“You are so bad. Why did you dis the whole region? Don’t you want to sell books there?”
Not if I have to lie about what I experienced.
Redacted E Hall Hts, Sylva, NC is a single family home that contains 624 sq ft and was built in 1942. It contains 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. This home last sold for $27,000 in November 2000.
My old neighbor – she was a really ancient lady – would come out and yell at me to get off her land, when I tried to mow our property. Her eyesight was bad and she was convinced I was encroaching. She once told me if I didn’t mind myself she would get her son to come down with his gun to show me where the property lines are. Her middle-aged son, who lived above us on the hill, kept hound dogs. The dogs were trained to hunt bear. He trained them by keeping a bear cub in a cage. The cub would cry every night. It was an awful sound. The dogs would howl and bay for hours. Sometimes he would shoot a gun to freak the bear out and get the dogs used to the sound.
The next season, he would get a new bear cub. I don’t even want to know what happened to the old ones. He probably would put them out of their misery. Three years. Nobody did anything about it. I tried to report it and was told to mind my own business. Hunting is a way of life for a lot of people up there. Some will quit their jobs so they can go hunting every season and then come back and get rehired. They would take their kids out of school to go hunting.
This is Appalachia. Sure, they do make some beautiful quilts up there, the country is pretty, and tubing down Rough Butt creek is fun. But that right there, that bear cub, that’s the Appalachia I know. The type of Appalachia where if you make the wrong turn and drive too far up a mountain, you’ll get a warning shot.
Your Appalachia might be different. I would imagine if you’re not dirt poor, it might have been a lovely place. Perhaps your memories are happy and filled with light and family moments. Please feel free to share them in the comments. It would be nice to see the region in a different light.
I’m not going to argue with you about the validity of your experiences, because that’s your life and your experience. You lived through it. But do accept that I lived through mine.
I grew up in Georgia but my kin came out of the mountains. We were fortunate to not be as poor as many although not middle class by a long shot. One neighbor decided to try out his bow on a neighborhood dog and it left a blood trail through every yard. Someone poisoned one of our dogs. Animals were never neutered. These days the area seems gentrified but you still don’t have to dig deep to find the old bad ways.
I live in NC about 45 minutes from Fort Bragg. I’ve lived here for about 20 years now. I live in horse country and frequently go walking out on the dirt roads passing by horse farms. Only hunting I have experience with is fox hunting as the Moore County Hounds are about 3 miles from my house. My part of NC is considered a resort community so prices are 10-20 cents higher than say a town 15 miles away.
This is literally what it’s like in Appalachia. It scared me more than Baltimore.
Excuse my ignorance, but what is scary about Baltimore?
There are some streets that even in broad daylight, you don’t want to talk down as a woman or white person. Parts are lovely. Parts of it are …all those inner city stories you hear about.
Hm. I never even heard about Baltimore being a dangerous city – apparently that knowledge hasn’t found it’s way to Europe yet. Thank you for explaining!
Many bigger cities have their bad spots.
William B says
Inner Harbor of Baltimore is nice, but don’t go too many blocks away.
Ms. Kim says
Baltimore – population 626k Violent crime rate: 1,417 per 100,000 residents. Forbes named it the 7th most dangerous city in the USA (Detroit is #1 in case you were wondering). A few years back my husband, who is in real estate, would get emails where you could buy houses for as little as $500. Entire blocks of houses had been abandoned. They were tear downs – no plumbing – no floors – nothing. People would go in and tear out plumbing looking for copper pipes to sell to scrap yards. They will also take the copper wiring from street lamps but it is getting harder to sell now. http://www.abc2news.com/news/crime-checker/baltimore-county-crime/copper-wire-thief-dims-dundalk-street-lights
I’m actually surprised Detroit is #1. Although I suppose that statistic was all violent crime, not just homicide. But still. Chicago and even Baltimore have been in the national news more. Of course, the riots in Baltimore haven’t helped.
Chicago is suffering gang wars right now because of the police’s success in wiping out the top tier of gang leadership, causing a vacuum. Those old gang leaders policed their own to a certain extent, but now its every idiot with a gun for themselves. Add to that, after a judicial decision that eliminated their strict gun laws made it easier than ever to buy and own guns, gun violence became even worse than ever. It was always bad in certain areas, because of all the lax gun laws that surrounds it.
Wasn’t the TV show “Wired” based in Baltimore? And the show praised for its realism? I have always heard caveats about Baltimore, and I’ve never lived east of the Mississippi.
I think there are areas of Baltimore that are dangerous period, I don’t think there are areas that are just extra special dangerous because you are white or a woman or a white woman. I am a black woman who has lived in Baltimore.
This is exactly right. I am a white female and visit relatives who live there. Same thing is true of our nation’s capital. Anywhere in the world is more dangerous if you are a female of any race or age or an adolescent male. That’s the stats.
This blatant racism… Smh
The show the Wire is all about Baltimore. I’ve heard it’s very accurate.
Baltimore girl says
As a Baltimore resident – yes, there is crime. Yes, there is a huge drug problem. Yes, there is a corrupt government (read up on some of the recent mayors if you’d like examples). There are a lot of cities that have those things, and I won’t deny that Baltimore seems to have more than it’s fair share.
At the heart of it, Baltimore is also a blue collar city with a lot of heart and soul, truly wonderful people and some great creatives – it is starting to be recognized as one of the coolest places to visit (http://www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/city-vacations/baltimore-sagamore-pendry-rebirth).
Just wanted to give another perspective!
Heard from whom? Just asking.
TV critics, for one.
I know people who go bear hunting and use dogs. . Then put out a feeding barrel and wait.. as soon as it leaves” the feeding area they shoot because that’s hunting.. right ? No.. if it is coming after you and yours I get it.. as a child in 2nd grade more than 34 yrs ago I was told of a man who killed 8000 black bears in the NC mountains. .that they are protected. . Not anymore..
We would go visit my mom’s parents up in the mountains above Tuxedo. we were related to most of the families who’d been there for generations. There was plenty of drama up on the mountain which was part of the reason my parents chose not to come back to settle there. but we’d go visit every summer and everyone who played music would show up the next couple nights to play and sing at my grandpa’s house. my grandma would make fabulous food on her cast iron stove and people would vie for an invitation to dinner. I remember going to sleep many nights to the sound of music being played outside and the rustle of creatures out in the woods at night. My mom and her family grew up dirt poor in those mountains and grandma wanted mom to get out and better herself. I never knew my grandpa went he was in the mean drunk stage of his life. I grew up in central KY and my parents had done well for themselves so that part of my appalachian experience was a more suburban, genteel thing. But we heard tales about the places not too far away where roads were still mostly dirt and strangers were as likely to be met with a shotgun as a smile and an invitation to stick around for dinner. it was and still is an odd dichotomy.
Hunting is an abhorrent pastime. May karma win in that situation…. The propensity for gun love is atrocious… especially with the mentally impaired, which seems to be most gun owners.
I agree that what was done to the bears is terrible – but hunting is not bad, if it is for food and not trophies. I would prefer meat that has lived a healthy free live over mass animal husbandry any day.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, “healthy” is no longer guaranteed. There is so much poison making its way into the wilds that everything has some of it in their system to some extent.
All depends upon if you are hunting for sport or food. My ex-brother-in-law hunted for food, since a license was cheaper than the grocery store and he had five mouths to feed on poverty level jobs. Since he was eating his kill, instead of turning it into a trophy, it isn’t nearly as disgusting.
Lumping all gun owners in with mentally ill is rather abhorrent, I’d say.
I own a rifle for deer hunting… Never though I was me tally deficient, go figure
So, you hate guns and people who like or use them. Fine, that is your opinion.
Personally, I have several. No, I don’t hunt in fact I rarely go and shoot any of my guns. But I do have a concealed carry license and I keep one with me in the car. Why? I am a woman who lives alone and I work 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. I get off work at 3 am and I have to drive 30 miles home through the middle of BFE to get back to the town I live in to be home. I almost hit a deer on the way home Wed at 3:30 am. Would you have me leave it laying there suffering? Or would you have me put it out of it’s misery?
There is also the chance that I could run into trouble some night. I do piss people off in my job as a govt inspector, some have even been fired. I have been yelled at and in 1 case threatened with a knife. So yes, I would like to have a way to protect myself if I have someone stop me one night who is bent on a confrontation. You might say “call the police”, but when the nearest cop is the Sherriff’s deputy who in 1 county I go through is in the town 45 miles to the South, in the other county he/she would be in the town 15 miles to the North. That would be a very long wait for help in an emergency situation.
Reading you guys here, I am really glad, that I live here in Czech republic, where one can be drunk at night almost anywhere and worst that can be feared is to be driven over.
Kat from Australia says
High-five from Australia. This is exactly what I was thinking!
William B says
So are deer starving due to over population and loss of habitat.
Jennifer V says
Hunting for sport is one thing but everything my family kills, we eat. We are far from mentally ill, have passed rigorous background checks to carry and your statement is ignorant and inflammatory. Honestly, should we ever find ourselves in hard times like the Great Depression you had better hope someone in your family knows how to hunt and fish or you and your family won’t last too long.
I have to disagree with you there. We own a gun for safety. While we, personally, do not hunt, there are cases when hunting is necessary. In Texas, for example, we have a epidemic of feral boars. They are destroying fields, gardens, they fight with livestock and they cross the toll roads. If you hit a boar at 80 miles per hour, you will flip and likely die. It is legal to hunt the feral boars, and I am completely on board with it. They are an invasive species.
My post wasn’t about hunters but about casual cruelty and not being able to do a damn thing about it.
I saw a TV program a couple of days ago that showed how some biologists have worked on and come up with an amazing automated feeding trough for the feral boars. It holds feed that makes it so their blood can’t hold oxygen, but it’s not a poison. It’s circular and each section has a lid that automatically opens only when it “hears” pig noises. Any other animal, like raccoons, can’t open the lids and get a mild shock. I thought this was the cleverest idea, I hope they’re able to use it. They said there are 2.5 million feral hogs. Ugh!
But can you eat it afterwards?
Because haunch of wild boar cooked properly is really good. Marinate it for a couple of days in red wine mixed with chopped onion and garlic along with Herbs de Provence (perfect for the new house!). Slow roast it at about 120 celsius for several hours, a decent sized haunch from one about the size of a Saint Bernard takes about 5 hours. Goes well with roasted garlic mashed potatoes 🙂
This sounds amazing.
It’s really really good. I was making myself hungry as I wrote that! Lol
I lived in the middle of no where Washington as a teen, and one winter one of the guys from my high school taught a couple of us how to shoot and handle a gun safely. Why? At the time, there was a sick mountain lion attacking humans in the area. None of us were allowed to leave the house unless we or someone with us had a gun on us –
for months. We were driven to yhe bus stop and went everywhere in packs. The adults and authorities had been hunting it, but it took 2-3 months for them to finally get it.
In the meantime, this California cat lover got very comfortable with the idea that if a sick mountain lion tried to eat me, I was totally ok with shooting it.
This is not the type of comment I would expect from someone who cites karma approvingly. You need to examine your heart and your soul. The lack of charity is remarkable.
Or as a yogi would say: Examine your attachments and aversions.
Elizabeth Lee says
That’s…actually a similar experience to what I saw as child visiting relatives in the Ozarks. I love vacationing there now because it *is* beautiful and people in places I go are friendly because I’m assuming they want the tourism dollars (and I’d like to think a lot of them are genuinely friendly). But it used to scare the crap out of me as a kid. Like you’re describing, you don’t want to get lost there.
Patricia Schlorke says
Sounds like the counties in southern Missouri that borders Arkansas. When I was young there were places that were mining towns you didn’t want to have your car break down in. Very scary. There was also talk (don’t know if it was true or not) that one county all the people were related through incest.
So glad I left Missouri.
I have lived in NC most of my life, but I have only lived in suburbia- outside of Charlotte, now in the Raleigh area. I am studying to be a Nurse Practitioner and I am currently practicing in the poorest county in NC. It is like visiting a foreign county, I have always thought of myself as a culturally competent nurse, as someone who has seen most of the kinds of people NC has to offer, but I was mistaken. I love NC, I love visiting the mountains, visiting the beach, but I am WAY more of a city girl than I had ever thought. There is definitely a different mentality there that I have never experienced before, but I AM happy for the mind-broadening experience. I have realized how much I take for granted just in access to healthcare and healthcare providers. It has been eye-opening!
This is interesting reading. We have only lived near Camp Lejuene in NC and will be moving back soon. I really didnt realise NC was considered part of Appalachia.
I think parts of Appalachia are some of the most beautiful in rather. And in some places, I like it. BUT. No one should go without warning that it’s a far rougher way of life that breeds far rougher people.
We must be honest, even when it’s ugly. Sorry your experience was crap. Poor baby bear!
Susan Young says
I live in Appalachia, luckily near Asheville which is culturally different than the surrounding area. My neighbor had threatened my husband more than once because we “stole” his granddaddys land that he hoped to inherit. Granddaddy had his land on the market with a Realtor and we paid asking price. But still…. we are Yankees so we obviously stole it. I get the experience. I see it all the time, but the good as well.
Hah, When my parents retired and moved back to the Ozark area of Arkansas from up outside of D.C. he moved back into his late parents house (his childhood home) while he built his new house. When his new house was almost built a Supervisor with the State Highway Department stopped. He complained bitterly about “foreigners” moving into his area and raising the property values, which made his taxes go up. He then told my father that he would have to remove his brick mailbox as it was illegal. My parents fought that for over 2 years. They ended up having to take pictures of dozens of illegal mailboxes that were allowed to be up within a few miles of their house and how selective enforcement is illegal itself. That land has been in my fathers family since well before the Civil War, we even have our own family cemetery a 1/2 mile down the road.
My mother talked about subsistence hunting in Colorado during the 1920s and 30s. School would recess for a week at the beginning of hunting season. I presume there are families in Appalachia that must do that today. Food Banks and shelters are abundant in the urban areas, and they are few and far between in the rural part of the U.S. A. We have citizens, sane and mentally deficient, who are rightly frightened of authority. They are human and want to exist the best way they can outside of our authority. How do we approach them?
I imagine you’ll find that most people don’t have a problem with legal hunting for food. It sounds like a good idea to work on ways to get food to the needy, but no one in this country gets to live “outside of our authority”, if by “authority” you mean our laws. If by “authority” you mean they don’t want help from the government like food stamps — that’s definitely a big problem for people with the appropriate education and experience.
I grew up in a little town in East TN just about 15 mins from the NC border. There were cruel people who were nasty to their hunting dogs and to the animals that they hunted and killed; and they were conservationalists who fed the deer and the bear and the wild boar throughout the year and then hunted them during hunting season and ate what they killed. There is good and bad in every area of this country and Appalachia is no exception. For survival’s sake they have learned to be a closed, tightknit community, but that community often houses some of the most generous and kind hearted people you ever come across. I truly hate that your main memory is one of cruelty and ignorance from your neighbors. I’ve seen all sides and I’m here to tell you there’s magic to be had in those mountains.
“For survival’s sake” – maybe 100-200 years ago but it’s now 2017, plenty of time to get educated and learn better. Being nice to your kin is not enough to be considered civilized.
“plenty of time to get educated…” wow. you have clearly never lived anywhere truly rural or truly at or near poverty level. I hope you never have to experience a lack of your privilege.
Laura Register says
My husband grew up in Greensboro, but the family came from Clinton and Dunn, two small towns in Southeastern North Carolina. He remembers the old home place, and sleeping three and four to a bed.
My mil still visits family and loves the area, but has lived away for almost 60 years. There are country folk that are nearly as bad, if not worse than Appalachians. It all depends on where you go, who you know, and how long your people have been there.
I use to live in WV, enough said. Totally understand your experience.
Your experience does sound real and honest. Those places do exist. But they exist everywhere and not just this country. I don’t like hunting but do know a family who depend on it and gardening and berry hunting. There is a great deal of cruelty and ignorance toward human and animal kind in this world. Explain the wealthy people who pay for hunting endangered animals (Trumps?) dentists? Texas is one area where hunting is huge as well as Wyoming and other Western states. Midwest? I have never wanted to move to southern or midwestern states. Now that West Virginia has been nearly destroyed and just this week basically sold to China to be further exploited I am trying to think where to go. Pretty hard to find a perfect place these days.
How about living in a city or a suburb of a city that doesn’t have a lot of poverty? I live in the foothills of Los Angeles county, and while there are some people who hunt, it’s not in your face as a part of our local culture. We also don’t have a hurricane or tornado season or torrential rain that produces flooding 🙂
I was born in NC and have live a good part of my life here. That’s totally what that part of NC is from my experience and it’s not that much different in the far eastern poor part of the state. My mother’s family is from the mountains, further east than that but I’ve been in those areas. When my husband was doing his medical training he went with home health care out that way. Many places they had to hike in. He was a city boy and was pretty shocked at what he saw.
I think your experience is quite valid. Sure this happens other places as well but this was where you experienced it. I don’t think you are being disrespectful of a certain place but more the people you had to deal with in that place. Being moved around as an Army spouse I can relate to great differences in people and attitudes depending where you are located. I also feel hunting for sport and keeping animals for abuse and torture is disgusting. The people who hunt to feed the family are not typically like this and that is the message I got from your post. I also feel if you can’t share the good and the bad why the hell bother. So you keep doing you!!
I’m closer to people in Alaska who rely at least in part on hunting for their living.
But I’m wondering a bit about my grandfather from Alabama, who joined the navy as a young and as far as I know never looked back. He was a Captain in WWII, and eventually the CO of of Bangor in WA – and lived his retirement out on a house on the cliffs of Puget Sound, looking out over the water. He brought a lot of cooking with him, and some colorful phrases. Sometimes, when I’m really irritated with someone, I’ll find myself channeling my grandfather, though i don’t know if that’s more his upbringing or the Navy. We have a collection of reel to reel tapes of audio letters he made for my grandmothers from his ship, some of which are pretty interesting from a historical as well as familial standpoint. But I know nothing of his early life, and I never heard anything about him visiting his family home. (Of course, as a grandchild, maybe i just wouldn’t have.) He left hard.
I live in Alaska. We hunt and fish for meat and love eating wild game (along with wild berries and garden and farmer’s market veg), but we don’t rely on that food to survive. It’s a lifestyle. We support common sense gun control to prevent gun violence and are against animal cruelty. My mother grew up in poverty in rural WY, and her family relied on subsistence wild game. At my mother’s memorial service a man I had heard positive stories about introduced himself to me by informing me he “used to go on elk poaching dates” with my mom.
When I was younger, car trips were a thing in my family. The favorite was driving from Atlanta to NYC where my dad’s parents lived. Nevermind that they would have paid for plane tickets for us, driving was what my dad loved to do. One trip we wound up detouring for some strange reason (I was sleeping when it happened and woke up to a whole new, scary world) and wound up going through a picturesque little town where EVERYONE stared at us like they’d never seen black people. My parents made jokes to distract us as adult me realizes while they were probably seriously nervous. I mean, people literally stopped walking and stared at us at one of the stoplights.
Afterwards my mom told my dad, no more detours. When I got to college a few years later, I became friends with these D&D’ers and I told them to be careful if they ever drove south because I thought they were a bit outre and figured that it’d be even worse for them than it had been for my family. One of them was from a small town from somewhere and rather haughtily told me that I was a bad friend and they all stopped talking to me until after Spring Break. I later learned that they learned the hard way that I was right. It was the one time I wished they still the ignorance to stay mad at me.
My husband had a similar experience road tripping with his friends. The Tennessee locals stopped what they were doing and just stared like they’d never seen Asians before.
I taught in a very very rural Japanese island town, and was stared and pointed at every day. Kids would come up behind me when I was shopping and literally pet my blonde hair ?.
The funniest story though, is the one time a friend from a town a couple hours away visited. She’s 6 inches taller than me and has short dark curly hair – to my long blonde wavy hair. But when one of my first grade students saw her in the grocery isle, he called his mom over very concerned say ing in Japanese “Mom, sensei got really tall!!!”
? it was easier for him to believe that I’d grown six inches and cut, dyed and curled my hair than to wonder if a second white person had wandered into their little town.
It occurs up here in Canada too. PEI is beautiful and the people are very friendly, but if you come there to live from out of province, you are considered to be ‘from away’.even if you were born in another part of the country. it’s just the way it is there. My mother-in-law moved there almost 15-20 years ago and she still feels it occasionally.
Patricia Crouch says
My people are from WV. The first 14 years of my life were there. To reach my Grandparents home required driving a state highway to a county road that was barely wide enough for a large pickup truck. When the blacktop ended, we would continue on gravel. When gravel ended we would continue on a graded dirt road. When we reached one hairpin curve we would have to take part of it then back up a bit, turn the wheel as far to the right as it would go, then complete the turn. In another mile after driving through a run that crossed the road, we would reach the house. When I was 8, a black bear moved into the area. There was a community meeting to decide what to do about it. Some people had close encounters and reported it was a young male that always ran away. It was determined not to be a serious threat and allowed to live. If it had been female or less timid it would have been killed. We used to watch him as he made free with the black raspberries that grew in a hedge around the garden about 50 yards down the hill from the house. Every year there is a community homecoming celebrated on a flat near the general store/post office. My experience is of community where everyone is very poor, very proud, and very capable of making do with very little because they lived off the land that was in their family for several generations. The hunted for meat, they raised pigs and slaughtered them in the fall. They raised fruit and vegetables and canned them. They milked cows and made butter. They raised chickens and ate the eggs. They killed over aggressive roosters for Sunday dinner. All of this was very hard work that required all their time. Yes it is primitive. Yes there are bad people as well as good. But I had a good childhood in beautiful country and I am very proud of my people.
We lived in the mountains of Idaho when I was 12. Way out – no running water or electricity and a 2 room cabin We had a wood stove and hauled water in buckets from the river. Our “rich” neighbor across the river was a cattle rancher. When we moved into the valley he came by and gave us a Survivalist manual and said everything you need to know is in there. If something happens don’t come to my place because I’ll shoot you. First and last time I ever saw him.
I really hate that you experienced the worst of our state. There are so many ignorant asshats out in the country that are proud of their cruel practices and backward way of life. They probably won’t be the kind of people who read and buy your books anyway. Heck, most don’t read at all.
Ilona, I grew up in Bluefied, West Virginia. You are right. There are places where happy memories can be made, nice communities where most folks would feel safe and in Bluefield, I had a safe childhood.
About 25 miles up the road…., not safe, at all. The tightknit families, clans, are real, and you don’t mess with them, ever. My dad was one generation out of the mountains and he was very clear with us about how we had to act when we visted family in the mountains. It was very uncomfortable except for my Great Grandmother Alice. She was a lovely woman and the matriarch who brooked no meanness. With her passing, it wasn’t safe for us to go back. The remaining family considered us traitors because my father went to college and built a life for us outside the family’s control. My grandfather was very brave for leaving the mountains, my father for being the first ever to attend college, much less graduate. I love the mountains but I will never go back either.
I’m so sorry. Both sides of my family hail from Beckley and Fayetteville and I have a little understanding what you mean. My parents grew up in West Virginia but left for a job in East Tennessee when I was just a year old. I thank whatever stars that brought that opportunity to relocate about.
Decades later my mother’s brother told her point blank she is an outsider who has no right to have an opinion about the things the coal and chemical companies have done like the Kanawha River spill a few years ago. The family that didn’t get out still loves them, and will visit with them, but they are visitors at best and aliens at worst and they re-mourn their identity loss and the land every time they go back.
Ilona, I hear you and feel for the s**t you all had to deal with. That is horrible. I have no words.
Asheville is crazy far removed from Appalachia, as in like a slice of California got magically transported to the Smokies. I mean, come on — on West Haywood alone there’s an anarchist bookstore down the street from a herbalism school and a self styled “organic mechanic”. (But damn if you can’t get stupid good tacos, too.) For that matter, Knoxville and Charlotte and any other larger town *around* Appalachia has little in common with the deep places. I love my experience living in Knoxville — but I understand being native born, having access to a wealth of food options and safe parks, being able rely on the police and benefiting from being around universities and colleges gives me privilege that needs checking when it comes to your kind of experience.
Gail K says
I was raised in NYC as were my parents. My parents had a small house in upstate NY in the 50’s and60’s. My father loved hiking and fishing . He would go out with his fishing buddies and my Mom would be alone in the house with a rifle to protect her. My mother learned to shoot and was a natural. She was an artist and would sometimes do some outdoor painting . But she mainly was terrified of her neighbors and was always praying no one would knock on the door when my father was away . So learning about NC and living in the Deep South is like learning about another country. And I am so glad I am a city girl. Thank you for opening up and relating your memories both the good and bad to this Yankee.
Well, we were hunting people and we ate what we harvested. After the divorce hunting filled the freezer and kept us fed. Harvesting game keeps the numbers down and helps limit the damage done to farm and ranch hay stacks that feed cattle through the winter for ranchers. It is a serious and expensive problem for ranchers. As for backcountry folks they will still be surviving and living their lives when crap hits the fan because they know how to make-do and be self sufficient.
The contempt the liberals and media had/have for the “fly over” states shows how short-sighted they are. Those states provide the food for the supermarkets where you buy food to feed your family.
Just think what happens when the electricity goes out. No heat, stove, furnace, gas pumps, stores don’t open because no cash registers (let alone no clerks that can actually count change), no coffee, no takeout, no computers, and nothing works because our world is dependent on that magical line. How long would you survive in a 20 story building with no elevator, limited food supplies on hand, and gangs start going building to building stealing and killing. You can’t call 911, how do you protect yourself and family. Imagine living in Chicago if that happens with their strict gun control laws. Their murder rate is sky high now because criminals always have guns. Just imagine what Chicago would be like with no electricity for even two weeks. That puts a whole different light on guns doesn’t it.
My mom went through the 30’s as a widow with two young kids. She could not shoot so she set traps for game birds, killed and cleaned them for food. When your back is up against the wall and you are desperate, you will surprise yourself on what becomes acceptable to survive and protect your loved one’s.
The expectation that the power going out for an extended period of time in a big city will result in gangs, stealing and killing is an interesting one.
Christhcurch in New Zealand lost a lot of people and infrastructure during the 2011 quake and it turns out what actually happened was that a huge chunk of the community stepped up and took care of each-other, no guns required.
A huge amount of disaster preparedness is in building resilient communities, something that is very hard to do if you expect the worst from humanity.
Christchurch is a large city in NZ – not so much in the USA. NZ has a population of approx 6 million in the whole country – NYC alone has a population of 8.5 million. In 1977 when the power went out in NYC there was a large amount of rioting and looting but the city was almost bankrupt and in disarray on a normal basis. In 2003 when the power went out there was almost none of that – people were hanging out on the streets cooking on barbecues, sharing food that would spoil etc In 2003 NYC was, and still is, much better off. But when you have millions of people in a small, defined area and the resources start to dwindle it will eventually become chaos with riots, looting and worse. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/history_lesson/2003/08/where_have_all_the_looters_gone.html
PS I love NZ and Christchurch!! I backpacked and hitch hiked around there for 2 months many moons ago. The place is beautiful and the people were amazing
Uh, you might want to reword your first sentence. I read it and thought, Solyent Green!
That comment was to catlover.
Hmm…Tink it sounds like you’ve been reading Diana Pharaoh Francis lately. I don’t want to give away any spoilers for those who haven’t had the pleasure. If you have, I commend your reading choices.
Uh, I hope you don’t mean that literally. Cannibalism is not okay…
“Well, we were hunting people and we ate what we harvested,” the beginning of a Clive Barker like story told from the perspective of the hillbilly cannibals from “The Hills have Eyes.”
I know, right? We should write this some time for fun.
Well, I’m a liberal from the Midwest. Have been hunting before and can shoot a rifle and handgun. I’ve eaten hunted venison, duck, rabbit, wild pig and more. I’ve killed and de-feathered chickens and am not squeamish about where my food comes from.
I’ve ALSO lived in Chicago for over a decade and experienced winter storms where the electricity was out for a couple days. Guess what? Never panicked, never joined a gang, and never turned to cannibalism.
Unfortunately, you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Book Junkie says
Ha! I didn’t initially pick up on why the others had an issue with the first statement in catlovers comment. Slang is specific to locality it appears or maybe better yet to those who like to hunt or have/had family who do or have done so in the past. ‘Hunting People’ or “Huntin’ People’ or “Huntin’ folks” refers to hunters. Not literally hunting humans.
He-he-he, I know what you mean! If we say we’re “horse people” it’s because horses are a major part of our lifestyle, not because we’re centaurs!
All of this made me sad. Especially the baby bears….
Send a Baby C snippet to help me smile?
Ilona, lucky for you and for your readers you found a way out. It’s painful to read what you went through. I’m trying to draw comfort from knowing about the house you will be moving to soon. It’s a bit silly, but it makes me feel better. Knowing the life you and Gordon worked to create, and your family, it brings on a smile. Hugs.
Mary Beth says
?? Yes this (nice new house coming up)
I’ve lived in the south for about two thirds of my life and your experience is totally valid. Yes, there are many wonderful people here, but at times living here is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. There is so. Much. Potential. Here. Yet it seems like folks are more interested in championing the past than the future.
Douglas C. Meeks says
I live in the South and am proud of it and love it but as you say, there are some roads you don’t go down unless you belong there 🙂
Just a note though, there are two “Souths” , the old one that still lives in places and the “New South” where I live and has the highest concentration of aerospace engineers almost anywhere in the country
Wow, all of these stories are really eye opening. I’ve lived in various places in Texas all of my life. Texas, as far as my experience, is a genuinely friendly place. Strangers will go out of their way to help you. I just assumed it was like that all over. I’ll be careful if I find myself in the mountains of Appalachia.
Suzann Schmid says
I feel very sorry for the folks who bought your place. Hope they knew ahead of time what they were getting into. My mom’s family is from Arkansas. Hill people, dirt farmers, share croppers. Father’s side was railroad, money, and education. Mom became a nurse. There are places I have family where I would not take my family unless I got word to them who I was and when and why I was coming. Poverty can be very ugly. Most are dirt poor, but proud, and would not abuse any animal. They live off the land, and respect it. Still have some distant relations who have stills. You can get disappeared fast if you come snooping around. Not a good thing. Plus meth has destroyed small towns. Right pitiful, as my grandma would say.
That was also Franklin County (SW Virginia). Not easily understood unless you lived it, likely as an outsider moving there. Been there, done that. Escaped after 5 years.
Kinda makes you think about Derek’s background/ story …
Right, I was thinking similarly (~Derek)!
I have always lived in Hayesville, about an hour west of Sylva, and while I love my home I understand what you are saying and I am not blind to this areas faults. Experiences really do shape what a place is to a person. My mom was born in the 1950’s and her family moved around several places. One of those places was in a small town near Bristol Va. She was one of nine kids and they had it really rough. Her father was an alcoholic and there wasn’t a lot of money. My mom and her sibling were made fun of in school because of their obvious poverty. They only lived there a couple of years and but my Mom hated that place. Her experiences made that area of the world a bad place for her and nothing ever changed that.
Your mom and I are on the same page.
Audry Parker says
Hi Carolina Reader,
I’m right next to you in Murphy. We moved here 30 years ago from FL. It was like going back in time, not in a good way. We come from poor families so we understand survival needs. That’s not an issue. The clannish attitudes were not a surprise to me. We were outsiders and always would be. Luckily as more outsiders have moved here I’ve made some good friends. My work took me to Robbinsville frequently. That place still scares me. We are leaving the area now that I am retired. I will always love WNC, but it is the land that called me, not the people. There are cruel people everywhere. I am so sorry Ilona and Gordon experienced something that will forever contaminate their feelings and about WNC.
I did one of my residencies in Kentucky. UK has a thriving Pediatric Genetics division for very good reason. There are still many hollers that are only accessible by ruttex out dirt traces, where folks live in wood and tar paper shacks perched on the slopes if a ravine. We used to do outreach clinics and had to make sure folks knew that the white van carried young doctors not “revenuers.” Also, if we were going out spelunking we had to contact the post office in the region to spread the word so we didn’t get peppered with buckshot. There are places that are land locked and where a 3rd World lurks within our own Country. Sometimes it’s crazy scary and sometimes it’s just poignant.
Yes, we would go caving in mt vernon near the salt peter mines and we would always let others know where we’d planned to go. never knew if you might stumble on someone’s still or grow operation in one of those caves.
I really found the book titled: _Hillbilly_Elegy_ to be a fascinating read. It was really eye-opening and honest but not melodramatic or depressing. A fascinating look into cultural group in the U.S.
Second this. It’s very worth the read.
I guess I am weird. I learned to shoot with my daddy’s single shot 22 rifle when I was 13. My grandmother got it for him when he was 12, so he could hunt small game to add to the family’s food supply during the Depression. She paid for it with Green Stamps. They seldom went hungry, since they farmed, but there was no money.
Our family didn’t hunt because my dad had a full time job and we didn’t need the meat. However, It was important that I should be able to shoot and to drive as soon as I could. The nearest law enforcement was several miles away and phone service (a party line shared with 7 families) was spotty. The nearest hospital was 10 plus miles away in a different county. We had an irrigation pond that attracted wild life. It was my job to kill the rattlesnakes whenever I saw them, but especially near the house. Additionally, I would be expected to drive to the hospital if it were ever necessary. (It wasn’t.)
I consider a firearm a tool. If you need to use it, you should be competent with it. I also think that lethal items should be tracked and restricted to those who need to use them.
My attitude is not popular with the majority of the folks here in Texas. Even my dad, who never fired a gun after WW2, didn’t believe in registering guns. He didn’t trust the government not to confiscate all the weapons, having watched exactly that happen in Europe in the 1930’s.
Gun control is neither simple, nor easy. Everyone who has a gun is not a raving maniac and everyone who says guns are evil is not a saint. Many who believe in gun control have a weapon for self-defense. Unfortunately, if someone is crazy, they can find a way to hurt people without a firearm.
Valerie Tralongo says
Hear, hear. My family did hunt for food. We still own guns though I don’t think any of us hunt nowadays. We all had to pass safe hunter courses and my dad really drilled us on gun safety at home. The most important part of gun education is learning how not to shoot by accident. Guns should be licensed just like vehicles. There is a reason the Second Amendment comes after the First Amendment, and that you have to get halfway through it before you get to “the Right to bear Arms”.
Hmmm, poverty sucks. Life is rough in the poor areas. Always has been and always will be. Cruelty is a fact of life, like bully’s. If you are powerless and poor and someone targets you then you either duck or you come out swinging. Those are usually the choices you have. But , not always. I like the overwhelm them with kindness, until they want to kick your ass just to make you go away. Or target shooting early Sunday morning, before church you know? I know for sure, that you cannot change the past. And, when something dark hangs over your head you just keep it down and learn from it. Life is hard for many people. It changes the way they look at everything. I forgot that. I think about the things I complain about, and I am disgusted for ever even opening my mouth.
I think this pretty much defines our American society today, those who want to solve issues/disagreements with a fully loaded weapon, automatic or not, and those that resolve problems through negotiation and reasoning. Guns, in my opinion, are not so much about the 2nd Amendment, but about the lifestyle and belief system they represent. We need to grow up; it’s time.
Sure the next apocalypse is right around the corner, i.e., Katrina, Harvey, Maria, but surely we shouldn’t be expected to Lock and Load just ’cause there’s no electricity. No, we use the intelligence God gave us to plan for the next Harvey and Be Prepared. I don’t remember seeing pictures of the people of Houston patrolling their property armed to the teeth, but I could be wrong.
There is something to be said about the mentality of someone who derives enjoyment, at whatever level that may be, whether it’s hunting foxes on the back of a horse with packs of dogs or caging a bear cub, from victimizing another living creature. Of course, most of us are hypocrites on this issue since who of us doesn’t enjoy a juicy burger now and then.
Oops sorry Jennifer. I placed my comment wrong. My comment is not a direct response to yours.
Pa Ch says
Move to California! Craziness is limited to vegans and Hollywood wanna be. Sensible gun control, and because the neighbors are all transplants from other areas, there is no “you bought my daddy’s land” nonesense. People mind their own business, not yours. The (very few) civil war monuments are quickly being outed and disposed of without fanfare…
you should visit the area around Susanville, California some time. we had to stop for gas there on a road trip from reno to Oregon. creepy red-eyed zombie children surrounded the car.
I think the image of the crying bear cub in his cage will stay with me in my nightmares.
Sounds like Corsica, where the word “vendetta” originated. Minus the bears though. They do have wild boar and they hunt them because they are incredibly destructive. We have a house there which has been in my husband’s family since it was built a couple of centuries ago. We bought a small piece of land adjacent to it from a cousin. The neighbor (another distant cousin) stopped talking to us because he had somehow gotten it into his head that he had some “right” to it, even though he never made an offer on it, and the owner never would have sold it to him because he hates the guy. Every once in a while when my husband was outside, the guy’s head would pop up over the fence and he’d yell “You are the worst of all b*stards” at him.
There are cousins who don’t speak to other cousins (yes, everyone in the village is a cousin) because somebody’s grandfather inherited an olive tree that somebody else’s grandfather though should have been theirs instead. Two generations later, they are still holding a grudge.
Sharon Stogner says
Holy crap on a cracker! How awful. My daughter goes to WCU and my brother lives in Candler. And everyone knows you don’t mess with the mountain folk…
I really appreciate be able to read about the people and places you all know, the good and the bad, although not about the bears. I wanted to share how different worlds can be…I live in the UK and am heading for the big 50. Seeing guns in real life scares me but I still want to be able to shoot handguns and rifles, I also want to be able to drive a speed boat and pretend I am James Bond – maybe its a good thing we can’t all get what we want 🙂
Worlds apart is a definite reality though. I think I will just settle for Kate 10 and Atlanta
I have been reading all your comments with great interest. My brother, although British, has lived in Texas for over 30 years. His work takes him to some strange places and we quite often have conversations about what he calls “real America”. I used to take his stories and descriptions with a pinch of salt (he does like to embellish sometimes) BUT having read your comments I can see that his stories of poverty, closed communities, guns and fear of authorities is more accurate than I thought.
Living in a village where every other household has a dog or a pet of some kind, the thought of having to see and listen to someone tormenting animals every day makes my skin crawl. Mind you, the villagers are so nosy that any sign of animal cruelty would be reported to the RSPCA immediately. I have to agree with the comments that said there are communities like the Appalachian region all over the world, especially tight-knit communities that are reluctant to accept newcomers. I live in a small Midlands (UK) village. When we first moved there I was told it would take a long time for us to be considered “local people”. I laughed but recently it got back to me that one of the older village families thought I was becoming quite “village minded” – not sure if that is a good or a bad thing- but really I have lived here for over 30 years. My children went to the village school and I have been involved in all sorts of community activities and projects and it’s only now that they are acknowledging that I just might be “local”. My husband and I had a good laugh over this. But its not so bad. I am grateful we didn’t move to Yorkshire where some village communities take 50 years or more to accept “foreigners” as “local people”. The saying “God is a Yorkshireman” (not sure who coined it) is taken quite seriously in parts of Yorkshire (tongue firmly in cheek)!
My family is from Appalachia so I grew up going to visit family there. We have so many family stories that sound just like you describe as well. I distinctly remember going once and stopping in this tiny general store. This older man was sitting out front wearing overalls and chewing tobacco. I think he recognized my mom from when she was a child, because he started talking to ME, having a loooong rambling monologue, that I didn’t understand a single word of. Grinning from ear to ear with his tobacco teeth the entire time. I was maybe 12.
Are we talking regions of a country or human nature? Poverty is poverty no matter where you are. Experiences as they affect us – okay, that brings me to: What have I learned and how will I handle going forward? How I look at my experiences today vs when I was a teenager are very different….because of my experiences. One of the best examples of “validating experience” is Frederick Douglass, who writes of how, as a house slave, he was able to trade food with impoverished white children for knowledge (letters and numbers). This, in turn, gave us one of the greatest historical figures. It is people such as Fredrick Douglass, whose world experiences has the ability to shape the world – and he did and the world is a better place for it.
I guess I could allow my world view to be shaped by my experiences alone (which may explain some of the people you came across in Appalachia) or I can look to my experiences and couple it with people such as Frederick Douglass vs. say -Lyndon Johnson. Both are known as for their parts in Civil Rights, but each had very different motives.
Our ability to reason without penalty (not everyone in this world has this luxury), should give us the ability to deal with things and/or make them better. Our choice.
You did the right thing, trying to get someone to listen to you regarding the bear cub and because of that act and many other people acting to different situations that were similar, that from 2000 to 2017, things have changed for the better. I would like to think that if this situation were to arise today, you would now have different avenues to go down, with people who could do something about it. Or, perhaps I am just being naïve – I don’t know – its a toss up……
Off-topic PSA: Today is the last day to vote for the Goodreads Final Round nominees. (When the awards were first announced, I actually assumed it was a one-time vote, but apparently you need to vote several times until the final around. This is the next to last vote.)
I must say, OFS is facing some seriously brutal competition in the Fantasy category… I imagine it’s both gratifying and frustrating for authors to be up against JK Rowling and a gazillion HP fans. Fingers crossed for Dina in the Battle of Brooms. 🙂
I just went to the site and it still says it’s the semifinal round. Maybe you meant it’s the last day of semifinals?
Yes, I meant it as, today is the last day to vote for the books that make it to the final round.
Opening Round: Oct. 31 – Nov. 5
Semifinal Round: Nov. 7 – 12
Final Round: Nov. 14 – 27
I was wondering about that, as I had voted ONCE and now it was the end? The calendar helps, thanks!
Audry Parker says
I am so sorry that you experienced how horrible and cruel people can be and that experience will always contaminate your feelings towards WNC. I was reared in small towns in central FL. We were poor and moved 2 to 4 times a year until my mother finally divorced my biological father. We moved to WNC 30 years ago. It was like going back in time to the 40’s or 50’s and not to the good “Happy Days” way.
Things are better now because so many “outsiders” have moved here but only 1 local person has ever invited me to their home. All my friends except that one are outsiders. I love the land and the friends I’ve made. My husband stopped liking it here years ago. So now we are returning to FL.
I say all of this because I’ve seen good and bad in the South. As a kid in FL attitudes towards “Yankees” were just like the attitudes of WNC locals towards “Floridiots”. I would laugh and just shake my head when I would hear almost the exact same words used. Cruelty and ignorance continue to abound regardless of where you live.
So in closing, thank you for creating fictional worlds that broaden our views of what it means to be human and giving us strong heroines and heroes, fighting the good fight while showing love and humor.
René J says
Your description of your Appalachian experience reminded me so much of the folks in the Edge. Did you draw on that in writing those books?
Of course she did. Why would she even try to make that up?
I’ve never been to the Appalachian mountains and don’t know enough about their customs to comment, but I do have a story about neighbors and wild animals.
I used to visit my mom’s family in China every summer. Her sister lived in Guizhou which was a 12 hour drive from the nearest airport through treacherous mountains that were really not meant to be driven on (narrow roads that if you weren’t extremely careful or patient, meant head on collisions and falling to your death; edge of the cliff dirt paths; basically your worst nightmare). My aunt had this neighbor who lived on the ground floor. She had a pet monkey that She kept on a leash in her yard. I’d watch on my aunt’s balcony once a week or so as the lady gave her monkey a bath. The monkey wasn’t mistreated as far as I knew though. She also had a black bear cub at one point who was kept on a leash in her yard as well.
My aunt would also buy me bunnies and chicks when I’d visit and it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I thought to ask my cousin what happened to the animals I left behind. My cousin said they had chicken for dinner one night and afterwards, she asked her mom where the pet chicken were. My cousin cried for days lol
I went about ten years ago with my then boyfriend (now husband). My uncle took us “hunting”. We stayed in the cabin with some relatives while my uncle and his men went. They came back some time later and when we were called to go outside, there were these two unidentifable animals spit roasting over fire. Someone handed us plates of meat that we happily nommed on. Then I overheard my uncle’s sister in law mumbling to another woman about how foul it was that they were lying to us about the meat. That was the first and last time my husband and I ate dog meat. Not that we kept any of it down.
These comments are fascinating. As a native Nevadan, I don’t have a lot of experience with this since just about everyone here is a transplant, but I’d like to share a story my dad told me about the Pacific Northwest so the Southerners don’t feel picked on.
My parents dream was to retire by the ocean, and they managed to find a house they could afford on a spit of land in Washington state, just north of the Oregon border. It is lush and green inland, and the beaches go on for miles. They didn’t realize that there are two separate cultures in the northwest, and they never mix. The wealthy outsiders buy the oceanfront property, and the poor (aka “the locals”) live in the dense forest tracks.
My dad said that a new medical facility was recently built in the community, but they were having a hard time keeping it staffed with locals because of feuding amongst the families. Some clans refused to work with others, so they’ve had to hire workers from Astoria, which is a good 45 minutes away. This could have been a real boost to some of these local families, to get a steady job with benefits, but now it’s a lost opportunity. When the culture of a community keeps it locked into a cycle of hatred and self-sabotage, I cannot respect it, or romanticize it.
So yeah, my parents moved back to Nevada last year. They loved the environment, but they couldn’t take the isolation.
It has been my experience that ignorance and cruelty have no geographic or ethnic boundaries. Thankfully, neither do compassion and kindness.
Yes. My mother was from Appalachia, but because my parents moved to another area in Appalachia, we were forever seen as out-of-staters. My parents were told when they moved there in their early 20s that they would never be hired in the desperately poor county they’d moved to, despite being qualified professionals. 40 years later, they never were hired. I spent my childhood commuting in the car because they drove an hour to an hour and a half (one way) to work every day. My sibling and I were forever tainted by our out-of-state blood (even though I was born in the tiny local hospital, and my brother was born in the regional teaching hospital). We were further isolated by our parents’ liberal politics and failure to obtain cable/satellite TV as soon as it became available. Finally, the fact that my sibling and I went to school in one county, went to church in another, and our parents worked in yet a third county meant that we had no ties to the children we attended school with — children who honestly believed and told us that we were going to Hell because we didn’t attend the church that they did. My sibling and I moved away as soon as we became legal adults, and neither of us will ever move back. The state worries about brain drain, but those pervasive attitudes are what keeps young professionals away.
Appalachian hill folk culture is very very closed and backward. They’re still living in the 1600s. My grandmother was from there and we used to visit though rarely cause they saw her as a traitor for marrying a lowlander. It’s a very strange place to the rest of us. I felt more at home on the rez visiting my Cherokee cousins
Meagan Watts says
Those poor bear cubs are going to haunt me. I’m glad you tried to report it, but in a perfect world, hunting that man to death with his own gun and dogs and then no one reporting it sounds just, right, and just right. I don’t have words to describe my disgust. My father hunts, saying it’s better for the animals to die shot than to starve to death, which is, apparently, the only other choice. Hunting for food is fine, but hunting for pride and glory with your $1000.00 gun and passing it off as conservation is the kind of the that makes the devil giggle.
Agreed. I agree with you, and I agree with your father. And I agree that hunting is not a sport. Nor should it ever be accompanied by alcohol.
My husband grew up in the countryside of southeast Ohio, where it wasn’t safe to walk in your own yard, sometimes not even to be in your own house, during hunting season. Driving down the country roads was hazardous because hunters left their trucks half-on and half-off the road. A few six-pack of empty beer cans littered the ground by their cars. And they were hunting on private property where they hadn’t even gotten permission to be.
It’s true that we don’t have enough predators to keep the herbivore population in check, and therefore, hunting is good for both meat for us, preventing death by starvation, and improving the tree population and health. But most hunters I know don’t see or understand that.
Jill Dolbeare says
Most hunters I know do understand why they hunt for meat and conservation. However, there are always a few who don’t, and they seem to be the ones everyone remembers. Unfortunately, they throw a large shadow on those of us who are thoughtful, respectful hunters who love animals and hunt in a way that reflects that care.
Ditto! Most gun owners and hunters I know are careful and considerate.
Brenda Naimy says
If “tubing down Rough Butt creek” doesn’t redeem the place, it most definitely bites.
(the 10-year-old in me is still snickering at that phrase)
I grew up near a college town and ski resort in West Virginia…there was always people from all over the world. I’ve never experienced bear/dog hunting techniques as described above nor shot at because I took the wrong turn. Homes sales are various but mostly go over $27,000.
My husband grew up in the same state but a different town.There’s a huge difference between our hometowns. His family said I talked funny and acted rich. Still today there are parts of his hometown I will not go.
I’ve lived in different states and visited several places in Europe. After a few bad experiences, I completely understand being turned against a particular area/place because of what happened there but not stereotyping a large region or state for it.
I grew up in a college town, near a ski resort in WV too.
Susan B says
I am very sad to hear that was the kind of experience you had. My family did in fact live in Sylva for several years, and we still go back to visit our friends there frequently. I think your experience is like any place- it all depends on where you end and who you meet. The people in Sylva that I know and love would never treat people like that or bear cubs. If anything, they’d be inviting you over to dinner and church on Sunday, maybe even offering to cut your grass to be helpful. It’s just like my home region in Piedmont NC; so many people would be kind and open their hearts and homes to you, but others have put tacks in my parents drive way and tried to set fires on our property. Please try to remember not to judge all NC people by those standards, just as you said in your post. You can always find bad people and good people in areas.
Cynara Wood says
I am so sorry about the bear cubs.
I just want to point out, Appalachia is probably not the most…bookworm-rich… environment. “Don’t you want to sell books there?” Sure, but I don’t think your sales will exactly take a hit if you do not market to that region.
We live in a nice upper-middle-class neighbourhood, and another family is renting a home some two streets over. Their kids suck. Her two boys rang my doorbell and threw a bottle of urine at my door. I didn’t even know who they were. They vandalise and tell 6 year olds they walk like strippers. Their neighbours tried to speak to them for an hour to no avail. Unfortunately, the mother is from Alabama and is belligerent. The best I can think to do is make a pineapple-upside down cake and go meet her. I will hopefully work my way around to “my daddy givin’ me a whuppin’,” because if I speak with my normal, slightly European accent, I’m pretty sure she won’t be too receptive.
If anyone else has any other ideas, I am all ears because I can’t find my overalls, and I am about two minutes from breaking out my “ACME Voodoo Doll Kit.”
Gina Toupin says
I vote for the voodoo kit
I was a troubled teen, but the two people I respected the most were the two who didn’t try to manipulate me or lecture me. But they also didn’t mince words to tell me how foolish I was being. When I grew up a little and learned my lessons, they were the two people who I appreciated the most.
If they’re throwing bottles of urine and verbally attacking your kids, maybe it’s time to consider involving the authorities. This sounds like a situation that could get ugly fast if all it would take is you slipping into your actual accent.
I know this sounds harsh but it might be the best thing that could happen to those boys. Throwing a bottle of urine at a neighbor’s door is not normal. Either they have been raised in a household that finds this acceptable or it’s a desperate cry for attention. Having an actual source of authority intervene could help those kids. They will learn one of two lessons. They will learn that there are people who will pay attention or they will learn that what their household considers acceptable is not what society thinks is appropriate.
The behavior of the mother and her boys is just awful. I’m from Alabama and am so sorry that you have a bad opinion of the whole state. I promise we are not all like that. I also second the suggestion that you call the authorities. You’d be doing those children a failure, although it may cause them to harass you even more.
Oops, you’d be doing those children a *favor*! Sorry, typo.
Barbara Cunningham says
The county in Texas where we lived for 30 years had areas where the local law enforcement never went unless they were in sufficient number to make it out alive, even in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This is in an area easily available to Austin and Houston. We lived 30 miles away from Texas A&M University (don’t get me started on Aggies). But while it was not as backward as some areas of Appalachia, it still had its moments. The corruption within the city, between its managers and employees was so rampant, it made Louisiana look tame by comparison. Everybody knew about it, and apparently, only my husband cared. We moved away ten years ago and never looked back.
I’m so sorry that you were treated this way when you were young and poor and really needed a kind neighbor and a kind word.
I grew up in a tiny town in VERY south-eastern Kentucky (coal country, mountain country) and people are very suspicious of “outsiders”. I’m not saying that is right or justifying it in any way, but I think it has to do with a few things.
First, for a lot of years when there wasn’t law enforcement and transportation readily available, help was a long way away if something went really wrong and you had trouble way up in the head of a holler somewhere (it is not a hollow, by the way, not where I come from, its a holler) and it pays to be wary of strangers and trust only your own. Also, people from that area of the country are often poor, often uneducated, and often highly religious. All of that is looked down on by huge segments of the population and they know that. I think the suspicion of “new people” has a lot to do with expecting to be regarded with disdain by anyone who isn’t “from there”.
I never saw the side of my mountain community that you and Gordon saw because I was born there and my parents and grandparents were born there. I don’t know of anyone who would have cheated someone because they were not considered local and were therefore fair game, BUT I certainly saw the flip side where I was given discounts or extras because of who I was.
My father’s people have been teachers for three or more generations in that tiny area of the country. My mother’s family had all stayed right in that area and had many local businesses, including a great uncle of mine who was the only vet for twenty miles in any direction and who was a large animal vet who made house calls. Once they knew who my family was then immediately I was given a huge, unearned amount of trust and respect from people I encountered. It was a tiny town and a huge family (on both my mother’s and father’s side) so anyone I met knew someone I was related to.
Luckily for me, my family had a great reputation. Even as a little girl I remember thinking that if I did anything wrong it would shame the family, so I had to behave myself. I also remember thinking that some kids from families that were not so well thought of ended up with unearned mistrust and that that didn’t seem fair.
In other words, I can absolutely see why anyone who was not from my home town might describe an experience not too dissimilar to what you described, but anyone who grew up in that environment likely had a very different experience. I felt very safe and protected in the town I grew up in. I left there because the work opportunities were not there for me, but I was never a kid who was dying to leave as soon as she could.
Just one quick story will illustrate the joy of growing up in my town.
They had these rubber rafts on sale at the Hecks Department Store that was in my neighborhood and in walking distance from my house and several people in my neighborhood bought them. We would walk down the riverbank and put the rafts into the Big Sandy, three or four raft-loads of us, and float as far down river as we decided to go on any particular trip, then we would drag the rafts up the hill wherever we happened to have stopped. We would walk up to the nearest house and use their phone to call my father (who had a truck) to come and pick us and our rafts up and take us home (that was back in the day when no one thought a thing about a man driving a pick up truck with a bunch of kids riding in the bed).
We never once worried that we didn’t personally know the owner of the house at the top of the hill or think for one second that any house we found would refuse us their phone (or their bathroom or a cold drink or anything else we needed). More than one time those people invited us in for a visit. That was growing up in my hometown.
That is a privileged childhood. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that because of who they’re related to.
I absolutely accept your experience and am sorry you had to have it. I also had experience with ignorance, insular views, and cruel behavior from people in NC and SC. I was raised white bread, middle class and the first time I ran into widespread ignorance and a very insular, judgemental, condescending view of anyone who did not come from that area or meet their exacting requirements was anywhere I went in either NC or SC. This unfortunately included all the family on my Dad’s side as he was from SC and also had family in NC. My dad was the first (and still only member to date) to attend (he even graduated) college. His family members distrusted and ostracized him thereafter. He also committed the unforgivable sin of marrying an educated, upper middle-class woman. I love some of my family on my Dad’s side, but I never experienced prejudice until being around them. I remember being quite shocked and hurt as a young girl by their behavior and language. I lived in NC for awhile while attending graduate school, and experienced the same in general from people wherever I went in NC and SC. I made several good friends, loved some of the scenery, but will NEVER live in either state again. I do not want to be used to the people around me speaking with a pleasant manner and tone – while saying the most nasty, and prejudicial thing!! I obviously have great issue with the behavior of my Dad’s relatives. I personally was deeply hurt by them, and also on my dad’s behalf. I am sure that there are many wonderful people in both states (I met quite a few), but the overall prevalence of the same narrow-minded, ignorant, and judgemental behavior I have experienced everywhere I have been (from the mountains to the coast, and in between), leaves me with such distaste. The mother of a close friend of mine, after visiting me in NC suprised me when she was getting ready to leave by telling me with great sincerity and emotion, “This is the armpit of the world!! Get out!!!”. She sweetly offered to let me live with her if I needed to, but urged me to do whatever needed to be done to leave. She was right.
I am sure many, many people have a very different experience with the people of both states, and I am truly happy for them if that is the case. My personal experience (which tragically included family), was NOT a good one. I am sure that insular type of thinking is probably common in many small, poor communities – and that truly is a tragedy.
I do not intend to insult or offend anyone with this post. I simply am expressing my personal experience, which was painful. Ilona’s experience resonated in me and prompted me to agree with her right to her experience, her right to share it, and the right of anyone to share their personal experience (whether it agrees with what both she and I encountered or not).
My sincere apologies if I have offended anyone. Such was NOT my intention!
Jeaniene Frost says
First, apologies to Ilona and anyone else who reads this, because this is a LONG comment.
As Ilona knows, I had mixed experiences living in small town western Appalachian (Blowing Rock, NC) five years ago. I moved there because it was so beautiful, and since I’m from a VERY small town in rural Ohio, I didn’t think there would be much culture shock for me. I was wrong.
The locals-versus-outsiders mentality is still very present among some residents. I could cite many examples, but I’ll stick to three. We went drape shopping shortly after moving in. Since we wanted to support our local small businesses instead of shopping at a national chain, we went to a store that I’ll call Locals. The store owner acted as our sales associate, and there were the usual comments of “You’re not from around here, huh?” as she helped us pick out a fabric. Per her instructions, we then went home and got all the measurements. We brought them back, she added up the yards of fabric needed, and gave us the price, saying we’d have to pay a 50% deposit before they’d start sewing. Their price was higher than we knew we’d pay if we went to a national chain, but again, we wanted to support a small business. So, we didn’t quibble and we paid the 50% deposit by check.
We left and went home. Less than two hours later, the phone rang. It was the Local’s shop owner, telling us that we needed to bring another check for an additional 50% deposit because the price of the drapes had DOUBLED. I asked how it could have doubled when nothing about the measurements or fabric quality had changed. I was told an equivalent of “Because it did. You want the drapes or not?” I said no, I was cancelling my order, so tear up my check. That’s when I was told that she couldn’t tear up the check because she’d taken it right to the bank after we’d left, AND that if I put a stop-payment on it, there would be a $50 “bad check” fee from the shop. I was so mad at this bait-and-switch, I immediately went online and paid the bank the “stop payment” fee so the check wouldn’t clear. Later, as promised, the shop billed me the $50 “bad check” fee. I paid it because I didn’t want it to end up on my credit report, but as you can imagine, I was furious. We ended up buying our drapes from Lowes.
I wish I could say this was the only negative experience we had with local businesses, but it wasn’t. Over the years, our house needed some light repairs, so my husband got very familiar with the local construction companies. As soon as we said we lived in Blowing Rock (which mostly consists of wealthier people’s second homes even though this was our main home), we would get insanely inflated prices. My husband was in construction for more than two decades, so he knows what things cost, and when he pointed out the glaring discrepancies, he was basically told “What do you care? You’re rich.” No, we weren’t, but even if we were, that doesn’t give people the right to price gouge on simple repairs.
Finally, and most upsetting, was the racism. Confederate flags were a common sight, and before I’m told “that’s heritage, not hate” when it’s accompanied by more use of the “n” word and Hispanic slurs than I’ve ever heard in my life, it’s hate. I’m not saying everyone there did it. I’m not even saying half the people did it. But it happened so frequently and in so many settings (restaurants, local businesses, local fairs) that the people who said were always surprised when my husband and/or I stopped the conversation to object. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not a racist” was almost always the default response, followed by rationalizations backed up with MORE racist statements. It was one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to move out of the area.
As if we needed further evidence of “hate not heritage,” when my white niece came to visit with her dark-skinned Hispanic husband, a local restaurant waitress refused to wait on them. She didn’t tell them that, of course. She just took care of all the other tables around them while telling them “I’m busy, I’ll be there soon.” They wanted to believe it wasn’t racism over their being a mixed couple. That’s why they waited for over two hours, seeing table after table served, cleared, and then re-sat around them. I wasn’t there to see this, but my sister was, and she threw a fit with the manager. He ended up apologizing and assigning a new waitress to them, but as you can imagine, the damage was done. The saddest thing was, they weren’t sure if the same thing would happen again if they left and went to a different restaurant.
Yes, there were also many lovely people in the area who were kind, generous, inclusive, and supportive. But to ignore the rest is to ignore reality, and I’m sure I would have had even more negative experiences if I’d had a noticeable foreign accent like Ilona. Or dark skin like my nephew-in-law. Or had been in an interracial marriage like my niece, or been part of a same-sex couple, and the list goes on. This doesn’t mean I hate people from that or other areas of Appalachia. It means there’s still work that needs to be done, lots of it, and that work can’t start until we stop pretending that these issues don’t still exist today.
I adore not only your words, but also you kind heart. I’m a North Carolina native and I’m Black, I have a in depth relationship with the “hate not heritage” issue. This year the state fair was flooded with confederate flag stickers that were passed out by a heritage group. Not all of North Carolina is filled with backwoods mentalities, Chapel Hill, Durham is very inclusive. North Carolina is a beautiful place, we have the mountains and beaches, we have enriching arts and entertainment, but as you said, there is still a lot of work to be done. I love NC but I never thought I’d still be here either.
The racism in my hometown (extreme south-eastern Kentucky) was not apparent to me when I was growing up. Maybe that was because I was a kid and you don’t tend to notice things that don’t directly affect you. One of the reasons that I may never have noticed any racism is that there were ONLY white people (pretty much all white Protestant people) in my town. It was so small that we just didn’t encounter anyone from another race on a daily (or even monthly) basis. Even today, it isn’t much different from that. When I was in high school the only kids who weren’t white were the two Iranian kids whose father had just been hired to teach at the local community college.
My hometown isn’t as far south as some of the areas under discussion in this thread and you don’t see a lot of Confederate flags even now, BUT I have noticed a distressing amount of racism from Facebook posts of people I grew up with. They skirt the line of “can claim not to be racist” as they don’t use racial slurs, but they profess attitudes that are blatantly racist for anyone who is willing to look at their own views with an objective eye. I don’t think it is only the fact that I’m seeing it now because I’m a grown up— I think it is WORSE now.
There was a lot of objection to President Obama and no one could really SAY why they objected to him— and I think that is because they don’t want to view themselves as bigoted but the main objection they had to him was his race.
People I grew up with have posted about their love and support for Trump. Everyone can have whatever political views they want to have, but if you try to say that Trump is NOT a racist then you just haven’t been paying attention. It is fine to say that you supported him in spite of that, but I have the opinion that some of the people I grew up with didn’t see the racism as any sort of problem.
I think my experience growing up where I did would have been drastically different if I had been homosexual. It isn’t just “outsiders” that they are suspicious of, it is also anyone perceived as “different”.
I have a lot of problems with that attitude. And it is why I have done a mass-culling of a lot of the Facebook friends I had that were people I knew growing up. I can’t let the ignorance go unchallenged when I see it posted, and it isn’t worth the time trying to argue with people who have relinquished the use of reason and logic in their arguments.
P.S. Jeanine, I am a huge fan of yours and I am glad to see you visiting. I’m so sorry for the incidents you related. You should have sued the drapery store owner, that is outrageous conduct. Yes, it would have cost more than the incident cost, but she should have had to pay for that behavior. I have never heard of any nonsense of this type in the town where I grew up. That was shocking to me.
Jeaniene Frost says
First, glad you enjoy the books! I hear you about wanting to sue the drapery owner, but all the time & expense it would have taken just to recoup my $50 fee wouldn’t have been worth it. With business practices like that, she’s hurting herself the most. It’s hard enough for small businesses today. Add in driving away all but the locals (assuming she treated other “outsiders” the way she treated me) and I’d be surprised if she’s still operating today.
Jeaniene Frost says
Chapel Hill seems lovely. I don’t have extensive experience with it, but I’ve been there for a couple signings.
I moved away from NC in 2016. There are things I still miss about the mountains, but as mentioned, definite things that I do not miss. Hugs to you for what you’ve had to go through.
Jeaniene Frost says
Copying this here because I think I replied in the wrong place before. If you see it twice, my apologies :).
Chapel Hill seems lovely. I don’t have extensive experience with it, but I’ve been there for a couple signings.
I moved away from NC in 2016. There are things I still miss about the mountains, but as mentioned, definite things that I do not miss. Hugs to you for what you’ve had to go through.
my dad’s people are from the mountains of rural Pennsylvania. my grandfather was an alcoholic and a hobo, who rode the rails, and stole his brother’s id to enlist when he was 16. interesting man, terrible husband. my dad ended up in foster care, separated from his sisters, because my grandmother’s family wouldn’t help her after her husband ran off to California and she was trying to raise 3 small children on her own. so, we don’t have much to do with them now.
at any rate, my dad just told a story this weekend about how the railroad had these little off-shoots along the way where the hand cars would park when guys were working on the rails. the railroad was very twisty, because it followed the river. the railroad workers had explosives, with lead straps, that they would attach to the rails when they were working so if a train was coming, it would hit the explosive and set it off, making enough noise that the workers knew to get off the tracks. dad’s cousins used to sneak down the mountain and steal the explosives so they would strap them onto trees and shoot them. the trees would be basically vaporized.
my dad’s uncle used to make moonshine at the top of his mountain. they had the whole mountain booby-trapped, and your car would get shot if they didn’t recognize you. he had an old Packard with an extra tank under the back seat that he used to transport the ‘shine off the mountain.
it makes for great stories now, but they were pretty miserable relatives.
in the interest of balance, though, my dad also talks about going up to his uncle’s as a kid (pre-foster care) and how much he loved laying in the bed with all the other kids, listening to his family play music on the porch.
You’re spot on, I grew up in Bryson city, and if you have money it’s a great beautiful place. Now the other side of that is, if you’re poor then you stay poor, or if you’re lucky you get to leave. I made it to Raleigh and all of my.family is in the mountains but I pray I don’t have to move back there.
What people don’t realize about that area is your access to basic things is limited. I remember calling around before renting to see if I could get Internet. The corporation’s gouge you to death because you typically only have one choice for Internet, cell phones, power, and grocery stores. I imagine it’s the Republicans paradise: high teen pregnancy rates, high poverty, limited access to dental and health care, the poor stay poor, and a church on every corner. Don’t worry though, the scenary is beautiful.
I am familiar with Bryson City, for the longest time, I called it Swain because that’s who we played against for football, wrestling and track. It’s a pretty little town.
My husband and I grew up in a small town in WV. We moved to the Denver, CO metro area when I was 22. And southeast NC (not Appalachia) when I was 32.
After we moved to CO, we tried to “rescue” everyone we knew. We soon realized that most people didn’t want to be rescued- they like the familiarity and comfort of the small town and familiar things. I liked malls, resturants, jobs, Home Depot, Lowes, Costco, Red Lobster- you want it, they had it- comedy clubs, dance clubs, a (many actually) bookstore, a zoo, aquarium, concerts, professional sports teams. It was like a feast, especially for someone who lived an hour’s drive from the closest (tiny) mall. And they had jobs, which I already said, but you didn’t get a job in my hometown unless someone died and you knew someone.
My WV friends will post this meme on Facebook that says “I’d rather be here [bonfire], than here [cityscape].” Not me. I’ll take that city any day. I think we either just have the city or the country in our soul.
My husband had a great childhood and young adulthood in WV. He had a loving family with a more comfortable lifestyle. He loved hunting and fishing and wandering around in the woods, but felt confined when he found out more was out there. I had the opposite experience- not a great childhood with a small, scattered family living paycheck to paycheck. I never felt like I fit in there. I still don’t. I don’t like to even go back to visit, even though both of our families are still there.
Southeastern NC is ok. But we live on the coast with a lot of other transplants. Their is no southern hospitality here. One of my deepest disappointments about moving here. We have the beach though.
Sam Iam says
I can tell that you have used real life experiences to write into the Kate series. Yikes!
Animal cruelty breaks the heart. I’ll never understand why people hunt for fun.