What is a Mountaineer?
A quick dictionary definition — a native or inhabitant of a mountainous area.
In the Mountain State, the mascot of our state’s land grant institution of higher learning, West Virginia University, is a Mountaineer — who has long sported buckskins and a musket.
The motto of our state is “Montani Semper Liberi,” Latin for “Mountaineers Are Always Free.” It’s sprawled across our state flag.
Being a Mountaineer is a matter of pride. It speaks to our heritage. Tough, do-it-yourself people who take care of their own. And in the earliest days of West Virginia, Mountaineers did what they had to do to survive, including feeding their families and others by hunting.
Hunting remains as a large part of our state culture today; tens of thousands of residents and visitors enjoy recreating as outdoorsmen and women.
So earlier this week when our Mountaineer mascot, Jonathan Kimble of Pendleton County, went on a bear hunt near his home, and legally harvested an animal, it caused quite a dust-up when a video surfaced on the Internet showing him using the official musket he carries during athletic events and other public appearances. During the video you could hear bear dogs, used for tracking, yelping in the background, along with a dubbed-over version of “Hail! West Virginia!”
So filming that and posting it probably wasn’t such a good idea (yet another example of how social media create unneeded controversy).
But back to the gun. Yes, the muskets the Mountaineers tote are real. When they are firing off the musket during the official duties as mascot, it is packed with powder only. The guns do work when loaded with a ball or bullet, if you will. It’s a rifle, for crying out loud.
Should Kimble have been using that musket?
Depends on whom you ask.
University officials have since talked with Kimble and told him it should only be used for school-related functions, all while acknowledging he broke no laws or regulations.
So what was the real harm?
There was none in our opinion. Kimble has represented us well.
That said, anyone who chooses to chastise him is taking a slap at our West Virginia heritage, our identity.
We’re proud to be Mountaineers and everything it stands for.