Talking trailer trash

By Jayette Bolinski ~ Southeast Missourian

Neil Nesslage joined the trailer-dwelling crowd in 1995 and found he couldn't beat the negative stereotype associated with it. So the trailer owner became a trailer trasher.

Proud of the manufactured home he bought, Nesslage, 27, said he was shocked by the raised eyebrows and wisecracks he heard from people who teased him about being trailer trash.

"I went to work, and I was bragging to everybody about the home I bought," Nesslage said. "Everybody was saying, 'You're living in a trailer?' I said, 'Yeah, it's really nice you should see it. It's got drywall and vaulted ceilings.' They didn't really go for that."

After getting more than his share of trailer-trash ribbing, he wondered why the group gets such a bad rap. He began looking at trailers around the state and said the reasons became clear.

"I guess I started laughing with them," he said. "It was an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em sort of thing."

The trailer owner became a trailer-trasher and put up a Web site -- www.missouritrailertrash.com -- dedicated to the most creatively decorated and constructed trashy trailers in Missouri -- half of which he estimates he's found near Poplar Bluff.

Nesslage, who still lives in a trailer in Winfield, Mo., with his wife and three children, said his interest has taken him to all parts of the state, and he realizes trashy trailer possibilities are endless -- they can be stacked on top of each other; single-wides can be bumped up against other single-wides, effectively creating double-wides; and they can sport a variety of add-ons, such as peaked roofs, basements, breezeways and attics.

"I understand the stereotype, and I joke about it now," he said. "Now I can go one step further and say, 'Hey, I got this Web site.' It just cracks me up, I guess."

Nesslage stressed that his Web site is not a malicious jab at people who can't afford anything else. He said he simply enjoys uniquely constructed trailers and wants to give the owners the credit they deserve.

The Web site has dozens of photographs of the most interesting trailers Nesslage has discovered, including one that has an end propped up on 21 stacked concrete blocks, another that is home to a bank, one with a walk-out basement and another with firewood stacked all the way around it.

One pet peeve

He admits to having one trailer-trash pet peeve -- people who insist on leaving major appliances scattered about the yard.

"It just so happens that most people who live in trailers are poor and it's inexpensive housing," he said. "I'm not making fun of poor people at all, but it doesn't cost a penny to pick up your yard and drag the appliances around back."

Trailers have changed considerably in the last 10 to 15 years. Jerry Tomlinson, sales representative for Patriot Homes on Interstate 55, exit 80, in Benton, Mo., said manufactured homes are becoming more versatile and contain many of the same construction features as traditional houses, such as drywall interiors, wood trim, custom wall coverings, vaulted ceilings and foundations.

"A few people still come in and think of us as selling trailers," he said. "The vast majority are looking for a home and something that is comparable to a conventional house. That's what we're offering. They very much have the appearance of residential construction."

Tomlinson said he is seeing trends in which buyers include young people who can't afford to buy a house yet and retirees who are looking to sell their large homes in favor of something smaller and less expensive.

"People gobble them up because the price is so reasonable," he said. "We're fulfilling a need in the marketplace for people who would only be able to afford a starter home."

Though he hates to admit it, Nesslage said he thinks the trailer trash stereotype is here to stay.

"There is a lot of trailer trash out there. I tried to fight it," he said. "I like to think manufactured housing has evolved, but as long as you have trailer trash, I don't think you're ever going to lose that stereotype."


2001, The Southeast Missourian.