Happy West Virginia Day!
Today we celebrate the day West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863. As most of you know, I grew up in West Virginia--a fact that I'm very proud of. West Virginia is not large in either size or population, so not many people know much about it. Or they only "know" what they've seen on TV or in the movies. Let me see if I can give a brief summary of what West Virginia is like.
Like most other places, West Virginia has a many different kinds of people and ways of life-- especially since our two panhandles reach far into other areas. Go to the northern part of the state,and it is like the Northeast. Go to the far eastern part of the state and you'll identify with Washington, D. C. Take a trip to the southern reaches, and you are definitely in the South. And when you're in the far west, you are in the Midwest. If you grew up in the middle part of the state, like I did, you can chose whatever you want to identify with because there are bits of everything.
Also, like most other places, there are rich people and there are poor people. There are well educated people and there are poorly educated people. There are people who like grits and ramps, and others who don't like them at all (that would be me). But I'd say that almost everyone likes biscuits.
Besides biscuits, there are other things that bind the state together. People here have a connection to the land. This is where they hunt and fish and where they grow their vegetables and graze their cows or goats. They also appreciate the beauty around them. Everywhere you turn there is a feast for your eyes. Whether it is hilly terrain of hills and hollows (hollers), or long mountain ridges with long stream valleys, it's all very scenic. They are also a very resilient group of people. Life has not always been easy for many people here, but they find a way to keep going.
But the thing that strikes me the most about West Virginia is the friendliness of the people. I have found friendly people everywhere I lived, but not always the comfortable friendliness that I have experienced with the people of West Virginia. I hadn't realized this until a young Theo asked me a question one day as we were traveling back to visit his grandparents. He said, "What makes everyone so friendly where Granddad and Grandma live? It's different from where we live." I started to notice, that he was correct.
So there you have it. I have just summarized 24,230 square miles of land, 1.85 million people, and over 150 years of history of West Virginia. Maybe another time, I'll tell you more.