Hillbilly 101

In keeping with my current theme about misconceptions, I thought I would offer a little clarity to those of you out in Readerland who think you know what a “hillbilly” or “redneck” is.

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I was born, raised, and still live in the greatest of all hillbilly states–West Virginia.  In the course of my life I have heard every stereotype, generalization, and outright prejudice you can imagine.  True story: when I worked at a state park which is just a few miles down the road from me, a couple was checking in to stay at one the cabins, and they asked me–I swear I am not making this up–if I had dirt floors at my house.  Another true story: when I had my daughter in Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic, one of the office staff did not know that West Virginia was a separate state from Virginia.  I can’t make this stuff up, folks.

If I’m going to be honest, I have to tell you that we have our share of problems in this state.  Here’s the thing–every state, region, or population has their own set of problems.  It’s always easier to point out other people’s trouble than face your own, I guess, but crime, drugs, and general immorality are ubiquitous.  I’ve seen white trash in every state I’ve ever been.

So in the spirit of education, allow me to present you with some facts that may help you adjust your thinking about the Mountain State.

  • Yes, we mine coal.  It’s dirty and dangerous and doesn’t usually require a college education.  But guess what–those lights you are sitting under in your office?  They probably come from a power plant which makes power by burning…..coal.  It’s the backbone of our whole economy and culture.  Every day they are trying to find ways to get coal out of the ground in more environmentally friendly ways.  You may love the environment, but I bet you love your electricity, too.  Also, it’s hard for me to take anyone seriously who is complaining about mountain top removal from the front seat of their giant, gas-guzzling SUV.
  • You may think our accents make us sound dumb.  That’s okay.  We think your accent makes you sound like an asshole.  Bygones.
  • The media perpetuates the whole “white trash” thing.  They really do always find the white trashiest person to interview on TV.  Guess what?  They do it to you, too.  We get a big kick out of the crack ‘ho giving an interview about a robbery in her neighborhood.
  • We like trucks.  Guess what?  It snows here.  Sometimes, a lot.  And we can actually drive in the snow.  Also, we just like trucks.  We can haul stuff and move stuff, and let’s face it–you never know when you might need to get through a really big mud hole.

  • We don’t have dirt floors.  We don’t all live in mobile homes, although if someone does, so what?
  • West Virginia is a whole other state.  To clarify, we considered changing our motto to: “West Virginia–NOT Part of Virignia.” Somehow, it just didn’t stick.
  • It is quieter here, and some of us live in the middle of nowhere.  We have to drive forty minutes to go to the grocery store.  We’re okay with that.  If you don’t like it, that’s okay, too.  That’s why we live here and you live there.  We don’t want to live in the city any more than you want to live in the country.
  • Speaking from experience, we are more polite than people in other areas, which I won’t name, but I will tell you they rhyme with Few Cork and Lew Kersey.  We hold doors for people and say excuse me.  Yes, there are rude people here–I won’t kid myself into thinking there aren’t, but like I said, I’m generalizing.  This is my blog, so I’m allowed to do that.
  • We don’t get some sort of weird satisfaction out of pointlessly blowing our car horn.  We might not be as smart as you, but we have at least figured out that blowing the horn won’t make the traffic jam magically disappear.
  • We don’t marry our cousins.  I would go so far as to say a lot of us don’t even like our cousins.
  • We wear jeans and tee-shirts, and to us, a lot of those fashions trends that are so popular in big cities just look silly.  The guys wear hats, but they take them off to pray, and to listen to the national anthem (at WVU football games and NASCAR races, for example.)
  • There are some who feud with their neighbors, but for the most part, we help our neighbors out, and they help us.  You look out for their houses when they are on vacation, and maybe even feed their dog or their chickens.  We take food to families when they have lost a loved one.  In short, when times are tough, we pull together.
  • We wave at people.  I don’t know why.  When we pass people on the road or standing on their lawn, we nod or throw up a hand.  It’s just a thing we do.

So forget your stereotypical opinions of West Virginia.  It’s a beautiful state (mostly located outdoors) with lots of amazing things to see and do.  While you’re here, take your time and enjoy the scenery.  We know how to make a guest feel at home.

And if it makes you feel better, we’ll even honk our horn at you.


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8 thoughts on “Hillbilly 101

  1. I knew nothing of West Virginia until now…but then I live on a dirt street somewhere near Alaska so apparently, according to popular stereotypes, I don’t know much anyway… in other words I can relate to the type of stereotyping you refer to ;-)

    • Hey, this is the LAND of the dirt street, so I know what you mean, and frankly, I think where you live is beyond awesome. I guess all of that stereotype stuff is just in your own country–it’s easier to just pigeonhole an entire country (Canada, for instance) and get our ideas from TV shows.

  2. I’ve never been to WV, but I definitely knew it was it’s own state AND I can find it on a map!! I think it’s true that every state has its stereotypes. Sometimes there’s truth to them, sometimes not. Pretty much I think it depends on the individual person. Take me, for example. I’m from Lew Kersey, I hold doors, I think I’m pretty polite and I’m nothing like Snooki. :)

  3. You didn’t mention the use of “Yes Ma’am or Yes Sir.” Is that something you hear in West Virginia? We moved to Austin, TX two years ago, and it’s pretty prevalent here. We came from No. CA, so at first it was a bit weird, but I’ve grown to accept it as a sign of respect and common courtesy, rather than some sort of slap in the face (“they think I’m old!”) that many westerners perceive it to be. I’ve even tried to incorporate it into my own vernacular, and it is starting to roll off the tongue a bit more easily. I’m guessing this is more of a southern thing, but I sure wish more parents would teach their children to use this phrase, along with please and thank you, opening doors for others, etc.

    As to all your other comments…sheesh! You just proved how clueless (and rude) some people can be!

  4. When I went to college in VA, the only thing I knew about WV was that it is a state.I was really surprised and bothered by all the WV jokes that were told by students and speakers who visited the college, and I didn’t even know any West Virginians at that point. Every state I have visited has had its own little quirks, but basically, people are people. And we all need to stop getting our ideas of a culture from TV. In college, I was also really annoyed by people’s thoughts of Californians. No, I’m not blonde, I would not be caught DEAD in a bikini, and I have never in my life been on a surf board. Nor do Californians wear loud “Hawaiian” shirts all the time (I have no idea where that thought came from, but it was implied to me once). Moving to WV was quite an adjustment (since I grew up a city-girl), but I have ALWAYS loved the pride and sense of community of this state. Its beautiful.

  5. All of my family except for me is from McDowell county WV. I have been to 49 of the 50 states. No where matches West Virginia . I am looking right now to buy a home in McDowell county to get away from the rude drivers of North Carolina and to simplify my life so that I can live a peaceful life. Take me home country roads!

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