In her new book, "Coming Home to Myself," country music star Wynonna Judd recounts her triumphs and heartbreaks as she skyrocketed to fame from poverty. She also writes about her relationship with her little sister, actress Ashley Judd.
Wynonna and her mother, Naomi Judd, debuted as a mother-daughter singing duo, The Judds, in 1984 when Wynonna was only 18. That year they received their first Grammy award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. In 1992, Wynonna signed her first solo record deal.
Below is an excerpt from the book.
"We'll be river rats!" Dad said, excitedly, pulling his MG convertible up to the little house.That's what the city folks called people who lived along the Kentucky River, river rats. It was winter, and bitterly cold.The place Dad rented was named CampWig. It was located between a cow pasture and a concrete block church where the congregation often sang and praised all night long.
It was an unheated summer fishing retreat, so he purchased one of those black coal-and-wood-burning stoves, and put up sheets of metallic protectors on the kitchen wall to keep the house from catching fire. We all took turns waking up through the night and keep adding wood. If Mom and Dad were gone, it was my job to keep the home fires burning. We wore clothes on top of clothes and rubbed our hands a lot. Mom, Ashley and I often slept together under piles of blankets, quilts and coats. Our pipes froze a lot in the winter, so we always seemed to be out of water.
We had to get up early at Camp Wig. Mom left before dawn for her nursing classes, driving her red VW through the back roads to the ferry across the river, and finally to the highway bound for Richmond, Kentucky. Ashley and I got up before dawn, too. We'd warm ourselves by the wood-burning stove each morning. I have vivid memories of standing and looking out the window, watching Mom bust up coal outside the kitchen door at five a.m. to warm us all up for breakfast. Afterward, Ashley and I would walk up the long driveway to the main road to catch the school bus. It was over an hour's ride to town.
The small village around Camp Wig was poverty-stricken. Many of the other river rats lived without electricity or plumbing. A few of my friends used coffee cans for toilets. Some families lived up to eight in a three-room shack, curtains hung across the room to separate the kitchen from the sleeping areas. Many of the children had never been out of the county.
Yet with all that poverty, these people were the friendliest you could imagine. They were family out there. It reminds me of a story I was told about a woman who was asked which she thought would be worse, to be too rich or too poor. She thought about it and said, "Too rich, because being too rich can be lonely. If you're poor, you may not have much but at least you know who your friends are."
As spring replaced winter, Ashley and I discovered the real magic of Camp Wig. We fell asleep each night to the sounds of crickets and frogs, and awakened each morning to the birds singing. Flowers bloomed, and finally that summer, the blackberries ripened! Dad, Ashley and I would pick the berries, then sit on the back porch and eat them until our faces were stained blue-black. Camp Wig was where I came to love the four seasons. There was always something to look forward to, even if you did have to put up with frozen pipes.