Friday, September 16, 2005

Down the Nar' Path

WV is a state with a lot of history and a whole lotta moxie. Appalachians or “hillbillies” have been portrayed as stupid, toothless, cannibalistic rednecks with a propensity to make “ferners” squeal like little pigs. And I have seen some pigs squealin’. As I think about my home state and the people I know, the deep people, the people who live in the rural areas, in the hollers, and on the hills, I notice a common thread. They love to get your goat. They like to see what you’re made of. Hillbilly hazing, if you will. They want to make sure you know that four wheelin’ doesn’t always entail an ATV and that you have to water down 200 proof moonshine with corn liquor and vodka, otherwise, it’ll kill ya. And of course they’ll wanna take ya on a snipe hunt, and swim at midnight down on the shoals where the river spiders are as big as the palm of your hand. They’ll entertain you with true spook stories sittin’ out by the trash barrel burnin’ brush while someone else sneaks up behind you and gooses ya and then they laugh because you spilled your beer. They’ll want you to play quarter-bounce and you’ll always be the one picked to drink the shot. No excuses of having to work the next day are allowed. Their motto is, “We only have to deliver a body.” I can still see Deano’s face as he said it, big shit-eatin’ grin on his face, his eyes bloodshot from drinkin’ and weed. Some just sit back and watch. They’ll nod as you come in the door and then they’ll wait and see. They’re waitin’ ta see if you’re gonna head for the door during your first barroom brawl or if you’re going to stick it out with your friends. They want to see if you fight fair. They want to see if you can fight at all. They want to see if you’re worth knowing and who you talk trash about and who you know better than to talk trash about. And one day a man the size of Hagrid (from Harry Potter, half-giant, wild hair) steps in front of you and says, “You’re alright.” And as your eyes travel from his naked hairy navel showing from under his shirt, to his Grizzly Adams face somewhere in the clouds of Everest, you know you’ve made a friend for life. One day, they’ll hand the reins over to you. Whether it be their Mustang or talking them down out of a crying drunk. Even if it means confronting one of your own for doing something outside “The Code.” Normally for something like skimming money from the register at work or screwing some skank ho in the back of a car. And then sometimes its child molestation and sometimes, its murder. You hear a lot in the hollers, in the deep valleys where they have to pipe sunshine in. We’ve all gone our separate ways now. The State Police have skunked every hiding place along the one lane road where we used to set road blocks during Halloween. I wonder if they still set the bridge on fire and if anyone is still stupid enough to try and cross it when they do. Its been a long time since I’ve been back, at least eight years. I wonder if they, those that remain, remember us or have we become like so many things in WV, just a whisper and a legend in the hills.
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