Salina Joe Hutshel was born in a cabin that had two rooms,one small window,and a dirt floor.Her parents,Shag and Marty Hutshel,built the little house in one day with the help of their families and friends.Salina Joe began to talk when she was one-year old.By the time she was seven,her parents couldn't answer any of her questions.Salina Joe's big black eyes were full of curiosity,but her mind stayed hungry.Her parents sent her to school for six months.They took her out as soon as she learned to read and write.Her parents had never learned.Salina Joe had to work on the farm.She planted corn and sweet potatoes in the hard red earth.She fed the cows and built fences.She cleaned the cabin and chopped wood.She did all the cooking and washed all the clothes.Her parents spent most of their time with the uncles,aunts and cousins in the family who lived nearby.All the Hutshels were like Salina Joe's parents.They couldn't read or write.They didn't like to work and they never took baths.One Sunday when Salina Joe was sixteen years old,her parents took her to the town of East Field.
As they walked down the street,Salina Joe heard someone behind her whisper,"Those are part of the Hutshel family.They are all dirty,lazy people who never work."A few days later,Salina went back alone to East Field.She went into one of the stores.It was only a simple country store.But to Salina Joe,it seemed like a wonderful place.She looked at silk ribbons and soft leather shoes.Salina Joe had never owned a pair of shoes or a silk ribbon.In the back of the store,she found a dress.It was made of red cotton material with little snow white squares on it.Salina Joe couldn't stop touching the dress.She asked the store's owner,"How much the dress cost?""Five dollars,"he said,"but I'll sell it to you for three."That evening after dinner,she told her father about the dress.Shag's face got red."Are you crazy?"He yelled,"Do you think I would buy you that dress?""But Pa,"Salina Joe said,"it only costs three dollars.I work hard and I have never asked you for anything before,besides,I'm gonna pay for it myself.""How?"Her father laughed."I'm going to get a job in Mr.Pruwit's paint factory.""Oh,no,you are not,"her father yelled,"you are going to stay right here and work on the farm."Her father got up from his chair and took off his heavy leather belt."You are not getting the job or the dress",he said,"but I'm gonna give you a beating you'll never forget."
A long knife lay on the kitchen table.Salina Joe's fingers found its handle.She didn't move.Her serious dark eyes never left her father's face."Pa,"she said softly,"if you touch me with that belt,I'll cut your heart out."Shag hustled,dropped the belt,and slowly back away from his daughter.The next day,Salina Joe went to work in Pruwit's paint factory.She carried heavy pails of paint from morning to night.The smell gave her headaches,the paint got on her skin and in her hair.After three months,she went to the store and bought her dress,a pair of white leather shoes,some silk stockings and a hat made of white lace.Salina Joe left the store with her beautiful new clothes wrapped in paper.She began walking home.She stopped when she came to the road that led to the large town of Dothan,15 kilometers away.Salina Joe turned and began walking to Dothan without looking back once toward the cabin where she was born.She reached Dothan five hours later.It was two o'clock in the afternoon.She found a small pond of water outside of town.Salina Joe took off her dirty farm clothes.She washed herself in the pond,dried with the paper from her package,and put on her fine new clothes.Then,she entered the town.No one in Dothan knew she was from a Hutshel family.When she walked down the street,people smiled at her and said"Hello".