I often start my Saturdays by watching a few episodes of “Law & Order,” and right now I’m watching one from 2002 that I must not have seen before. I would have remembered it if only for the “hillbilly” slam against West Virginia.
The episode, titled “Oxymoron,” is about a murder related to a drug dealer who specializes in the highly addictive narcotic oxycodone. About 15 minutes into the show, the main police characters in the show — Lennie Briscoe, Ed Green and Lt. Anita Van Buren — have a conversation about the drug in question. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
I get that opioids are a huge problem in West Virginia, even more now than when “Oxymoron” aired 15 years ago. The epidemic of abuse is so well-known that it appears to have motivated drug manufacturers to flood the state with hundreds of millions of pills, amounting to 433 pain pills for every state resident, regardless of age.
“Hillbilly heroin” also is an actual slang term for describing this scourge in rural America, where people looking to get high can’t afford the drugs of choice for the rich and famous like cocaine. So I have no problem with the writers of “Law & Order” incorporating it into the script.
But the wisecrack suggest that West Virginia is the home of rednecks who either drink moonshine or get their fix from oxycodon was a predictable typecast straight out of Hollywood. Odds are good that whoever wrote that line has never been to the great Mountain State.
Filed under: Culture and Entertainment and Health and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
The image to the right doesn’t look like much, but what it means is that I passed my remote pilot’s test. I’ll soon be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (where I also happen to work as a contract editor and writer) to fly small unmanned aircraft for clients.
I’m in the process of creating a new brand within my communications company, Tabula Rasa Media, which I organized as a limited liability corporation four years ago. This entails registering the offshoot as a DBA, which is short for “doing business as.”
Under the name Airscape Photography, I will offer drone photography and video services to clients who want to capture aerial images of their homes, businesses or properties. I’ll also shoot photos and videos of scenic landscapes and architectural landmarks to sell individual prints.
I plan to take regular road trips to shoot footage, just like I did with my first professional camera three decades ago. My home state of West Virginia will be a regular destination because the scenery doesn’t get any better than in “Almost Heaven.”
Below are recent pictures from my hometown of Paden City and of New Martinsville, including one of the Wetzel County Courthouse:
Filed under: Aviation and Business and Photography and Technology and Video and West Virginia
My wife and I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” over the weekend, and the best part was discovering that one of the three main characters, Katherine Johnson, is a West Virginia native.
Here’s what WVU Magazine had to say in a story about Johnson and other “Barrier Breakers“:
I love learning the stories of famous West Virginians, especially those whose successes shatter the stereotypes of the great Mountain State as the land of hillbillies, rednecks and rubes. You can learn more about Johnson via NASA, which ended its story about her by saying, “Not bad, for a little girl from West Virginia.”
Here’s what President Obama had to say about Johnson when awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, followed by the text of the award citation:
Filed under: Government and History and Movies and People and Technology and Video and West Virginia
This is true while also being aggravating and amusing at the same time:
The post-election Washington Post column above follows a reported Post feature from the Mountain State, where the newspaper gave West Virginians a chance to explain for themselves why they voted for Trump. Here are some excerpts:
And here’s a piece in Reason magazine, written by a West Virginian, that explores why poverty-stricken people in places like his native McDowell County don’t just leave.
The short answer: It’s complicated. Read the whole story for the long answer. It’s worth it if you’re the least bit interested in understanding the redneck mindset.
Filed under: News & Politics and People and Rednecks and West Virginia
I spent many summer weeks of my youth at my grandfather’s property along Indian Creek in West Virginia, and as a teenager I hunted deer there occasionally. My and I have dreamed of owning it for two decades.
As of today, and thanks to generous parents, in life and in death, we do — all 35 acres, a house that probably should be condemned and an old shed assessed belong to us now. I now jointly own outright a piece of “Almost Heaven,” a dream fulfilled for any West Virginian.
It is a bittersweet moment, the transfer of the property coming as the result of my father death at age 78 in July. We’d rather have had him with us a while longer. But I smiled through the tears as we bought back into the family the half of the property that had gone to my uncle’s stepchildren after his death in 2010 and as my mother deeded her half to us.
The place we always called “the farm” henceforth shall be known as Rougeneck. It’s the perfect melding of my wife’s and my Louisiana and West Virginia family histories. (For those who didn’t know, rouge is French for “red” — think of Louisiana’s capital city, Baton Rouge, which means “Red Stick” — so the name of the property is the enlightened way of saying “redneck.”)
Here are a few pictures of the property and my family through the years:
Filed under: Family and History and Hunting & Guns and Photography and Rednecks and West Virginia
It periodically occurs to me, as it did when I heard this song, that I’ve now lived more of my life outside West Virginia than in it. That makes me sad.
Filed under: Music and Redneck Musical Interlude and Video and West Virginia
That reality alone would be enough to irritate Clinton’s supporters under normal circumstances. Now add to that the fact that few political analysts expected Trump to win and that many people rejected Trump as a candidate not only because they disagreed with his political philosophy and policy ideas but also because they deemed him unfit to be president.
That is a recipe for the kind of hostility Americans are seeing in the days since the election, be it in street protests that sometimes turn into riots or bitter and angry online exchanges. Some students were so distraught by Trump’s election that colleges canceled classes. It’s ugly out there right now.
The country needs voices of reason in this atmosphere, and one of them emerged a couple of days after the election in an unexpected place — West Virginia, the heart of Trump territory. Every county in the Mountain State voted for him, with Oklahoma being the only other state where that happened, and 69 percent of West Virginians voted for Trump.
Three days after the balloting, as news of post-election angst and turmoil mounted, West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee issued a statement to encourage free speech, responsibility, tolerance of all views and open debate in the WVU community. Here’s an excerpt:
The statement is full of progressive buzzwords like that aren’t always as open-minded as they sound when uttered within the context of 21st-century academia. “Incivility,” “hatred” and “discrimination” too often are used to describe those with conservative values, for instance, and only conservatives are expected to show “respect” and “empathy” toward those who are different from them.
But the principles are sound if applied fairly across the political spectrum, and America will be a better nation if they are. Let’s hope leaders like Gee mean what they say for a change and model those attitudes for the country.
Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and Rednecks and West Virginia
Today’s find at an antique store in Frederick, Md. — a postcard of the West Virginia Capitol with a 1942 postmark from Parkersburg, W.Va.
Based on the note, a Mrs. R.L. Kreyling was trading postcards with a Mr. John Howe of Irvington, N.J. She asked him to send her one of New Jersey’s Capitol because that was her favorite to collect.
A side story: I searched the name R.L. Kreyling for Parkersburg and discovered that one Robert L. Kreyling received a patent for an invention that “relates to manufacture of combined paper board and silicate-clay adhesives.” He assigned the patent to Philadelphia Quartz Co. in 1946.
Filed under: Advertising and History and Hobbies and West Virginia
One of the most interesting yet tragic stories in the news today happened in Norway, where government wildlife officials found more than 300 dead reindeer on the top of a mountain. Here’s the story as told by NPR:
This catastrophe is interesting in its own right because it raises all kinds of questions in people’s minds. But it was even more compelling to me because it reminded me of another incident in West Virginia on July 2, 1990.
I have a notoriously bad memory, so the fact that I can recall a news story from 26 years ago, one that I didn’t even report myself, should tell you something. This story also involved a lightning strike — but the victims were amateur archers who took shelter under a pavilion during a pop-up thunderstorm. Twenty-four of them ended up injured.
I was a reporter at the Dominion Post in Morgantown at the time, but my beat was covering city, state and federal government and political campaigns. Plus the incident happened on a Sunday, when I wasn’t working. But I remember being enthralled by the story upon reading the details when I got to the newsroom the next day.
The reindeer story triggered that memory, so to get the details, I reached out to the Aull Center, a branch of the Morgantown Public Library System that has old copies of the Dominion Post on microfilm. Librarian Gary Friggens was kind enough to look up the front-page story and send me an electronic copy.
“Victims had been tossed into the air and suffered burns, cuts, contusions and internal injuries,” one of the three stories said.
One father said the lightning strike lifted his son off the ground and knocked him 10-15 feet away. He lost his hearing for a few minutes and heard only the groaning and moaning around him when his hearing returned. Another victim, whose heart stopped temporarily, lost feeling in his legs and had burns on his chest.
“All I could see were blue streaks all around us,” said one victim from the Kingwood Pike Coon Hunters Club. “We were all so close together under there that we were touching shoulders. The lightning just passed right through us. I remember the blue streaks, then everything went black.”
A year later, Keith Dalton recounted his experience that day as part of a broader AP story about people who have been struck by lightning:
Nightmare scenarios like that, along with tales of golfers being struck by lightning and childhood memories of being stuck outside and by myself during thunderstorms, are the reason I am terrified of lightning to this day.
My storm-watching wife loves to tell people about the time, on our honeymoon no less, that I abandoned her because of my fear of lightning. We were in the parking lot at an Outback Steakhouse in Asheville, N.C. A bright light flashed in the sky, a ground-shaking boom followed, and I high-tailed it to the restaurant without her.
To this day, she insists that I jumped so high and bolted so quickly, I looked like Wile E. Coyote running on the air. I think she embellishes the story a little more each time she tells it, but I can’t dispute the basic facts. My terror, which I’ve unfortunately passed along to our youngest child, is that great.
Now my daughter and I have the memory of 323 dead deer to add to our anxiety.
Filed under: History and Human Interest and Media and News & Politics and Weather and West Virginia and Wildlife
Comments: 1 Comment
The ignorance of the media when it comes to West Virginia never ceases to amaze those of us who are from the Mountain State. We’re impressed when journalists, especially those who cover sports, even know that West Virginia and Virginia are separate states or that Charleston is the name of our state capital, not just a coastal city in South Carolina.
This week, two members of the media (broadly speaking to include Hollywood) displayed their ignorance of West Virginia’s history on the same day, both of them in reference to the state’s birth during the Civil War. The culprits were:
With their commentaries in mind, now is a good time to revisit one of the most interesting statehood stories in American history. Consider this the CliffsNotes version of West Virginia history for the dummies in the media and entertainment complex.
In fairness to Bump, he was technically correct when he said “Congress consented to the creation of West Virginia as a new American state,” but he left out important context. The Congress that consented included a reconstituted Virginia delegation with a pro-West Virginia slant. The Virginia that existed before the Civil War joined the Confederacy and had no votes in Congress. Neither did any of the Southern states that presumably would have voted against West Virginia statehood.
The war, in other words, created a political and constitutional mess that tilted the balance of power in favor of West Virginia statehood.
Although ardent abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, R-Pa., voted to create West Virginia, he thought it was “a mockery” to say that splitting Virginia was constitutional. President Abraham Lincoln also had doubts. He thought the idea was “dreaded as a precedent” but also “made expedient by a war.” His answer to charges that the Union in effect endorsed secession in one case while going to war over it in another: In West Virginia’s case, it was “secession in favor of the Constitution.”
I understand why Bump didn’t include all of that information. His story was about the potential legality of secession in America today, and West Virginia’s path to statehood was only one aspect of that topic. But his shorthand account of the events could mislead people into thinking West Virginia’s secession from Virginia wasn’t controversial. It was. The Supreme Court didn’t settle the issue until a 6-3 ruling in 1870.
Ross’ gaffe was more egregious than Bump’s. In trying to dispel one myth that “the South was monolithic” during the Civil War, he repeated another one — that “the State of West Virginia broke off from the State of Virginia because they were not in agreement with the goals of the Confederacy.”
That simplistic analysis is similar to arguing that the Civil War was about states’ rights instead of slavery, one of the myths that Ross tackled. Southern rebellion was more of an expediency for western Virginians to accomplish a goal they had long desired than it was a rejection of the Confederacy.
This is evident in the number of West Virginians who fought for the Confederacy — 18,000 of them compared with 32,000 for the Union. The one thing that even those who are ignorant of West Virginia associate with the state is the Hatfield-McCoy feud. What many of them don’t know, or have forgotten, is that the feud has its roots in the Civil War and that “Devil Anse” Hatfield of West Virginia fought for the Confederacy.
The division of the country over slavery in general, and Virginia’s decision to side with the South in particular, just created an atmosphere for a rebellion within the rebellion. West Virginians always were and always will be different from Virginians, and the war gave our ancestors the political clout they needed to create a geographical split that had existed along economical, ancestral and cultural lines for generations. Ross’ myth-busting video for The Huffington Post distorted that reality.
The mistakes that Bump and Ross made weren’t as superficial as getting the name of West Virginia wrong or forgetting about its capital city. But coming as they did only seven days after West Virginia Day, they were worth noting.
Maybe in the future journalists who care enough to research West Virginia history before they write or talk about it will find this blog post and get some much-needed education.
Filed under: Blogging and History and Media and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment
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