Sunday, October 14, 2012

A childhood memoir from a local writer


Scott Terry’s father, Virgil, “was born out in the boondocks of a dairy farm in rural Missouri, but raised on a cattle ranch in the mountains west of Orland in the California soon-to-be ghost town of Newville. In those days, the residents of Newville, half of which were my family, could be counted on two hands.” Virgil’s first date with Terry’s mother was in Chico “at the Peking Chinese restaurant on Main Street. ... They later conceived their first child, my older sister Sissy, in the front seat of his truck. In 1961, circumstances such as that required a hasty wedding.”

The marriage unraveled after Scott was born. His stepmother, “Fluffy,” fulfilled the stereotype ("You can't clink your spoon against your cereal bowl."). “Virgil,” Terry notes, “was introduced to Fluffy in the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall.” By seven, "I was in love with going door to door as a Jehovah's Witness. Immensely. It was a fantastic escape from Fluffy's house."

His memoir is called "Cowboys, Armageddon, And The Truth: How A Gay Child Was Saved From Religion" ($18 in paperback from Lethe Press; also in Amazon Kindle format). Terry will be signing copies of his book at Lyon Books in Chico this Tuesday, October 16 at 7:00 p.m.

The faith was called "The Truth"; "its primary philosophy ... was that of separation. The Truth expected social isolation from mainstream society." Besides, Armageddon was coming in the mid-1970s and one had to be ready.

Even as Terry embraced the faith, he was troubled by same-sex attractions and prayed earnestly for change. He read in a youth manual that "contrary to what many persons think, homosexuals are not born that way, but their homosexual behavior is learned." Confused, ashamed, he experienced a kind of double isolation.

The more explicit second half of the book details Terry's adolescence and college years, and his eventual coming-out to his Aunt Donnis "who worked for the test office at Chico State." He had abandoned The Truth years before and yet, at 23, verbalized to his aunt a different kind of truth.

Terry today is an artist, businessman, freelance writer, and "gay cowboy, a bullrider to be specific." His story of parental abuse, and sexual yearnings, may strike a chord with many readers.

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