I was born and raised in Tazewell County VA. When I lived in Gaston County NC I saw many,many Cotton Mill houses and villages. Now I am back in SW Va, Russell County now. There are houses here that are so like the Cotton Mill houses. It just hit me, these Coal Camp houses - Cotton Mill houses are a visible proof of the hours of labor Appalachians put forth decade after decade, sweating and bleeding and dying, in cotton mills and coal mines, logging and farming.
We are a rural people for the most part. Proud, self-sufficient, clannish often but that just means we are tight with family and loved ones. We are independent, strong willed, *not* illiterate hicks. The terms hillbilly and redneck are not insulting to us, they are descriptive of who and what we are. We have helped clothe, feed, and keep the lights on for a nation that many parts of look down upon us in return, but we have not given up or given in to the hard rows we have hoed.
We have adapted, we have turned out generations of doctors, lawyers, authors, musicians, actors, astronauts, athletes ... we have sent our sons to war, followed jobs to Northern and Midwestern cities but returned home every chance we had.
These mountains are our flesh and blood, they draw us home no matter where we may roam. I am so proud to be from and of this place.
I was not always at peace with my roots. I yearned to be like and sound like the folks on television and in movies. I practiced pronouncing words like the people on the news when I was in my teens.
I left home at 23, lived in south Florida (Fort Pierce) for almost 7 years, in NC (Dallas) for 8 years, in SC (Blacksburg) for 4 years until returning to Va. 13 years ago.
My accent has evolved. I was in NY for two extended periods, once 2 months near NYC and then 7 month upstate. While there, especially the 7 month stay that included a brutal winter on Lake Ontario, I discovered the pride and love that had hidden in my soul for the place of my beginnings.
I am quick to defend my mountain ways, no longer try to blend in. I flew mad so many times over the disparagement I encountered, especially in Florida and NY, for being from the mountains. Now, I am not saying there aren't not-so-good things here. We have severe issues, unemployment and drug abuse are rampant. But the fact of the matter is, that can be said of any region in the country. By and large, the settlers of these parts were the Scots-Irish, and the independant fighting self-sufficient spirit that was their legacy to these parts is, in my opinion, what the whole country needs to rediscover and tap into.
I try not to be too political (see the Scots-Irish reference above), but things have to change, be better, if there is any hope to be found at all.