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We Are West Virginia

January 11, 2012
Wetzel Chronicle

We all can be proud of the Mountaineer football teams' win last week. With no doubt left on the field, the Gold and Blue broke many bowl records in their defeat of the Clemson Tigers. The 2011 season came to a close in the warm night air of Florida with an amazing score of 70 to 33. Most around the country said that our team was the underdog. That lopsided prediction of the game's outcome had the sports page headlines already telling of the Mountaineers' loss. But as the midnight hour fell over the field of play, it had been determined odds makers were wrong and this would be one for the record books.

I was glad that we won and played well, for both the team and our state. I guess in a way I was even happier that we won and most of the ESPN announcers were wrong in their game prediction. It always seems that sport television networks never give our team or state a lot of credit. Even by half time there were still hesitations in commentaries as to the final outcome. But in the end, the team and coaching staff made those of us that call West Virginia our home, proud.

Our state is often depicted as a back woods place with barefoot hillbillies washing clothes in mountain streams. People that never visited our state believe Jed Clampett and his family may have left the state for California, but they left kin folk behind in the hills and valleys of the Ozark Mountains. Some believed outhouses with a cutout of a crescent moon in the door still sit behind our homes. They know we are a happy lot because most pictures depicted us smiling; of course we are missing teeth and our shoes.

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When I left the valley many years ago, to see the world while in the service, I met a great many people who actually believed those images they had seen on TV. They thought those images were a realistic depiction of living among the hills. I was amazed to discover how many people did not even realize that West Virginia is a state. They most often thought I came from the western part of Virginia. People would ask, "How far from Richmond are you? I have family there, maybe you know them." I would explain about my state and they would look at me as if they did not understand what I had just said.

As backwards as they believe our state was, I had to wonder if the state they came from had chosen not to teach American history or geography in their schools. I was expected to learn all the states and their capitals. We even learned a little about each state and what it was like to live there. Some of the people I met believed we're a state covered in coal mines and moonshine stills in the western part of Virginia.

Even today, if television wants to portray a backwoods people they often refer to our state. I realize we have our share of poverty and literacy problems. But I also know we are not alone when it comes to such problems. Hollywood movie makers often portray us as state of deep hollows with dirty clapboard houses built on hillsides. We as citizens realize that such places exist in most other states.

Television programs often talk of the wonders of the Grand Canyon and Painted Desert in Arizona. I know that the New River Gorge may not be as big as the Grand Canyon, but its beauty was carved in the mountains as the old river moves along its way. The Painted Desert's beautiful pastel colors are wonderful to see, but each autumn Mother Nature moves her hand across our state as she paints the trees in reds and yellows to celebrate fall in the mountains.

California with its greatness, funnels much of its water to supply sprawling cities. In our state, we treasure our creeks and rivers as they flow along the valleys. Some describe Texas as a state that stretches far as the eye can see for days in any direction. I am not certain, but if the good Lord had chosen to iron the wrinkles out of our mountains, we may give Texas a run for its money in size. Plus our state would still be covered in trees, running streams, and proud Mountaineers.

I realize these ideas of other states are exaggerated in my view, but so are many peoples' views and understanding of our state. We are not the biggest state or the richest. We are a people who work hard and are proud of our oddly shaped state. We are a state that when our country calls for men and women to step up and defend this nation, we always send more than our share. We are people of many heritages and cultures that have blended into a unique culture of citizens. And if those sports networks can't realize that fact and give our team a little credit, that is their loss. Predictions by those setting the odds gave the Mountaineers a 17 percent chance of winning. In my opinion, being part of the 17 percent makes us all proud West Virginians as we look Thru the Lens.

Over the next couple of months the state's politicians return to Charleston to conduct state business. They will be providing information on these pages to keep you informed as to what is going on down state. I will hopefully return as the flowers of spring begin to bloom.



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