Dear West Virginia, by Jason Headley

Dear West Virginia,

I suppose this has been a long time coming. Looking back, it must have seemed abrupt. Twenty-two years we spent together, then I up and left with no real explanation. I probably owed you more than that. So I’ll try my best to explain it to you now.

We were perfect together at first, weren’t we? As a boy, I couldn’t have asked for a better playmate. Your hills and trees, your railroad tracks, rivers, and run-down factories. You could have killed me a dozen times, at least. I seemed to be asking for it. I was rough on you, but you gave as good as you got. My blood in your soil, your splinters and gravel under my skin. This is how we did it, becoming more and more of one another every single day.

I drew your initials in my notebooks in the sharp angles of the university logo. They weren’t just letters. They were you. I wore blue and gold, but those weren’t your only colors. You were green and white, too. Just like my Paden City Wildcats. You were orange and yellow and red, your hillsides alight with fire every autumn. You were the purple of the Ohio River, the sun’s last rays drawn deep. You were black, a night sky as endless as my imagination.

You were everything to me. My mom and my dad. My brother and my grandparents. My home and my school. All of my very first firsts. It was perfect while it lasted.

I wish I could tell you when things changed. That I could point to one moment. Maybe the first time I saw the ocean, standing there with my pant legs hiked to my knees, staring at the end of the earth. Maybe it was something I saw on television: a bionic man, a talking car, a chimpanzee sidekick, a girl in her underwear. Maybe it was the books, one of the stories that seemed so wild and strange and far beyond anything I could ever imagine happening while surrounded by the steadfastness of you.

That might be part of it. I knew, as sure as I knew anything, that you were never going to change. You’d spent lifetimes building mountains from flat, solid ground. You’d grown forests, had them taken from you, and grown them again. You were strong, stalwart, and set in the ways that worked for you. But I slowly began to realize they wouldn’t work for me.

I can’t actually think of a time beyond boyhood when I thought I was going to stay. It’s strange. Ungrateful, I suppose. You were the only thing I knew and somehow you weren’t enough. But my interests and ambitions grew beyond any realistic expectations. Far beyond the reach of your panhandles. And I suppose that changes a relationship forever.

The question is, did I begin to stand out because I knew I was going to leave? Or did I know I was going to leave because I was beginning to stand out? I fished your streams, but with little frequency and even less success. Friends and family stalked your forests for hours in the hope of bringing home deer, quail, squirrel. The interest never took with me. But there were bigger things. Ideals I didn’t recognize, some old-fashioned, some simply old. Disagreement with common-held beliefs. Those I saw as wrong-headed, and those I knew were just plain wrong. All of that combined to leave me somewhere in between. There, but not.

I know your state bird, your state flower, your state tree, your state animal. I know your state fish, for crying out loud. Every fiber of my being was forged, formed, and intricately woven by the experience of growing up with you: my basic values, my ingrained suspicions, my belief that good things can always happen to you, but don’t hold your breath.

You see, I’ve never had a problem being from West Virginia. I just had some difficulty being in West Virginia.

Still, now, the places we knew together are like songs to me. Just the names bring a flood of memories: Dolly Sods, Canaan Valley, Oil Ridge, Buck Run, Bickles Knob. And then the places that had no real title: the rope swing on the north end of town, the outfield of the far baseball diamond, the attic of my best friend’s house, and, of course, the few square feet of my bedroom. I papered those walls with dreams. That town. I sought your best places and poured endless meaning into some of your most ordinary corners. I did all of this, day after day, for over eight thousand days. And then, one day, it was time to go.

You probably didn’t see it, because my back was to you as I drove, but I cried when I left. And not just because I was in Kentucky. I cried because I missed you already. I cried because I’d never been away from you for longer than two weeks. I cried because I was afraid. Because if I wasn’t a West Virginian, then what was I?

I had a tape recorder on the front seat to capture thoughts as I drove, alone, toward a new life. This is what I said as I left you behind: “If California is half as good to me as West Virginia has been, I’m going to be in pretty good shape.”

And I was right. But a dozen years here has taught me just how wrong I was about something else. I never stopped being a West Virginian. There are some things that can’t be undone. Not by all the gods in all the heavens. Geography be damned.

The other day someone wrote to me and said, “I’ll be coming to your state next week.” And I thought, “I wonder why he’s going to West Virginia?” He wasn’t. He was coming to California. But I still, in my marrow, think of you as “my state.” I only hope you still think of me as your son.

I have grandparents and great-grandparents buried in your ground. I have family living in the curves of your hills. I have pieces of me scattered all across your land. And I have the best parts of you locked here in my heart.

Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe all these words can never explain away what I did. Maybe abandonment is too great a sin to be absolved. Maybe. But I like to think not.

I like to think all your countless years have given you unbridled understanding, the likes of which I’ll never understand. That on a cold autumn night when the air smells like burning leaves and small town football, you miss me a little, too. I like to think that when I come home, you’re as happy to see me as I am you. And that the few days we get to spend together each year are like a gift, a time machine. Proof that old friends never fade.

That’s what I like to think.

Forever yours,
Jason

Jason Headley does some things for art and some things for money.

105 Responses to “Dear West Virginia, by Jason Headley”

  1. Damn right! I’ve never been to West Virginia. But now I want to go.

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    Dillon Reply:

    You’ve wonderfully stated everything that I’ve ever thought about my upbringing in our wonderful state. I’ll forever catch the short end of bad and outdated jokes for being a West Virginian, but I’ll also forever live with the integrity and work ethic that she gave me.

    I believe that every West Virginian has a larger, more distinct since of state-pride than many if not all of the people that I have met in my travels since I left WV. They can have their jokes, they will never sway my respect for the beauty and safety of our rolling hills.

    I grew up a short 5 miles North of yourself, and understand every piece of this to it’s glorious, dirty, coal-dusted core. I have never (and will never) wish that I had come from some other place.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I just returned to NC after visiting family in Charleston, WV and I literally wrote on Facebook almost exactly what you have just said. Where else can you go that on game day every major chain store and small mom and pop shop will have the game blasting over the PA and EVERYONE in the place is wearing WV colors? My husband is always amazed at the amount of pride and love for their state that West Virginians have (especially in spite of the fact that economic struggle and poverty seems to afflict the greater majority) I’m proud to be from West Virginia and it will always be my true home!

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    chill Reply:

    Is it possible to love home without being a sports fan?
    .

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    Andrea H. Reply:

    A good friend sent me this link after we had a long discussion about where life had taken us, and now that we live in other states, what it feels like to return home. It was a conversation had the night before a friend’s wedding, in which some people were seeing familiar faces for the first time in years. West Virginia was home to everyone, although we weren’t all still living in that 304 area code. To hear someone talk about sharing that proud , sentimental feeling when you see that “Wild and Wonderful” sign on the interstate, the breathtaking fall colors, or the “WV” symbol on an out-of-state car, was amazing. We are a special people with an unspoken bond. That bond can’t be broken by time nor distance, and because of that, I’m proud to say I’m from West by God Virginia.

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    P M Harless Reply:

    I could have written this letter almost word for word. I live in CA but heart remains in WV and still proudly think of myself as a hillbilly. The best years of my life were lived there and though I have lived in other places and visited countless others WV will always be home. I have lived in CA for nearly 30 years and it has been 40 since we lived in the Mountain State yet folks detect an accent when I speak, a hodge podge I suppose of places I have lived but the heart of which is my roots. I wanted away from the snow, now I miss the still splendor and colored leaves. I hope when my days are done I am intered back with my folks back in the Mountain State I will ever love and which will always be a part of my core. Take me home country roads…

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  2. I could say the same about New Jersey, but then, I remember Rohm and Haas and the smell from Bristol Pa. I’ll pass…

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  3. Damnit! I was gonna say I’m gonna stick my dick in West Virginia over Thanksgiving!

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  4. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I left WV for school, then came back. I knew it was the right thing to do, and I’ve never regretted it. There’s something about living here that gives you such a feeling of completeness. When you’re born and raised here, you establish a link with West Virginia that can’t ever be broken, and that was evident in your post. We know who we are, we’re proud of who we are, and we don’t need to apologize for who we are. We’re WEST VIRGINIANS!!

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  5. Been away from WV for six years now, starting to miss my home state.

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  6. Doug, come on back for a visit. Maybe you’ll reestablish some memories of the “old home place”.

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  7. “Bickles Knob” Is that a whiskey or a blow job from a bum? No mean spirit intended. I just want to know.

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    Doug M Reply:

    It is the second highest mountain in WV. Has an old firewatch tower on top. 360 degree view. Sorry if you where looking for some crazy other meaning.

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    Matt Reply:

    It is not the second highest mountain in WV. It isn’t even in the top 50.

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    T Reply:

    Yeah, but when you live in Randolph County, it is the highest mountain in the world. or is it Rich Mountain, or Cheat ?

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  8. Eloquently stated, Jason.

    I feel the same way about Ohio.

    I moved away to Minnesota and Colorado….but my roots drew me back.

    I’ve always been conflicted about it….but I am an Ohio boy through and though.

    Nice update.

    Thanks

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    renn Reply:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bickle_Knob

    I don’t recommend camping there in the middle of February. Especially in a tent.

    Live and learn, I suppose.

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    renn Reply:

    Oh, and the line about Stewart Memorial Drive being “easily traversed” is a LIE. Even in the best weather, that road can mostly be described as “moody”.

    There were many times we had to leave the truck at the bottom of the hill and wander up on foot. Fun times. Really.

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  9. I’m kind of an adopted West Virginian, having grown up on the West Coast, and moving back there after a long stint at a remote radar site in Alaska with my best friend from St. Marys. My wife’s family lives in western-most New York (Chautauqua…but not rich Chautauquans, lol!).
    I try to get back to St. Marys at least once a year, and I swear, when I turn off of I-70 and hit WV Rt. 2, tears fill my eyes because I somehow feel as if I have come home again.
    It’s hard to explain, but it is almost exactly like what it is like out here in Nome, Alaska. It’s tough to live there sometimes due to the economy and the unemployment, but the PEOPLE make it the special place it is! There is a darn good reason that the motto is “Almost Heaven.”

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    Erin Reply:

    I’m from St. Marys! Love my small town!

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    t-storm Reply:

    My last high school girlfriend was from Newport, OH and my dad worked at Cyanamid on Willow Island for like 20 yrs. My brother currently shovels coal at the power plant on Willow Island.

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    chill Reply:

    [ Unrelated to WV ] You said “my brother”. My brother has held a strange variety of jobs: website designer, airport shuttle bus driver, bank vice president, shelf stocker at Wal-Mart. I may have the order wrong.
    .

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    Vickie Reply:

    I’m grew up in St. Marys and moved to NY 24 years ago. I still think of WV as my home and always will. I still love my Mountaineers!!! :-) Thank you Jason for putting into words exactly how I feel too!

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  10. P.S. Glad to know you are from Paden City, Jason, and not one of those uppity snobs from Sistersville! :)

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    newblood Reply:

    clintcurtis. I can tell you haven’t been back to sistersville in a long time. The uppity snobs are long gone…most have died off. That WAS the Sistersville of the 40′s and 50′s…..and those times are gone. We are now a fun loving bunch of people who love to party, have fun, enjoy life and we are all friends with everyone. No more class system! Come visit next time you come to St. Marys.

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    clintcurtis Reply:

    My bestest of best friends used to work at Buck Chevrolet in Sistersville. I’ve heard all the great stories of how the Sistersvillians were the creme de la creme back in the day. Seriously, I love Sistersvile so much. I used to eat at the Well’s Inn WAY back in the day.

    But, the thing I admire most about Sistrsville is that when I drive through town in the Summer, all of the tennis courts at the park have players on them. What a great city! (Okay, I love to play tennis…that doesn’t make me sexually suspect, does it? lol)

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    Chuck in Belpre Reply:

    No it does not make you suspect. I’ve seen Maria Sharapova.

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  11. It appears I’ve found a new author to read – Great Update Jason!

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  12. Just frickin’ WOW!

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  13. I am at my desk, trying hard not to cry. That was just beautiful.

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  14. Hard to read a story like that and jackoff at the same time. Hard, but not impossible. That’s all I’ve got to say.

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  15. I’m with Jason –and I’m a girl.

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  16. Eloquent! Beautifully stated. Jason, you could be the next great Southern Writer. Another Pat Conroy!

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  17. Well done!

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  18. W.O.W. That was awesome, Jason. Made me homesick for the things that will never “be” anymore. More often than not, I wonder how life became so complicated. Maybe because I’m quickly approaching the big 5-0. But your update brought me to a screetching halt for those few minutes.

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  19. Doesn’t anyone write about explosive bowel movements anymore ? Whoa , excuse me for a moment…..

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    t-storm Reply:

    If it helps you get through the day I’m about to rain some fury onto the small room.

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    AngryWhiteGuy Reply:

    And I’m about to manufacture some mortar that could help an Ethiopian build a small hut. The twelve pieces of chicken I ate last night could have been the culprit in producing that fine connective substance.

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    hot fuzz Reply:

    I was going to msn one of my coworkers to tell him I just dropped a foot long masterpiece.. I had to tell someone. Seems this is the place

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    Jason Reply:

    My secretary just stunk up the whole goddamn hallway. I’m thinking about flushing a sympathy card down her toilet for the guys down at the sewer treatment plant.

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  20. That literally brought tears to my eyes. I feel the same way about my beloved South Carolina. Thanks for sharing that with us!

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  21. OMG! This is incredible!

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  22. That was beautifully written.

    (Full disclosure – I’ve been to WV twice and didn’t like it either time. If you talk like do, and you don’t like Bud/Coors/Miller and you’re browsing in a WV beer store… well I’m not from around these parts am I? There, I said it).

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  23. Jeff, you know some really interesting people! I am really enjoying these guest posts.

    Well done!

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  24. What a beautiful piece of writing. I’m going to read it to my English students and then I’m sharing it with my dad, a native of Wellsburg, WV. Thanks for writing it, Jason, and thanks, Jeff, for posting it.

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  25. Nice piece of writing, Mr. Headley. I rarely come here to be uplifted, but you have accomplished that today.

    On a side note, but still dripping with nostalgia, here’s old color pics of the Ringling Bros. Circus. I know how much Jeff likes these old-timey photographs.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/09/1940s-color-photos-of-the-ringling-brothers-barnum-and-bailey-circus/245365/

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  26. Somebody nudge me when Jeff gets back. It’s turning into a big gay hug fest around here.

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    AngryWhiteGuy Reply:

    So, Henderson, do ya like gladiator movies?

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    Tipsey McChugney Reply:

    Ever seen a grown man naked?

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    t-storm Reply:

    i nudged my penis.

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  27. I just can’t get behind the Mountain State anymore. Yeah, it’s got some good scenery and my childhood there was pretty awesome, but once I tasted the offerings of the other states I have been in, I can’t see myself ever moving back there.

    Once, while on the run from being killed by my ex wife’s family, I tried to go back and get a job. The three jobs that were offered to me, although I was pleased to get the offers, could not have paid my bills. I would have had to work all three jobs to get by.

    WV is a fine place, 40 years ago. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and that is what has stripped my home state of the appeal to me. Unless your name happens to be Rockefeller or Manchin.

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    t-storm Reply:

    I miss the AWG Bob Evans stories and what not. My ex called shenanigans so I said screw you ex!

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  28. Very nice piece.

    My favorite WV memory is a topless car wash in Charleston, I think it was called Bertha’s.

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    t-storm Reply:

    That was just my mom’s front yard.

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    WB in OH Reply:

    No, they had a building.

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  29. That is exceptional writing! Well done!

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  30. Jason,

    What a wonderful letter. West Virginia has a unique way of getting into your soul and making its mark. Never once did I believe I’d stay here after college, but now, 20 years later, I can’t think of leaving.

    Will you be here next week to help celebrate Lonnie’s award at Homecoming?

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  31. I was raised on the Florida coast since I was 3, although born in central WV. I moved back to WV when I was 21… and I dont know that I will ever find a place I love nearly as much as WV. Beautiful article. and o so true.

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  32. Do you know why the BYU football team doesn’t do better?

    Because every time they get 10 yards, they have to give 1 back!

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  33. While I’ve only been through WV a few times (though I may have stopped to pee), I do have to say the picture that accompanies this story does draw you in – and looks like Almost Heaven…. with the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River….. Wait, I’ve heard this story before somewhere.

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    Grimp Nobueno Reply:

    Uhmm…..thats western VA not WV

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  34. I’ve been away for 16 years now. I wasn’t born and raised there, but I still consider it my “home away from home”. Given the chance today, I’d pack up everything and move back. I’m still trying to sell my family on the idea. No deal so far.

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  35. So by now everyone has received Jeff’s email about THE INTERVIEW with one of his favorite National Lampoon cartoonists.
    I have posted the story on MetaFilter to broaden the audience because even though I was not a fan before, I am now!
    It was splendid.

    http://www.metafilter.com/108091/National-Lampoon-52-on-the-dollar

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  36. Jason, that was beautiful.

    I have no interest in moving back to Brooklyn, but I still think of myself as a New Yorker even after a decades-long absence.

    And Jeff, thanks for the interview link. I’ve been a fan of Flenniken’s since 1973-ish, and it was nice to finally “meet” her.
    .

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  37. Beautifully written, nuff said.

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  38. thanks for making think twice about moving back home. it’s hard to leave WV behind. you end up feeling like a traitor half the time and lucky the rest.

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  39. You captured, beautifully, the essense of our state. What you felt is exactly how most of us feel growing up. But WV will always be home, no matter where we are now.

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  40. West Virginia is a beautiful place. We DO wear Allen Edmonds shoes, have university degrees, drive late model luxury sedans, and yes, we have Lincoln and Mercedes dealers here just like any other place.

    I get so sick of hearing national media morons that blather their stupidity about West Virginia and have never been here.

    I’ve been a broadcaster here for nearly 47 years, my father and grandfather were both coal mine superintendents with new River Coal Company and my life here has been idillic and amazing. I’ve lived in Phoenix, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota as well as South Dakota…

    I’m a West Virginian. What an interesting commentary!

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  41. Very well written. WV means a lot to many people, but the word Home covers ever aspect. My hollow is the best.

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  42. WOW Jason!!!!! What happen to that little boy I use to babysit for…….He turned out to be a wonderful, and a terrific writer…..Such a wonderful job, Jason……Thank You, Judy

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  43. For the past few weeks, my husband has been asking why he’s so homesick this year. I keep telling him, “Because it’s Fall. And you do every year.” We are southern West Virginians (Putnam & Boone Counties) now living in South Carolina.

    I’ve read your piece three times since I found it on Facebook this morning. You have echoed my heart and mind. I used to feel suffocated and embraced by those steep coalfields mountains. It’s a beauty and a way of life that truly is in our DNA.

    Thank you.

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  44. Great stuff. Nice. Groovy even.

    I feel the same way about Maryland.
    But of course then again, fuck Maryland.

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  45. Thanks for a wonderful letter! I grew up in New Martinsville, WV. There is something about WV that grabs your heart. I have lived in Europe and TX. I fly my WV flag proud wherever I am! When I go back “home”….I feel like I am seeing a LONG LOST FRIEND. God Bless WV! (1994 graduate of WVU also)

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  46. Jason…
    Awesome….Need I say more!!!

    XOXO From Buffalo, NY…WV Girl at Heart!!!

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  47. From PC too-…. i am so very proud of you . You opened your mouth and spoke my heart. I wanted to fly away from WV in1978 but here I am in 2011 and am damn proud of our state! We love you here still!

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  48. Jason, i have to agree totally. All through the years I served in the Army, I always took great pride in saying i’m from West Virginia, where manners still count, and upbringing defines the person. All over this earth, I have stood and compared it to home, and nothing will ever compare to WV, or Paden City. I just wish I could have done more for the future of home. Well written old friend, take care.

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  49. You’ve wonderfully stated everything that I’ve ever thought about my upbringing in our wonderful state. I’ll forever catch the short end of bad and outdated jokes for being a West Virginian, but I’ll also forever live with the integrity and work ethic that she gave me.

    I believe that every West Virginian has a larger, more distinct since of state-pride than many if not all of the people that I have met in my travels since I left WV. They can have their jokes, they will never sway my respect for the beauty and safety of our rolling hills.

    I grew up a short 5 miles North of yourself, and understand every piece of this to it’s glorious, dirty, coal-dusted core. I have never (and will never) wish that I had come from some other place.

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  50. Hi Jason,

    Reading this make me miss home and be thankful that I am a short drive from home. I swelled with pride and even welled up a little. Good to see a fellow PC alumnus is doing well. Currently work as an electronics engineer for the Naval Air Systems Command.

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  51. I grew up in Boone County, and I have been in the USAF since 1992. I make it back about once a year, and after 19 years, it is tough to leave WV to go back to California, where I have been stationed since 1993. I have about 1500 hours in a C-5, meet people all over the world, and I am proud to call myself a Mountaineer!!!!! BTW, nothing was more fun than Russians singing Country Roads for me in 2005!!!

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  52. Hello Jason,

    WOW! You have captured what it means to be a West Virginian. I love to visit other cities and states, but my heart always longs for WV. WV has been my home for 38yrs and I have no plans on ever leaving her. WV Mountain Mama.

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  53. Jason,
    Thanks for a beautiful description of our home. I left Paden City, WV 22 years ago and I still tear up when I hear “Country Roads”. This is the time of the year, when the hills are vivid with orange and red, that I miss home the most.
    Your letter home eloquently stated how many of us who have left may feel. I wish I had your talent with words.

    Thanks,
    Bobette

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  54. Pitch perfect. A beautiful piece.

    Montani Semper Liberi.

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  55. Dear Jason,

    Your words touched me somewhere very deep in my heart, and caused my eyes to leak! I was born, raised, and still abide in West Virginia for 61 years now. When I was young, I wanted to move to California and surf like “Gidget”. My oldest brother did move to California. He was educated there, raised a family of six children there, held a wonderful job there with Lockheed as an aeronautical engineer…..but in the end he returned home….here he spent his last six years, and often wondered why he ever left his first love…..Whenever I leave for vacation, I am so happy to see the West Virginia, Almost Heaven sign……my heart begins to feel a love liken to that of seeing one’s own mother…..Here I feel safe, here I feel accepted, here I feel peace……Your words exactly captured all I have felt, and how I am sure my brother felt while he was gone…..so to speak. My other brother moved to Paden City as a young man, married a girl from there, raised his children there…..now his son is living Maryland, and misses, and longs for home…..and for the same reasons as many above spoke….he cannot afford to stay here. God bless you for your words….and for the wonderful confirmation I received from them.

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  56. Thank you so much for this Jason. I fled West Virginia when I was 18 and headed to the beach. I always thought there was ‘more’ for me somewhere else. From the beach, I headed to the Rockies. But I have ALWAYS felt pride when I told people that I was from West Virginia. And then I always told them that I loved my state but that I’d never move back. And now, at this point in my life, I am starting to change my mind. In fact, I will be spending the winter there and it feels very full circle and like the thing that makes the most sense. So take me home country roads…

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  57. Nice work Jason. I left WV 12 yrs ago, so I could relate to everyrhing you wrote as so many others can. But I think a big point to make is, why do so many relate to this. It’s because those West Virginians moved because they didn’t have a choice. In order to be successful in their career or in seak of better opportunity, they had to go to other states to do so. And as much as I love the visits I make bakc to the hills, I don’t see anything that has changed to help stop future generations from having no choice but to make the same voyege elsewhere. While I wouldn’t trade to amazing life I had growing up in WV and I am so grateful for the role growing up in a state with so much kinship did in molding me into who I am today, I leave each visit knowing I could never live there. And I don’t see it getting any better. And in some cases, it’s gotten worse. Don’t take this as a WV bash, I love my home state and I’m proud to say it, but the reality of why the states loses so many can’t be denied.

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  58. Great, now Jason is gonna get a big head and think he’s a writer or something.

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  59. [...] came across this little tribute to West Virginia and instantly wished I had written it. Share [...]

  60. Jason,
    That is absolutely beautiful! It is exactly what I feel about West Virginia and Paden City. What great places to be from. I still live in West Virginia and have only lived elsewhere one time. It was the worst year of my life and I finally begged to come back home… back to West Virginia where I belong. Your grandmother would have been so very proud of you and I’m very sure she is looking upon what you are doing and smiling that wonderful smile of hers. She and my mother are in heaven shopping like the fools they were when they shopped. If you never experienced shopping with the two of them you will just have to trust me on this one. I’m happy to say I saw you grow up and you have done your family, town, and state proud.

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  61. Jason,
    That is beautiful, you have such a wonderful way with words. Thank you so much for sharing. I also am from Paden City, lived there most of my life.

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  62. Just beautiful…you made my cry and wish I was home

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  63. Back in the Seventies, my family moved to Ohio and every time we made a trip back to WV my dad would always say..”we’ll be heading back home this weekend”. For Seven years..we were always going “back home”. As I grew up, It came to my attention that there is something about WV that holds peoples hearts like the love between a mother and a child. No matter where they roam..WV always stays home sweet home. Beautiful piece Jason..Not only does it describes the beauty and life of these mountains but it describes the feelings and love its citizens have that many people don’t understand about this state.

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  64. I loved your article. I have lived in

    Thank you for your beautifully written article. I have ived in
    Ca., Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. I have been in46 of the lower 48, but was always happy to come back home. No other state can compare to our West Virginia hills.

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  65. Jason, Thank you for writing this. I don’t know you but we have one thing in common, the love of our home West Virginia. I currently reside in South Carolina where I have lived for almost twenty years. I left home for the same reason most of us did, to find work. Due to my work ethic I have had a successful career. I contribute that too my upbringing in West Virginia where life is not easy and hard work is a way of life. I regret leaving home, and often wonder what life I would have made for myself had I not. I believe that God sent me here to meet my wife for which I’m so very thankful for. But wouldn’t you know it, she also has ties to West Virginia, her mother is a McCoy from Paden city. I know so many of us have ventured out to find whatever they seek in life. I can’t help but wonder what if we (West Virginians) were able to apply ourself’s to the success of our own home. Don’t we owe her that? She made us who we are, mannerly, respectful, humble, thankful. When I come home for a visit and see that sign welcome to wild wonderful West Virginia I always lift one hand from the wheel and make a fist followed by a YES I’m home. I miss my home very much and I will never stop trying to get back to where I belong. For those of you who are not from West Virginia would not and can not understand what we have in our hearts.

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  66. God, I love this state. Nobody I’ve ever met has been as proud of their home state (nor as wistful when remembering it) as I am, but you’ve put it better than I ever could have. I have friends that have traveled the world, and while I lament the fact that I’ll never have the resources to do the same, I don’t really feel sorry for myself for never having the opportunity, because I guess that I’ve already seen the best the world has to offer. My girlfriend and I traveled to Vermont last weekend, and while she was excited to show off the scenery and some of the hiking trails the state had to offer, I kept thinking to myself “I could have seen all of this with a trip back to West Virginia and saved myself a half-dozen hours of driving.

    Jason, you are a talented writer. I loved “Small Town Odds” and have recommended it to several of my friends (even at the risk of losing my prized copy, bought when it was first published), and look forward to reading anything and everything you write. Your love of our home state shows through beautifully in your talent.

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  67. Jason, well written. I can’t wait to tell your parents that I read it on FB:)

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  68. As I was reading this, I was praying it would continue on the path of goodness. My heart beat stronger with each word. My soul is embedded in these mountains. So to you, I give thanks for leaving a part of your heart and soul here too.

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  69. I grew up in a very rural part of WV and LOVED it! We went to church Sunday morning and evening and Wed. evenings, we prayed together and played together. My daddy worked hard at his job an hour away and farmed in the evenings & weekends just like every other able bodied man. We were poor but didn’t have a clue because we were happy, healthy and everyone else seemed to be just like us. There were 5 of us kids and we had enough clothes due to hand me downs and mom sewed, she even made our big winter coats. We had plenty to eat because we raised our own cows to milk and to eat, pigs, chickens for eggs and to eat and a big garden that we canned, froze or put in the root cellar. Ground our own cornmeal, grew popcorn, made our own soap, butter, bread, jams and jellies. As kids we helped and learned how to do all those things because there were no video games, computers or much TV. Even if there were, we wouldn’t be able to do them until all the chores were done. My husband and I met in high school, and he joined the military so we’ve lived in other places but took that good ole “WV know how” with us and was able to adapt. After several years, we decided to come back “home” to raise our family. Away from the murders, drugs and not knowing who your next door neighbor is. We’ve been back home for 25 years now. Yes the drugs are here now and an occasional murder but I know everyone in my neighborhood and if I didn’t go to school with them, I at least knew their parent, child or sibling. The downfall of this state is too many have gotten lazy and would prefer the government (welfare or disability) to take care of them generation after generation. It’s time to make welfare a “hand up” not a continual “hand out”.
    Loved reading your piece Jason.
    Whether we’re Almost Heaven, Open For Business or Wild and Wonderful…West Virginia welcomes you with open arms!

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  70. My husband has always said that so many West Virginians spend their first 20 years trying to leave and the next 20 trying to get back.

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  71. Wetzel County is well represented here, I’m a Magnolia man. Though, ironically, I’m wearing a Paden City sweatshirt as I type this. It hits close to home. I still have scars from attempting (and failing) to bicycle down Oil Ridge. Much like the rest of you, success demanded relocation. It’s been a topic amongst friends for years. I’m happy to read these thoughts from another source. It’s an unusual situation to be in love with a place so fully, yet feel like it was several lifetimes ago. Great work.

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  72. My husband and I are both from Beckley, WV. We now live in Pittsburgh, which is nice because it’s less than 4 hours away from our Southern WV town but we reminisce about childhood, high school & college memories from our great state all the time. Fall is hard for me because I miss the WV mountains and beautiful autumn colors but at least we’re not too far away.
    Your article made me very emotional and it probably didn’t help that it’s Bridge Day in Wild & Wonderful West Virginia today! HaHa!
    We <3 WV!

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  73. That was breathtaking…and I still live here! There are times that I’ve felt left behind because I never left WV. I felt jealous of folks like Jason that got to “see the world”. But after reading those words…I think that, just perhaps, I’ve led the life to be jealous of – in the shadow of Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks and Dolly Sods. Jason – your words were beautiful. Great work.

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  74. Yet another piece of your wild, wonderful writing, about a state equally wild and wonderful. I defy anyone who’s spent any amount of time in our home state to read this without laughing, crying and feeling the same emotions you expressed throughout. Small bathrooms, indeed!

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  75. I am turning 63 years old this month, and this short but wonderful piece from Jason reads understanding more than any description of West Virginia.

    Yes, I left for a short time for Military service and after college, to make my way in the world and support my family. Less than 18 months later, I was back “Home” in West Virginia and realized that was the best way to support my family I could ever give them.

    I have lived my whole life in Wheeling, WV (not far from Paden City), struggled on medium income, commuted to Pittsburgh for ten years, bought four (4) homes (but always in Wheeling, WV lol). I travel for work extensively and have been all over, there is simply no place like home, and Jason captures it on paper in a wonderful writing style.

    I lost my wife and life’s partner in 2007, and I miss her greatly, but I will stay in West Virginia forever and with all of the stories and dreams people describe of retiring to Florida, or the Carolinas, or wherever………. I will retire right where I am in West “by God” Virginia.

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  76. I not only am a girl from W.Va, but also a Wheeling Island girl. My Mother was born and raised in the home I grew up in. The Island isn’t very pretty any more, but the hills and the river are. I have lived in southern Ohio now for 30 years and always say “I’m going home” whenever we go for a visit.

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  77. Dear Jason, Very nice. Several years ago I wrote a book, A Better Place, that tried to express the feelings that you have for West Virginia. Take care and keep writing.

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