I teach a class about forestry and logging.  It is a part of an overall strategy to replace an aging workforce in one of Alabama’s largest and most important industries.

The class requires that I set-up shop for a few weeks in rural areas.  Places where jobs are scarce as hen’s teeth and logging is one of the few options left if you want to work where you grew up.  My students are mostly young (under 30) and without the means or inclination to go college.

Hillary is one of those people.

I was intrigued when she called to apply for the class.  I have worked in forestry for over 25 years now, and I have never seen a female logger.  She had missed the deadline, but I told her to go online and complete an application.  She said she “wasn’t good on computers,” so I took her information by phone.  Everything was fine until I got to the last question:  “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

There was a pause.

“Charged or convicted?”

I liked that answer.  No pretense.  No guile.  I liked it so much that I didn’t ask for details.

I had my suspicions.  They were confirmed day-one.

Hillary is a recovered meth addict.

The details of her struggle were volunteered over the course of the next five weeks.  They were non-linear, a picture puzzle of a life story that I could only assemble as she put the next piece in place.  Her memories were triggered by a classroom concept, a person we encountered, or the roads we traveled.

“You see that spot over there?  I wrecked my momma’s car there one night when I was sixteen.  I’d been partying hard, and I think I must have went to sleep.  I was all banged-up from the steering wheel when I woke up, but I remember thinking the cops would be coming soon and I needed to get my story straight.  ‘Was I headed home, or was I coming from home?””

“That’s the Girl’s Home.  I spent a year there when my daddy got high and beat-up me and momma.”

“When me and my first old man split-up, he told me that I wouldn’t make it, that I’d never have a pot to piss in, but I showed him.  I worked two jobs and saved most of what I made and bought a nice house. You can work fine when your using, ’cause you really don’t need much sleep.”

“They took my fist girl away when I got busted.  I knew I didn’t have enough on me for felony possession, so I kept my mouth shut.  They put me in jail for a month.  Told me I was headed to prison, but they’d let me go if I’d just tell them where I got it.  No way I was going to do that.  Better in jail than dead.”

“I won’t take so much as a sinus pill, now.  I get drug-tested once a month, and I ain’t taking any chances.  It’s part of my probation.”

“I was seven when I started using.  My aunt gave it to me.”

I listened to all these things without question, until one day when I just had to ask.

“How did you quit?”

“When I found out I was pregnant, I prayed and prayed.  I told Jesus that if he’d just let my baby be born alright that I’d never touch it again.  I haven’t used since.”

Hillary finished the class, and as we say down here she can ‘flat-out run’ logging machines.

I met that little girl at graduation.  She’s four years old.  Blonde and pretty.

Hillary kept her end of the bargain.

Looks like Jesus did too.


20 thoughts on “Hillary

  1. Beautiful story. The first thing I’ve read in the new year. Uplifting and inspiring. Hooray for Hilary. Thank you Ray.

  2. A touching story Ray. It’s a tough haul for young females trying to break out of the constraints of being a user, the fear of what a dealer is capable of doing to them and living day to day. Something many of us here can’t imagine the lifestyle they have. Certainly a strong young woman to make the choice to get and stay clean. The best to you Hillary!

  3. WOW! I believe in prayers! I believe God uses people to carry out His plans!
    I believe God choose you to teach her! I believe God has a plan for the beautiful little girl He put in her care! I believe With God all things are possible! I believe there is a reason for everything!
    What a wonderful God we serve!

    Thank you for sharing! Sharing this story may be the one thing someone needs to give their life to their Heavenly Father!
    Love in Christ!

  4. Love this story because it is encouraging to those who might need a pat on the back or may have forgotten that Jesus does keep all of His promises even when people do not.

  5. I like People stories, good job. When I was teaching at the Union Trade School, we started seeing more Women joining the trades, some of the Women’s life stories were pretty interesting. I still hear from a lot of them. Nice work Ray, and HAPPY NEW YEAR to You and your family.

    1. I’d like to see more women in the trades too. In my experience, women tend to do the little things well, like show up on time every day, as well as treating the equipment better.

      Thanks Bob. Happy New Year to you and yours as well. Two wheels down.

  6. Thanks for sharing. It’s always rewarding to know someone has overcome an addiction.We have no clue what difficult lives some people have lived.

  7. Wonderful read for the new year…so glad that there is another woman on the road to recovery and that a child will have a chance in this world we live in. Thank you for sharing part of her life’s story.

  8. I can’t help but think of the fact that you were willing to give this young Lady the chance to achieve the course , That alone speaks for your self ability not to be judgement as in today’s world that is a rare commodity. Thank you. As to her opening up to you and sharing her own experiences that also brought out her determination to help herself. So many youth and young adults need that opportunity. A hand up instead of a hand out. Having worked in your area I found a sincere outreach from many that came up in poverty that did not want to leave the area they grew up in. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Addiction seems to be rampant in rural Alabama where most of the industry has moved on. We do drug test, so I’m glad to give someone a second chance.

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