights, but otherwise nothing good on.
Uncle Paul's wedding) had tight, muscular chests and thick biceps, and wore only overalls or cut-off jeans.
At night, since water had to be trotted up from a pump outside, we had to bathe together. And we slept three to a bed, wearing only underwear, pressed together in the night.
They had two friends, Robbie and Sam -- I never knew if they were brothers, cousins, or lovers -- who drove us in a rickety red pick-up truck up the mountain to a stream where we all went swimming. Nude.
One night they drove us into Salyersville, about 10 miles away, for a drive in movie: Cahill, U.S. Marshall, starring John Wayne as a sheriff whose two sons escape from prison and rob a bank. Later the Duke and Danny (Gary Grimes) try to return the money. They were father and son, but the erotic tension between them was palpable, especially on a hot night in the hills, sitting in the back of a pickup truck with a group of tanned, shirtless musclemen.
I know now that Eastern Kentucky is one of the least gay-friendly regions in the U.S.
But in 1973, I wanted to stay forever.
Instead, we spent a week at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where I met a Teenage Indian God.
See also: My Kentucky Kinfolk Grow Up; and My Grandpa Howard's Gay Connection