West Virginia University has an excellent leader in E. Gordon Gee. He’s currently only on tap to fill the job for a couple of years, but he’s showing himself to be just the kind of administrator the university needs in a challenging time.
I was skeptical earlier this year of WVU’s decision to bring him back to a job he held early in his career. It seemed like WVU was looking backward instead of forward. Gee also has a history of running his mouth in ways that reflect poorly on him and the schools he has led.
But Gee has won me over. He still has the fun-loving character of a young man, as evidenced by his tweet when ESPN’s College Game Day visited Morgantown, W.Va., in October.
Yet he has exercised the kind of wisdom that only comes with age — and perhaps from having learned from his own mistakes. Gee understands that, in the words of King Solomon, there is “a time to tear apart and a time to sew together, a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
Filed under: Education and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Hey, West Virginia is movin’ up in the world. The Mountain State bested not only Mississippi but also Alabama and Arkansas on a list of worst places to live based on factors such as health, education, jobs, technology and the environment.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development assigned the ratings. West Virginia scored a 52.2 out of 100 overall, putting it fourth from the bottom. Courtesy of a redneck-hating writer at The Washington Post, here’s the breakdown by category and on a 1-10 scale:
That last one is the only bright spot for we hillbillies, but of course, we could have told you our state is a perfect 10 for places to call home. Now ask any of us whether we care what the elitist snobs at the OECD and the Post think of our state.
All of their brains put together are incapable of comprehending the intangible factors that make the redneck region of America, and especially West Virginia, the best place to live.
Filed under: Business and Culture and Hatin' On Rednecks and News & Politics and Technology and West Virginia
This sales pitch is on display along Route 7 in West Virginia, a few miles from my home.
Who needs a billboard and fancy graphics when you can keep it simple on the side of a shed? I guess the lease attempt was a bust.
Filed under: Just For Laughs and Photography and Redneck Humor and West Virginia
A few weeks ago, a policeman in my home town pulled me over for speeding. He graciously gave me a warning after telling me I had five points on my license and he didn’t want to ding me again.
I appreciated him giving me a break, but his contention that I had a bad driving record bothered me. I haven’t been ticketed in two decades, and the points I had on my license back then (some for speeding and the rest for causing an accident when I made a blind left turn) should have been expunged long ago.
I finally remembered to call the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles today to explore the disconnect between what I knew to be true and what the officer in the speed trap told me. The answer: I have five “safe points” on my license, which the Old Dominion issues each year you go without any traffic infractions. You can’t accumulate any more than five safe points, so in the state of Virginia’s eyes, I’m currently a perfect driver.
Someone needs to alert small-town cops in West Virginia who like to lurk just inside their town borders to bust unsuspecting drivers right after they cross into lower speed zones. I realize that each state handles licensing differently, but it disturbs me that the officer who stopped me couldn’t tell the difference between a driver with a good record and a bad one when he searched the database.
That kind of ignorance could easily fuel an abuse of authority in the wrong circumstances. I’m actually surprised the officer didn’t ticket me once he found out I had what he thought were bad points on my license because before he searched, I told him I hadn’t been ticketed in 20 years. Had I been in his shoes, I might have pegged me as a liar.
In this case, the points worked in my favor. The officer was in a generous mood and gave me a warning because he didn’t want to make life miserable for a presumably nice guy like me. If my record had been blank, he might have decided I could afford a few points — and a fine that would help bolster the department budget.
I suppose I should be grateful and just shut my virtual mouth. But I can’t help but wonder how a policeman in a bad mood or on a power trip could use bad information as an excuse for unjust punishment. Ignorance is a dangerous thing in law enforcement.
Filed under: Government and West Virginia
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I remember the ancient time — back in my high school years — when nerds became the heroes of Hollywood plot lines. Movies and television shows celebrated the geeks who were scorned by the jocks, cheerleaders and other cool kids.
This helps explain why so many people embrace the “nerd” label these days. But as Charles Cooke explains at National Review Online, today’s nerd are pretenders. They have corrupted the word for political purposes, and they are the anti-type of Hollywood’s heroic dweebs, plagued by the very air of superiority the nerds in cinema resisted.
And who are the targets of their bigotry? Rednecks, of course. As Cooke says:
I was fortunate to find a happy medium in my youth. I was a “band baby” for two of my four years at Paden City High School and a “football animal” for one. I was never quite talented enough to get much playing time in any of the official school sports I tried, but I also wasn’t among the last people picked when I joined my peers for backyard football, pickup basketball and the like. I ranked among the top 10 percent of my small class but also opted to study to be an electrician at a vocational school rather than take college prep classes my junior and senior years.
I was part nerd and part jock. I enjoyed intellectual pursuits yet also appreciated the folksy wisdom of those who were educated at the University of Hard Knocks. In other words, I was — and am — an enlightened redneck. And that’s the worst nightmare of the Neil deGrasse Tysons of the world.
Filed under: Culture and Education and Entertainment and Hatin' On Rednecks and Movies and People and Rednecks and Sports and West Virginia
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Sure, Sistersville bred an entire generation of talented small-school athletes in its sports heyday. It also has a storied industrial history. Sistersville was an oil boom town in the late 18th century, a development that made the Wells Inn famous to this day.
But other than that …
OK, Sistersville has more going for it historically than I’ll ever be able to admit in light of the rivalry that divided our towns during my youth. It’s even making national news these days for one feature that has been there for nearly two centuries — the Sistersville Ferry that carries people, cars and even semi-tractors across the river to Fly, Ohio.
The ferry has fallen on hard times of late, losing passengers and struggling to meet its annual budget, but it’s still running. The Parkersburg News and Sentinel originally published the story in West Virginia, but the Associated Press distributed it nationally last week:
The takeaway for me: It’s time for us to introduce our children to the Sistersville Ferry before it disappears altogether. We usually cross at the St. Mary’s bridge when we’re at my parents’ house and head south to visit friends in Marietta, Ohio. Next time we’ll pay $5 to ride the Ohio’s waves.
Filed under: History and News & Politics and West Virginia
When elitists want to mock West Virginia, they typically resort to repeating ridiculous hillbilly stereotypes involving a lack of teeth, an affection for in-breeding or the absence of indoor plumbing. That last one is especially laughable in light of the news coming from the presumably prim and proper hallways of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Here’s the straight poop from Government Executive, a publication geared toward top officials in the federal government:
Yep, you read that right. The agency in charge of keeping America’s air clean can’t even keep the air — or the floors — in one of its own hallways fresh.
This disgusting behavior happens in the big city more often than redneck haters would care to admit. A “serial pooper” wreaked stinky havoc at a Washington, D.C., Metro station a few years ago, for instance.
The scatological news at the EPA also reminds me of the sign I saw inside a bathroom stall at U.N. headquarters back in 1999: “Gentlemen dispose of toilet paper properly. Let’s keep the restroom clean.” VIPs in New York shouldn’t need that pointer, but apparently they do.
Laugh all you want about imaginary outhouse aficionados in West Virginia. At least when our ancestors used them ages ago, they had enough sense to relieve themselves in a privy dedicated to that purpose rather than in public corridors.
Filed under: Culture and Government and Hatin' On Rednecks and News & Politics and West Virginia
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
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