1. Your Great-Granddad and Great Uncles weren’t bankers.
I think my Great Granddad (middle) was one cool-looking badass.
“Hillbilly” is of course in today’s world, a pejorative word.
But, most of us hillbillies wear the label with pride, a big pride flatlanders can’t understand.
Though I’ve been in New York City for 20+ years, and actually grew up in Southern New Jersey, I am still a hillbilly, because I came from hillbillies. And, I will always be a hillbilly, dagnabbit.
Now, let’s take a country road to West Virgina.
2. You learned how to fire a minimum of four guns by the age of 12: BB, .22, 12-gauge, and an assortment of pistols.
My 17-year-old mom coolly blasting away in the snow down in the holler.
13-year-old me taking shots with a .22 at Hills Bros. coffee cans.
Dad (foreground), trying to look like Clyde, but he’s more of a Cletus.
3. Guns are simply a part of life. Hunting (along with fishing) are two of your main sources for dinner. And not merely because of money, though that’s a big reason. It’s how you live.
PHOTO: The Hatfield clan, 1897.
4. You’ve eaten deer? Of course. Bear? Check. And, yes, squirrel (below). It’s a bit gamey.
5. You’ve not eaten skunk, but you know folk who have.
7. You’ve had moonshine, the real stuff, and, yes, it’s better’n sunshine.
8. You’ve shit in multiple outhouses (minimum: 2).
One time, as a kid, I was staring at one of these while taking a shit in my grandparent’s outhouse. Her hourglass glows in the dark, by the way.
9. You grew up in a log cabin (a real one) in a “holler.”
10. “Holler” is how you say “hollow,” which is a small valley, which is everywhere in Appalachia.
Photo of a cabin in Butcher Holler, Kentucky.
11. During the day, you hunted for crawdads (good fishing bait) in — not streams, not “creeks,” but “cricks.”
12. While hunting for crawdads, you’ve had one of these slither between your legs. Water Moccasins move unbelievably fast.
13. Summer nights, you hunted for nightcrawlers (bait) amongst fireflies.
14. Your Grandfather was a coal miner, as were/are many of your relatives. Your Grandfather and maybe a few other relatives died of black lung disease.
Not my Grandfather.
Portrait of a coal miner in Omar, West Virginia, 1938.
Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart, National Geographic.
15. You bathed like this (our tin bathub was much smaller) with well water heated on the biggest cast iron stove ever made. You took turns. Everybody used the same water.
16. You have this many cousins (this is your extended family at the beach).
“Coney Island Beach” by Weegee, 1940.
18. And even though you’ve been here for 20+ years, you are never ever comfortable in New York City.
21. Finally, this will always make a grown Hillbilly man cry.
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