|By Bob Weaver|
There is a saying that home is anyplace you can hang your hat, but for most mountain people, historically it has been much more.
Another worn quote, "Home is where the heart is," or a place to come back to.
Through the last century, identification of home was where one settled and lived, deep roots.
Now in the 21st Century, home is no longer a place in which to spend one's life or a place to return, but a place toward which one is always moving.
According to the US Census, most families move about every five years, most moving to urban areas to get a job, attend college or start a career.
America's rural population has dropped dramatically in the last 50 years, and so has the political clout it once had.
Calhoun native, schoolteacher and minister, the Rev. Glendon McKee, once said, "As far as I knew, my world ended at the farthest hill I could see" - close to to his home.
In McKee's time, moving would have meant to the next hill or holler, or at the most, to a neighboring county.
Arnold Norman of Beech, commenting on staying put, said, "Haven't left any more than you can get by with."
For years now, after World War II graduates of Calhoun's lone high school moved on, knowing the difficulty of carving a life in this backwoods county, most rarely looking back.
It is difficult to imagine that families once bloomed where they were planted.
My grandmother Virginia Riggs McCoy said she was told that a horse shouldn't break a sweat gettin' to where her kids lived.
In Appalachia, the late West Virginia author John O'Brien wrote that mountaineers tend to look back more than most Americans, set in their ways, defining how to fit into the world through families and the land upon which they lived.
O'Brien's writing was culled from the last generation.
He was the author of "At Home in the Heart of Appalachia," nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He said mountain culture "feels old" and is deeply rooted.
Spending time with him before he passed, he reveled about mountain life, despite a feeling that we have been left behind.
"Being left behind could well be a blessing more than a curse," O'Brien said, saying our awareness of what's really important could be part of the blessing.
Judge Larry Whited said, "Everything I needed to know about living life, I learned on the porch of the country store."
The "Who are you?" question was once answered by mountain people these past few hundred years to reflect ancestral connections, the place upon which they lived and worked hard and the people with whom they associated in their community.
Now, the "Who are you?" question is answered by what people do for a living, personal accomplishments and their skill level with technology.
OBRIEN COMMENTS: randomhouse.com
Thoughts came a few years ago at the burial of Pauline Craddock Hamblin down on Barnes Run. As the crow flies, she never got far away from her Bee Creek origins, a wild and remote area close to the Joker Ridge.
Pauline's brother, Averil, once said to me, "I never got far away from here and never cared much about going."
Pauline was buried in the Slider Cemetery where her times-over grandfather Jacob Slider was laid to rest. The Slider Cemetery and the Gibson Cemetery across the hill on the lower West Fork, is the burial place for most of her family, the Craddocks and the Sliders.
Jacob Slider came to the creek bottom on Barnes Run in 1849, a few feet from the Slider Cemetery where he is buried, and helped his daughter Kisare (Keziah) and her new husband David Riggs build a log cabin. David, Calhoun's original Riggs, died ten years later rafting logs down his creek.
Their place called home is from which sprung many Calhoun descendants.
In this new millennium, mountain people will continue to be scattered to the wind in many places they'll call home, moving from job to job, state to state.
"Home" now reflects a transient existence, a place represented more about what people are doing, rather than their place, their neighbors, and roots.
Even less represented is a sense of community, ever changing, un-rooted, and disconnected, except with electronic media where people find their "friends."
We live in a world that without constant noise, we feel alone.
Few no longer volunteer for the common good.
In the 21st Century, we need to be more entertained, and even news has become entertainment, counting who gets the highest ratings and makes the most money.
Maybe we will all become satisfied citizen's of a free-flowing and unbridled world.
The economists say that is a good thing, driven by the economic treads of merging, centralizing, consolidating and now globalizing.
Our existence, rather than being passed on by storytelling and words on a printed page, will rest in an electronic cloud, that can disappear within a flick or a computer error.
There will always be a few diehards, clinging to their roots and their place on earth, but most will be part of the rapidly changing transformations and will enjoy a new and un-rooted ways of living.
Maybe there is some good in that, but my vision falters.