I have this tendency to become obsessed with unusual characters, both fictional and real. Two that come to mind readily: Bartleby, the scrivener of Herman Melville fame, and John Randolph of Roanoke, an oddball politician from America’s early days whose named resurfaced in the news again just this month.
These days I’m obsessed with Jim Comstock, a “country editor” best known for his “weakly” newspaper, The West Virginia Hillbilly. I remember reading the Hillbilly occasionally as a child, and over the past few years, I’ve dreamed of finding a way to resurrect it online for digital posterity. His legacy deserves more attention than it gets deep in the bowels of a few libraries in the Mountain State.
My periodic but passing interest in “Mr. West Virginia” became a fascination a few weeks ago. That enthusiasm has manifested itself in a fairly successful quest to compile a personal collection of Comstock’s writing.
I now own three signed copies of his books — “The Best of Hillbilly” compilation of his newspaper musings, his autobiography “7 Decades,” and “Pa and Ma and Mister Kennedy.” And just today my wife snagged a small collection of the Hillbilly for me, thanks to an ad I placed in a circular back home. I’m still on the lookout for a good deal on the 50-book set of the “West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia” that Comstock authored.
All of that is context for the real point of this post, which is a nugget I just found in “Pa and Ma and Mister Kennedy.” It’s a hillbilly grammar lesson from the Pa in the book:
Comstock’s books are full of zingers like that, and you’ll probably read more of them here in the future.
In fact, I’ll be writing much more about him down the road. I’m obsessed enough that I recently interviewed Comstock’s son Jay by telephone, and next week I’ll be talking to one of the journalists who worked for Jim Comstock decades ago. If I can’t resurrect the Hillbilly, which actually might annoy Comstock in the after life because in his eyes I’m a “chickened-out West Virginian,” the least I can do is tell Comstock’s story on a blog that he helped inspire.
Filed under: Grammar and History and Just For Laughs and Media and People and Redneck Humor and West Virginia
Every evening on Fox News’ “The Five,” the co-hosts close the show with quick rants and raves about the “One More Thing” on their minds. I say a hearty “Amen!” to Greg Gutfeld’s tirade tonight because he mocked the phrase “outside the box.”
I hate that phrase so much that I once wrote a local newspaper column called “Inside the Box.” This is the essay that started my own weekly rants:
Filed under: Business and Culture and Education and Family and Food and Government and History and Media and People and Weather and West Virginia
As a tee-totaling redneck, I’ve always been annoyed that beer brands make some of the most clever TV ads. But you gotta give props where props are due, and Keystone Light has a winner in my book with its fishing ad that glorifies the lowly worm:
I’ve always been partial to the worm as bait. During my high school years, I earned some hefty pocket change catching dozens of nightcrawlers a night in my hometown and selling them for 50 cents to 65 cents per dozen. My biggest problem as a businessman was not using the inventory myself in the Ohio River and its tributary streams on the West Virginia side of the river.
Some of my fishing mentors and companions razzed me over my choice of bait. Even the hillbilly hollers have their share of anglers who look down their noses if you use live bait, and especially nightcrawlers, instead of tying a fly, a spinner or some other lure on the end of your line. Dough balls, corn and even stink bait for catfish ranked higher in their minds than dirty worms.
“A River Runs Through It” memorialized this brand of redneck elitism in a scene where the bumbling bait fisherman showed up late and drunk, with a coffee can full of worms. The uppity fly fishermen, the movie’s main characters, found him hours later, naked and sunburned because he fell asleep in the grass with the hussy he brought with him.
But no matter how much mocking I endured, I never wavered from the worms. I also usually caught far more fish than my friends who were loyal to their lures, as did the fishermen who came knocking on my parents’ door for bait — sometimes to the tune of 20 dozen or more at once.
The pinnacle of my fishing youth came on the day when the man who taught me the most about the sport asked if I’d share my worms with him. He had been fishing all day with his favorite lure, white Curly Tail Grubs from Mister Twister.
For every bass he tricked with those lures, I hooked two to three with my nightcrawlers. They were biting within seconds after my bait hit the water. His “luck” improved dramatically when he swapped the plastic for the natural.
My mentor was a teetotaler, too, but if a non-alcoholic version of Keystone Light had existed back then, he just might have bought me a brew to toast the worm for the win.
Filed under: Advertising and Business and Family and Fishing and Rednecks and Sports and Video and West Virginia
Joe Manchin may regret shooting a piece of legislation with a high-powered rifle in his 2011 West Virginia Senate campaign, but his “Dead Aim” ad has spawned another enlightened redneck imitator this year.
In his race for an Alabama House seat, Will Brooke takes a few shots, literally, at President Obama’s healthcare law — and makes a statement in defense of gun rights at the same time:
The moral of this video story: Not even a speeding bullet fired from the barrel of a high-powered rifle or pistol can penetrate the mountain of bureaucratic language that now governs American health care.
Filed under: Government and Health and Hunting & Guns and News & Politics and People and Video and West Virginia
Something happened in the White House that you don’t see every day: President Obama hosted gun-loving rednecks in a celebration of college athletics. Or to be more specific, he hosted the West Virginia University rifle team, which has won a record 15 championships.
“This is a great honor,” Mountaineer rifle coach Jon Hammond told WAJR.com. “We’re honored to be the first WVU team to attend the White House. This promises to be a great moment for the student-athletes, and I’m glad they have the chance to enjoy this experience. Hopefully, this day will be something they’ll look back on fondly when they’re older.”
But I’m sure WVU’s shooting stars weren’t clinging to their guns while they were there. They also weren’t the only guests, as Obama invited championship teams from multiple sports. Watch video of the event:
Filed under: Government and Hunting & Guns and News & Politics and Rednecks and Video and West Virginia
The world only knows them as John and Mary. They understandably want to remain anonymous after finding a stash of gold coins that had been buried on their property in eight cans for decades. The 1,411 coins are worth $28,000 face value, $2 million if melted for the gold and an estimated $10 million in collectible value.
The Los Angeles Times reported these details about the “Saddle Ridge Hoard,” the largest ever found in U.S. history:
When I heard the story on the news one morning this week, I told our daughter to go get our son and tell him to take the dog for a walk. You never know what you might find!
The story also got me excited about using my metal detector again. My wife bought it for me for Christmas in 2012 and gave me some accessory equipment this past Christmas. I’ve only used it once on my father’s property in West Virginia, and the only coin I found was a wheat penny from the 1940s. (I also found an old, rusted pocket knife and other metallic odds and ends.)
But we’ve only just begun. We have more than 30 acres to search. National Geographic’s coverage of the Saddle Ridge Hoard says there are few hoards of gold coins in the United States.
Here’s a quote from Douglas Mudd, the director and curator of the American Numismatic Association’s Money Museum: “You get a lot of hoards in Europe — coins buried for hundreds or thousands of years, but they’re less common in the U.S. Our history isn’t that long, and for most of the time we’ve had banks, so people have tended to put their money there. … Sixty, 70, 200 coins — yes. Fourteen-hundred? That’s exceptional.”
But that’s OK. I’d be happy to find a few random silver coins and maybe an Indian arrowhead or two. It’s all about the hunt to us diggers. And as National Geographic says, “People who sweep metal detectors over fields as a hobby, and backyard dog walkers casually kicking up a bit of dirt, can always hope for a lucky strike.”
Filed under: Coin Collecting and History and Human Interest and News & Politics and Technology and West Virginia
Ask any West Virginian what he or she thinks of the Mountain State and you’re likely to hear how wild and wonderful it is. The phrase “wild and wonderful” — or sometimes just “wonderful” — has defined the state for decades.
But when city slickers dig a little deeper with probing questions about life, work, physical and emotional health, behaviors, and basic access, West Virginians appear to be a pretty miserable lot.
The evidence is in Gallup-Healthway’s annual “State of American Well-Being” index. The latest report for 2013 was just released, and my home state is dead last — for the fifth year in a row. The only time West Virginia didn’t rank No. 50 was in 2008, the first year of the index, and we were 49th that year.
Cue the negative media coverage of those rednecks in the hills:
Filed under: Business and Culture and Health and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
You’ll never read this description of West Virginia (or any like it) in the media because it’s way more fun to mock stereotypical, imaginary rednecks than it is to report the boring reality of enlightened rednecks:
There’s more at the Gateway Connector blog in a post titled “The Real West Virginia,” including a short list of celebrities from the Mountain State such as premier college football coaches Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban.
Filed under: Hatin' On Rednecks and Media and News & Politics and People and Sports and West Virginia
If you’re an elite journalist, there are apparently only two ways to cover tragedy in West Virginia — ignore it or mock the people who are impacted by it. Both happened over the past few days as more than 100,000 residents of the Mountain State lost easy access to clean water, a resource that too many Americans take for granted.
The tragedy, officially declared a disaster by the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week, occurred after a chemical plant near Charleston leaked a substance known as MCHM (short for 4-methylcyclohexane methanol) into the Elk River. As a result of the spill, people in nine surrounding counties were told not to drink, cook, bathe or wash clothes with water piped into their homes from that source.
Had this tragedy happened where I live now, in a Virginia suburb outside the nation’s capital, or in another major media center like New York, it would have been the top story in every major news outlet for days. But because it happened in my home state, nothing but a land of “Buckwild” hillbillies and rubes to many journalists in the big cities, it’s an afterthought.
Ironically, it took one big city journalist to make that point before anyone paid attention. Jason Linkins of The Huffington Post mocked the Sunday news shows for ignoring the West Virginia chemical spill.
More irony ensued when Detroit journalist Zlati Meyer decided the chemical spill was a good time to take a page from Jay Leno’s “Big Joke Book of Bigotry”. “#WestVirginia has its tainted water problem under ctrl. Now, it can work on incest,” she tweeted.
Yes, you heard that right. A journalist in Detroit, which these days is far more backward than West Virginia ever has been, albeit in a different way, got on her high horse to look down her nose at all those imaginary kissin’ cousins in the boondocks.
Meyer quickly deleted her tweet, no doubt because she caught so much justifiable heat for it. But it will live online forever as a testament to journalistic bias and ignorance.
Filed under: Hatin' On Rednecks and Media and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment
My wife and I have never been interested in braving the crazy masses to Christmas shop on Black Friday, and we’re even less inclined to join the insanity now that “Black Friday” actually begins a day early, on Thanksgiving Day. We’d rather enjoy the evening with family than waste it on conspicuous consumption for a holiday that has become far too commercialized.
But this year a confluence of events convinced my wife to go shopping on Thanksgiving night: 1) Our son really wanted Beats headphones; 2) God blessed our new communications business with a surplus of work and income, so we could afford to splurge on the children; and 3) Walmart had a great deal on headphones for anyone who shopped that night.
Many people who shop on the wildest day of the year can’t get the gifts they want because they fly off the shelves. Walmart didn’t have any Beats headphones by the time she trekked to the Walmart nearest to my parents’ house in West Virginia.
But as promised because she shopped during the allotted time, Walmart gave her a rain check and promised to deliver the headphones to our local store in the Washington, D.C., area between Dec. 14 and Dec. 22. One big item off the shopping list early, right?
Wrong. We started getting antsy about Walmart’s ability to deliver on time midway between the two promised dates. Then on Dec. 21 we received this email: “Your Walmart.com order is almost ready for pickup. … You’ll receive a separate email when your item is ready for pickup. We will also be emailing you a $10 eGift Card for any inconvenience that may occur if your item does not arrive” on time.
Less than 24 hours later we learned that “almost ready” in Wally World doesn’t mean “sometime in the next three days before you have to wrap the gift and leave town for Christmas.” We received that $20 gift card but not the gift that our son wanted most this year. Thanks for nothing, Walmart!
Thankfully this Christmas story has a happy ending. We’re regular customers of Best Buy, and they sent an email the morning of Dec. 22 advertising a one-day special on select Beats headphones. Even better, they cost $15 less than what we paid for a rain check that Walmart couldn’t manage to fill in three weeks’ time.
Our son got his headphones; we got a gift certificate that we’ll use at Walmart the day we go to get a refund on the headphones that were never delivered; and we learned never to shop at Walmart on Black Friday. There are better ways to fill the emptiness underneath our Christmas tree.
Filed under: Business and Family and Holidays and Music and West Virginia
|« newer posts||previous posts »|