No one goes to West Virginia, at
least no one I know. That seemed like a good enough reason to go, especially
since many of the folks who had never gone warned me of the inbred hicks,
boneheaded rednecks, illiterate coal miners, and rampant squalor.
What they failed to mention were
the warm-hearted, plain-talking, common-sense, mountain folk rich in history
and family bonds who showed me hospitality and kindness at every turn in the
road. For all our fast-lane progress speaking down to their simplicity, these
unpretentious West Virginians decided not to cover their Blue Ridge Mountains
with strip malls. This was not the result of poverty but a rich understanding
of their wild places and how to make it part of their everyday
Teenagers in camo jackets here
instead of designer jeans, well scuffed hiking boots instead of gangsta high
tops, hiking sticks instead of selfie sticks. I felt a natural man among
Along the country roads John Denver
sang of, hillbillies tilted chairs back on their porches, a ready smile hidden
under their beards. A stranger sitting down to a game of checkers was as
natural as in SoCal to ask for a WiFi password.
Sometimes the road shows me more
than just a stunning waterfall. Sometimes it teaches me the difference between
urgent deadlines and communing with what is truly vital, what is noble inside
us, suffocating under layers of polyester.
Our tales of their primitive,
one-tooth society probably started for the same reason that pioneers referred
to Indians as savages. People in a hurry to master the world around them make
assumptions about those who don't share their agenda. They assume these West
Virginians need domination, or at least motivation, or at least food
I'm looking forward to New York's
skyscrapers, but West Virginia is where I discovered the significance of what
remains hidden unless we search it out, as opposed to what is promoted and
Or perhaps best said by Marcel
Proust, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes."
Wisdom of a hillbilly
Beckley Coal Mine from a hundred years ago
King coal dethroned
Monongahela National Forest
|For more pictures of West Virginia, click here.