Independent film director, John Sayles, known for critically acclaimed movies such as Passion Fish and Matewan, describes West Virginia this way in his book, Thinking in Pictures:
There's no place in America like the hills of West Virginia. There'll be a river, usually fast running and not too wide, and on the flatland along its banks a railroad track and maybe a little town, only two or three streets before the land starts rising up steep all around you. You've got to look straight up to see the sky and often there's a soft mist shrouding the holler. The hills hug around you -- stay in side of them for a while and a flat horizon seems cold and unwelcoming. It's always been a hard life there, with not enough bottomland to farm and no easy way to get manufactured good out of the area. The cash crops had to be torn out from the ground, first timber and then coal. It's a land that doesn't yield anything easily.
In the late sixties I hitchhiked through the area several times and most of the people who gave me rides were coal miners or people with mining in their families. They spoke with a mixture of pride and resignation about the mining -- resignation about how dark and dirty and cold and wet and dangerous it was and pride that they were the people to do it.
Another literary work is the autobiographical book by John O'Brien, At Home in the Heart of Appalachia, which he talks about in this intriguing video ~ he nails it with regard to the people, relationships, and this continual web of connection. I've experienced it in my genealogical work meeting my relatives out on the branches of my Family Tree.
And who does not remember John Denver's beloved song
embraced by The Pride of West Virginia, The West Virginia University Marching Band (I apologize for the quality but you have to see what they do at the end of this...give me chills)
and did I ever tell you that after Edster and I said "I do." we marched to it down the aisle as we left the front of our church on our Wedding Day?
Thank you for indulging me. It is an astounding heritage!
For my readers, the next few posts will focus on remembering the impact of September 11, 2001, as we draw close to that anniversary.