However, my hometown is just across the river from the state of Ohio. I came close to being an Ohioan, and not just due to my proximity to the border. My father’s family spent time living in Ohio during the Depression and World War II (my grandmother served as a “Rosie the Riveter” building F-4 Corsair fighter planes in Akron), but thankfully they came home to West Virginia after the war. Had they stayed in Akron, my parents would have never met and I’d never have been born. Some other version of my father’s son would have likely been born in the Buckeye state.
Indeed, the industrial base of Akron was a prime destination for West Virginians looking for work for the first half of the 20th century. In my grandparent’s era, there was an old adage that the “Three R’s” taught in West Virginia schools were “readin’, ‘ritin’, and Route 21”--which was the road that led north to Akron and Cleveland.
I am so thankful that the strong bonds to family and to these hills called my father’s family back to West Virginia after the war. Plus, I’m thankful that my mom’s side of the family had long been entrenched here—and it is through her that I have the two ancestors who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War to help create the state of West Virginia. Had the Confederates been victorious, the fledgling state of West Virginia might have been given back to the politicos in Richmond.
Much of my personality—my inner psyche—is tied to my native state, and the lack of full respect I feel it deserves. How many times do we have to be the punchline for a TV comedian, or be lumped into Virginia by some clueless sportscaster? I don’t know what it would have been like to have been raised in a state like Ohio that is seen as an important state. I’m especially grateful I didn’t grow up in the flat regions of Ohio—flat land still makes me a bit nervous. Give me some hills for security!
I’m glad I grew up in a rural state, with lots of scenic beauty. If I want metropolitan areas and the cultural diversions they provide, they can be driven to when needed. In the meantime, I’ll stick to the West Virginia hills and the comfort they provide. Our citizens may not be the most educated or the most affluent, but there is an innate goodness within the vast majority of them.
And I’ll keep cheering for the Mountaineers, whether they are winning or losing, because that WV logo represents me. Losing seasons just make you appreciate the winning ones even better. There are good life lessons that come from the pain of defeat (or of disrespect), and I feel I’ve had the chance to learn a lot over the years. It is just part of that "chip on the shoulder" that most of us carry. West Virginians have always had to fight a little harder than everyone else to prove we belong, going all the way back to our birth as a state (see my previous essay at http://inquisineer.blogspot.com/2011/05/not-bastard.html). It is who we are—and I am glad I am one, instead of a Buckeye.