Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

When I was in third grade I found out that my cousins in Ohio didn't celebrate West Virginia Day.

It seems silly now, but when I was a kid West Virginia Day was a big deal in my community. People were off work and there were special things that happened around town. The radio station would play "My West Virginia Hills" and people would sing along. A nine year old kid thinks the whole world is just like the part of the world immediately around him, so I thought West Virginia Day was something that people all over the country celebrated. It never seemed strange to me that we didn't celebrate Ohio Day, because I'd been to Ohio and it was nothing special to my eyes. I had been taught my whole life that West Virginia was indeed something special and so I thought it was logical that the whole world would pause on June 20th and observe the momentous occasion of its founding.

"We're the most northern southern state," my mother told me, "and the most southern northern state; the most eastern western state and the most western eastern state." Surely that alone was a designation that was worthy of a national holiday, I thought.

And my eyes could see the beauty that was all around me, and in my travels to other states I had never seen anything as wonderful as Cranberry Glades, Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, Spruce Knob, Seneca Rocks, Summersville Lake or a dozen other places that I had seen as a young child. I was certain that the state we lived in was a blessed gift to the world and it was worthy to be celebrated.

It was only after I became a young adult that I began to realize that West Virginia was not universally loved and appreciated. At some point I began to realize that people from other places mistook our unique way of speaking for ignorance. They mistook our simple lifestyle for abject poverty. They mistook our preference for staying in West Virginia to find a way to make a living for lack of ambition. And with all of these mistaken presumptions came a negative view of our people and by association, our state.

But I know better, and so do most West Virginians. While some of our own people buy into this fatalistic self-view, I believe that many more of us are quietly counting our blessings that come with living in a place so richly blessed with beautiful natural resources and wonderful people. We grouse about our politicians like people in every state in the union, and we wax nostalgically for the good old days like people do everywhere. But at the end of the day there is no place we'd rather live and that is why we stay.

If people around this country were allowed to see the real West Virginia, I'd bet they all really would celebrate this day.

12 comments:

wv.agent said...

YES!!!!

You said it JUST RIGHT. :)

Johnson said...

A beautiful commentary about a beautiful state. Thanks so much for putting it so eloquently.

natalieselkins said...

Well said.

Buzzardbilly said...

Very well put. I love your mother's geographical description of West Virginia.

And, we have many many West Virginians by Choice who've moved into our state because they too see what you and I do. My Curmy is one of them. He left Massachusetts for the hills of West Virginia. Nice people and spectacular motorcycle rides will keep him here forever.

The Cop Observer said...

Thank you for such a positive post. Most local message boards and bloggers just whine and complain. This was truly a breath of fresh air!

backroadsgirl said...

Well put! I've been roaming these beautiful hills all my life and I can't imagine living anywhere else!

Happy WV Day!

Bob Coffield said...

Great post! Thanks for participating in the blogging effort. I'm finally getting a chance to go through the diverse group of posts this morning.

Thanks for including the quote by your mother. That quote as been a part of the Coffield family from Wetzel County (right below the Mason Dixon line) as long as I can remember. I now wonder its origin?

We are the best kept secret -- Shhhhh . . . we don't want everyone to know.

lcyeiser said...

This post exemplifies the spirit of West Virginia. I know you guys think you are a best-kept secret, but I'm on to you... and since your love of city and state is so inspiring, I do all I can to spread the word. This Pittsburgher has been having a fling with your fair city for years now! Check it out: http://sneakpeeks.typepad.com/blog/2008/08/mia-mascots-and.html

--Louise from Pittsburgh--

Leigh Anne Watts said...

you said this wonderfully. And I'm a transplant. I moved from Louisiana, having grown up there, 6 years ago in October. I'll never leave this beautiful state unless I'm forced by means out of my control. I love it here and we feel everyone should see this place once in their life, because they'd love it too. We just came here on vacation, within a month we pretty much sold everything we had except a small u-haul trailer's worth and moved up here. Thanks for writing this!

Polycarp said...

I noticed that you posted this some time ago. I hope that you return to blogging, as I have recently come across your blog.

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