I’ve been on the road for a couple of recent out-of-state weddings. And over the past quarter-century since making West Virginia home, I’ve also had the good fortune to make some outdoor junkets to Michigan, Florida, Kansas, North Carolina, Colorado, the in-betweens and nearly all the bordering states. But it’s the Mountain State that I literally fell in love with the first time I saw her.
And coming from a large extension of family, and friends from having previously resided in the likewise top producing coal states of Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Illinois; I now have a pretty good skinny on how others view the Wild and Wonderful.
And mostly, it’s just that, a wild and wonderful perspective. After all, the late “Gilligan” TV character in Bob Denver tried to tell the folks all about the Mountain State’s stature as the best kept secret as a recommended home place. And of course, the Hatfields and McCoys always come up, especially now in the huge wake of the well done History Channel series. But, it’s been there all along.
The Matewan movie and its related Mine War and labor history are just more of its signature historic events. The Dancing Outlaw thing is yet another linkage that many might just as soon cast aside. But novelties as such can be found in any state and I believe most rational folks fully acknowledge that, not wanting to cast any first disparaging stones. But even it in some strange way draws a positive and tourist like curiosity to West Virginia.
In testament, the general populace demanded that no one mess with that endearing slogan of “Wild and Wonderful,” whatever you do. Remember the short lived and disastrous switch to “Open for Business,” now just a distant bad memory. But the best of all are its white waters, vast unbroken forests, rugged mountains, ATV trails, fishing, hunting, camping; all that Great Outdoor stuff in the collective.
For those recent out-of state weddings, the conversations usually start out congenially with, “This is my brother (or pal) Bob, he lives in West Virginia.” A joke or stereotype or two might ensue along the lines of golly he still has most of his teeth. But the ha, ha’s soon evolve into their own endearing accounts of outdoor visits to places like the Smoke Hole, the New River Bridge, a rafting, fishing, hunting or camping trip, its friendly people and on up to and including the you fill in the blanks pleasantries.
And then you kind of get this feeling that deep down these folks envy you a tad for your home state status. And just like that a tune chimes in over the radio, a jingle as familiar as the national anthem. Almost heaven.