leaving West Virginia

WV_BabcockMillWith considerable sadness, I leave West Virginia. The best part of the state is the people. I have met some wonderful people here: honest, engaging, intelligent, and committed. People full of heart and integrity. The culture and history are unique and interesting: hard work, tough times, and a sense of togetherness in the midst of geographic isolation. When I think of West Virginia, I hear the fiddle playing in the hollow. I see the people coming together to enjoy each other’s company.

The second best part is the hills, the mountains of West Virginia. They are abundant and they are beautiful. Pocahontas County and the Monongahela National Forest are magnificent. The Elk, Cranberry and Williams Rivers are full of trout and the pristine scenery is gorgeous.

In the end, I feel like I, too, have abandonedthe state. There is a sadness here that dates back to the Civil War. In the late 1800s, the virgin forests were harvested; the timber went to Baltimore, D.C, Philadelphia, and other eastern cities. Absentee owners reaped the economic benefits of mining and shipping coal. Local residents lived off the land as best they could and earned cash working for the timber and mining companies.

I came here for work and hoped to make a go of it. I enjoyed my work, provided leadership, contributed to the community, and generally left things better than I found them. When I came here, I thought things would turn around, the economy would slowly improve, the population would start to increase, the general mood would be increasingly positive. Some of that is happening. But the young continue to finish their schooling and move out of state for jobs.

I feel sad to be leaving my comfortable home in the historic district, the Kanawha River whose banks I walked so many times, my friends I’ve had coffee with, the businessmen and government officials I worked with, and the dream for better West Virginia days.

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