By Nerissa Young
West Virginia’s 150th birthday is a good time to reflect on why we love and stay in the Mountain State.
It’s not easy being a West Virginian, so her people have to be hardy. That character trait breeds a whole other set of related traits that contribute to why I proudly claim West Virginia as my home.
So here, in no particular order, are 10 reasons to be glad to be a West Virginian.
1. The generosity of West Virginians is widely known. A brief look at her first non-Native settlers suggests why. They were Scots who were disenfranchised by their English and Irish brothers and sisters. Later arrivals included eastern Europeans who had meager means. The common lack of resources and the geographical isolation meant that everyone had to share to survive. That’s still true today.
2. The scrappy beginnings of the state foreshadowed its legacy. West Virginia’s secession from Virginia violated the U.S. Constitution because a state could not legally secede from a state that was no longer in the Union. When the Restored Government of Virginia set up business at the U.S. Custom House in Wheeling, the custom master handed Gov. Francis Pierpont a handful of paper and a quill pen and let him borrow a desk.
3. The optimism of West Virginians is not as widely known as the generosity because it’s often cloaked by that fatalistic Appalachian attitude. Homer Hickam captured that fatalism in a line from “The Rocket Boys” when the town is watching Sputnik streak across the sky and someone wonders whether the Russians will drop a bomb on the town. Sonny Hickam proposes that would be a waste of a good bomb. Nevertheless, West Virginians believe better times will come and are confident they can weather the hard times because they have so often before.
4. The view from the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory atop Peters Mountain in Monroe County is a special place. Along with the annual bird count, hikers can enjoy a view of several counties across two states from the 360-degree vantage point. Those who long for solitude and quiet time can find it by feeling like the only person on earth.
5. The view from the front steps of Fairview Baptist Church in Summers County never gets old. The rolling, well-tended farms framed by neat homesteads and distant mountains make it easy to understand how the church got its name.
6. The state Capitol in Kanawha County is an impressive building by any standards. The design and craftsmanship in the main executive building are beautiful and ornate. It is sure to engender pride in any native’s heart.
7. The state fair in Greenbrier County is one of the top agricultural fairs in the country, but it retains its down-home, small-town feel. Friends, neighbors and family have their designated meeting spots on the grounds, and visitors are sure to see at least one person they know.
8. U.S. 219, which follows the Appalachian highlands from south to north through the state, is one of the most beautiful drives around. Travelers can see unspoiled farmland, great small towns and miles and miles of mountains populated by some of the best hardwood timber anywhere.
9. Jackson’s Mill in Lewis County combines the history and the present in a unique way with its cultural significance. It boasts being the childhood home of Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a repository of the area’s agricultural history, the home of the state 4-H camp (one of the first such camps in the nation) and a conference center. While much of the grounds denote what has happened there, the place is very much a living center of what is happening in the state.
10. The weekly “Mountain Stage” broadcast on National Public Radio brings the best of West Virginia’s music to the world and the best of the world’s music to West Virginia. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary. Sitting in on the live show is a fun and melodic way to spend an evening. Show host and artistic director Larry Groce is a great asset.
— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2013 by Nerissa Young