By BRIGET MURPHY
In the mid 1700s my ancestors came to America from Scotland by boat. Then they plunged into the wilderness of the Allegheny mountains of Pennsylvania. Harsh elements, untamed land, wild beasts. The real possibility of being scalped.
Following generations produced more risk-takers. Bear wrestlers. A pregnant bank robber. Great Aunt Mimi Garneau the sword swallower. The black sheep of the family would be my father’s conventional brother John. Married without drama, retired after a career as a high school counselor, a homebody whose favorite pasttime is smoking his pipe and listening to The Kingston Trio.
While my dad was busy driving cars into lakes and building a one-person helicopter, I was a teenager in daredevil-training.
Climbing metal bridge spans, playing chicken with approaching trains, and hitch-hiking. By high school, I decided the Army would be infinitely more exciting than college. Only sixteen hours into bootcamp, while being cursed at by drill instructors and duck walking in the rain, I figured I should have joined the newspaper club instead.
Later I jumped at the chance to buy a Victorian house in a crack-infested Memphis, Tennessee neighborhood. My husband and I had to fight off the Hell’s Lovers motorcycle gang and street thugs to renovate the place. I’m proud of my role in rehabilitating Cooper-Young, now a progressive, diverse and artsy neighborhood but back then even fun had a sketchy edge. I frequented Wild Bill’s, a real Southern juke joint with the best soul food in town — and the best blues in the world.
Briget Murphy is a writer and photographer who flew to Turkey after seeing an ad for an English tutor in Craigslist. She’s presently in Iowa working on a book of Istanbul street photographs taken by expats.