On West Virginia Day

 I wrote this a few years ago on West Virginia Day, and with Saturday marking this year’s observance, I thought I would post it again. While I have been a Maryland resident for two years, and prior to that a Kentucky resident for 18 years, I am a native of West Virginia. I say that without arrogance, and completely without shame. I am proud to be a West Virginian.  At times, some have asked where my geographic allegiance lies since I grew up in Central Ohio. While I love Ohio, and will always identify as a Buckeye, my bones were made in those West Virginia mountains.

West Virginia’s national profile is shaped by many portrayals in movies and on TV that are less than flattering. MTV’s “Buckwild” was hardly the only show to do this. The same production company that created “Jackass” also did a full-length documentary on the White Family of West Virginia. I watched it once with my eyes half shut since it took every stereotype ever created and magnified them ten-fold.

Let me tell you what I know about West Virginia, and most importantly it’s people. If you are ever in need, in trouble, or just need a kind word–West Virginians will be there. Most natives who leave, try to get back whenever they can. While the professional avenues for some might not exist in The Mountain State, the pull of home remains strong. We are sorry when we leave, and euphoric when we come back. Living in sight of, and in some cases in the midst of mountains cradles you and makes you feel safe and a lot more secure. No place else in America has that feeling for me.

West Virginia has some of the last wild nature left in America. Native timber still exists. Wildlife runs free, and the air is so clean in the mountains that it’s almost sweet tasting.  Most citizens will tell you they love God, their family and the WVU Mountaineers. We embrace our roots and history in West Virginia. Unlike other places that seem to run from any rural and rustic beginnings, we cherish and nurture them, doing our best to pass them on to our children. Where else can you see fifty different kids under ten years-of-age learning to play hammer dulcimer?

For once I wish everyone would try to get past the idiotic stereotypes and experience the beauty and spirit of West Virginia.

I’ve often said West Virginia is the northernmost southern state–the southernmost northern state–the westernmost eastern state–and the easternmost western state in the country. We are, but we are uniquely and proudly West Virginia.

I know many natives who have relocated, and don’t often return. Almost to a person they regret not being able to get home more often, myself included.  We love West Virginia.

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