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American Waves
    Race, Ethnicity, & Cultural Identity
Issue Date: 10 / 1987    
The Appalachian Voice

Independent-minded and wary of change, Appalachians share a heritage whose appreciation is long overdue.

        Shoals of immigrants continue to settle in the United States, well into its third century as a nation, and many who have been here a long time still seek to home in on their heritage. How do people from elsewhere become Americans while dealing with voices and values they bring with them? Until the middle of the twentieth century, the melting-pot theory held sway. It postulated that individuals and groups from all over the globe should largely give up their languages and ways to become assimilated in a homogeneous mass. But in recent decades, the notion of an American "stew" has gained favor, by which constituent tongues and cultures keep their identities and so add to the flavor and substance of the nation.
        Appalachia was settled by the nation's earliest immigrants, and its residents are one of its most misunderstood groups. Mostly of Scots-Irish stock, they first settled the extensive mountainous region from Pennsylvania to Alabama well before the Revolutionary War. They represent a rock-ribbed past and a rugged heritage.
        "My people have always been teachers on my mother's side," said Laura Milton Hodges. "The first ones came to Appalachia way before the Revolutionary War....The books on our shelves were by philosophers, and on history, and even Greek plays, and English literature.
        "We're also farmers, and that's real important. The main thing is, though, you have to value your own culture. Then you can go anywhere, fit in anywhere."
        Hodges teaches remedial English and reading at Watauga High School in the northwest corner of North Carolina. She lives in Vilas, four miles from where she grew up in southern Appalachia. Her husband runs a bulldozer business; their 19-year-old son, Roy Lee, Jr., works with him. Two daughters, 26-year-old Joy Pritchett and 24-year-old Gay Isaacs, also live in Watauga County and continue the family patterns of studying and teaching.
        More than twenty million people live in Appalachia, a thickly wooded area, roughly the size of Great Britain, that covers largely mountainous, often isolated areas from Alabama and Mississippi on the south to Pennsylvania and New York on the north. In between lie large chunks of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio.
        Early settlers found land for the taking and either negotiated treaties (often broken) or fought with the Cherokees, Apalachees, and other Indian tribes. Theodore Roosevelt wrote in his Winning of the West that
       the Watauga folk were the first Americans who, as a separate body, moved into the wilderness to hew out dwellings for themselves and their children, trusting only to their own shrewd heads, stout hearts, and strong arms, unhelped and unhampered by the power nominally their sovereign.
        In other words, they were independent-minded. Their language, crafts, and culture have reflected this through the centuries. But living apart, often in remote hollers and valleys without decent roads or means to earn a fair income, also brought widespread substandard living conditions. "The very name of the region," wrote native son Harry Caudill in 1973, "has become synonymous with poverty and backwardness."
        Concerted political action in Washington led in 1965 to the Appalachian Regional Development Act and an initial $1.2 billion for a five-year program to build roads, schools, hospitals, and sewage treatment plants, and to reclaim eroded land. Local development districts (LDDs) carried programs forward. At the same time, the bluegrass and country music rooted in the area spread to other parts of the United States and the world. Stars of the Grand Ol' Opry in Nashville Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and a slew of other performers became public and television standouts. Writers from Appalachia found new audiences.
        But on the other side of the coin, old and new stereotypes - quaint talk, moonshinin', and a lot of down-home orneriness - were stirred up via comic strips, musicals, and television sitcoms like L'il Abner, Hee Haw, and The Beverly Hillbillies. It all had a whiff of George Washington Harris' roughhouse hero of more than a century ago, Sut Lovingood.
        In one yarn, Lovingood drew a farrago of raillery about the appearance of horse and self from the "crowd of mountaineers full of fun, foolery, and mean whiskey" in front of Pat Nash's grocery. Responded Sut:
       I say, you durn'd ash cats, jis' keep yer shuts on, will ye? You never seed a rale hoss till I rid up; you's p'raps stole ur owned shod rabbits ur sheep wif borrerd saddils on, but when you tuck the fus' begrudgin look jis' now at this critter, name Tarpoke, yu wer injoyin a sight ove nex' tu the bes' hoss what ever shell'd nubbins ur toted jugs, an' he's es ded as a still wum, poor ole Tickytail!
        Journalist-author Harris, a committed secessionist from Tennessee, used Lovingood as a stick to beat the Yankees from 1854 until he died in 1869. The satirical character appeared in the local press and a New York newspaper, Spirit of the Times. Harris had a "Rabelaisian touch," said J. Franklin Meine in his Tall Tales of the Southwest, portraying Sut as "simply the genuine nave roughneck mountaineer, riotously bent on raising hell." Writing in The New Yorker in 1955, Edmund Wilson, however, saw "extravagant language and monstrously distorted descriptions. Unlike Rabelais, he is always malevolent and always extremely sordid."
        Education and the regional language
        "About 95 percent of my kids at school are mountain-born, native children," Laura Milton Hodges observes. "Like us, they also have that extended family, and a lot of their grandparents use some of what we may call antiquated forms of English. We use double and triple negatives when we want to emphasize something like, 'It don't make no nevermind,' and we sometimes don't say 'isn't,' we say 'ain't.'
        "A lot of times, teachers either from the inside or the outside will try to shake it out of the kids, to shame them. If your put them down and make them ashamed, you're making them ashamed of their family and of the home they live in.
        "And so we have to find ways to make them realize what a wonderful tradition, a long history they have and the reasons they speak that way. Then they're more interested in 'popular,' current grammar, and they can better themselves. A lot of those who get ashamed, they drop out of school, and they end up cleaning motel rooms, or cooking in restaurants, now that we have tourism."
        Appalachian high school dropout rates still run higher than the overall U.S. average. The tendency persists despite programs like those at Watauga or the Support Center in Cobbleskill, N.Y., where in six years the rate dropped from 12 to 7 percent, or efforts by well-known figures like country singer Tom T. Hall, himself a dropout. One Kentucky school superintendent says teachers' attitudes have to change. They have a tendency to downgrade a newcomer whose older siblings didn't do well, for example, or whose parents "never did amount to a hill of beans."
        Added a parent: "Whatever a child has got on his back and no matter how ticky his hair is, no matter what hole he comes out of, he deserves the same chance as Sally sitting over here in a ruffled dress."
        Since the 1960s and 1970s, most grade schools have retention programs. Many have enriched, upgraded, and adapted their curricula. Newly built community colleges and special technical schools coordinate classes geared to new industries and manufacturers coming into a country. Some area universities, like Appalachian State in North Carolina and Radford in Virginia, have created Appalachian studies programs. Berea College in Kentucky has begun focusing on mountain people and issues.
        The so-called regional language was widely believed to be closely related to Elizabethan English. But like the exuberant growth in valley, forest, and upland, speech in Appalachia has embraced and intertwined with elements from the original Indians, early French trappers, German settlers, and blacks with whom the Scots-Irish pioneers worked in lumber camps, coal mines, cotton mills, and textile plants.
        A nineteenth-century observer, Anne Newport Royall, said, "Like Shakespear[e], they make a word when at a loss: scawm'd is one of them, which means spotted." The widely acknowledged abilities of Appalachians as storytellers often are credited to a rich Scots-Irish oral heritage. Legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett once described himself as
       fresh from the backwoods, half-horse, half alligator, a little touched with snapping turtle, can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride a streak of lightning, slide down a honey locust and not get scratched.
        This way with words was put to partisan use during fierce union organizing battles in the 1920s and 1930s in coal fields on the western side of the mountains. The song "Which Side Are You On?" still galvanizes the faithful, far and wide. Miner's wife Florence Reece of Ellistown, Tennessee, wrote at the outset: "We're starting our good battle,/ We know we're sure to win,/ Because we've got the gun thugs/ A-lookin' very thin."
        Prefixing a verb with an a, as in "A-lookin' very thin," is a common construction. In fact, to be common is a virtue in Appalachia, as in the sentence, "He's a mighty common man" - said of business mogul or preacher, bank president or shopkeeper, nabob or neighbor.
        Hard times caused some inhabitants to leave Appalachia in the 1960s before the pendulum swung more favorably with development efforts in the 1970s. Another miner's wife, Sarah Ogan Gunning of Harlan, Kentucky, caught the keening lament of these place-minded people with her version of "A Girl of Constant Sorrow." The singer bids farewell to her home state, then mourns: "My mother, how I hated to leave her,/ Mother dear who now is dead./ But I had to go and leave her/ so my children could have bread."
        Neighbors and kin
        "In defining our culture," Laura Milton Hodges continued, "I'll have to talk about the values that people maybe don't realize. First of all I'd say family is the highest priority. Stories about our being clannish and protective of each other - well, that's pretty true. I'm a neighbor to a lot of my kin, for example."
        A brother lives four miles away, as did their parents when alive, and aunts, uncles, and others who left for military service or to work away have come back to retire. "We have our family right close," the North Carolina teacher said.
        "Now we have television and movies, and all sorts of influences from the outside that teach a popular English and bring in different values. If you go out into the world, maybe you put on a little different accent, you change your grammar, and you try to polish it up - but when you go home, you're gonna have to communicate so you can speak that old language again. It comes mighty easy, and for my kids, they have some kind of a pride - sometimes they'll use ain't in defiance, especially if it's somebody puttin' them down.
        "We're so proud of people who've made it in the world, the Carter family, June Carter Cash and Johnny. We're proud that Dolly Parton grew up in the mountains of Tennessee and knows all the home-cookin' things she does on national TV, and that colleges just love bluegrass and country music, and that our native singers go to, why, Carnegie Hall, and are well-accepted.
        "But a lot of kids I know don't realize all this. They think it's just something you do in the kitchen, or square dancing. A little later in their lives, some of them do find out, and it is a matter of pride."
        A literature coming of age
        Appalachian writers have come of age. Some four hundred have been "mapped" by two English professors at Radford University. In addition to such figures of the past as Thomas Wolfe, Sherwood Anderson, Jesse Stuart, and James Agee, a number of newer authors have been saluted - for example, the late Breece D'J Pancake, Pinckney Benedict, Jayne Anne Phillips, Lee Smith.
        Lee smith grew up in a large extended family in the western Virginia town of Grundy, tucked between steep, rugged mountains. Politics, community affairs, and just plain "yarning" - embroidering stories anew with each telling - were the stuff of front porch conversation, and now form the core of her novels. Smith usually focuses on ordinary people in southern Appalachian towns who get tangled in the toils of love, lust, marriage, and family concerns.
        Oral History covers a hundred years in the history of a mountain family branded with bad luck. Black Mountain Breakdown, about a young woman struggling in tightly meshed, down-home surroundings, has been compared to "reading Madame Bovary while listening to Loretta Lynn and watching The Guiding Light." In her sixth and latest work, Family Linen, the heroine is a small-town beautician named Candy.
        And still the lilt and tilt of a certain kind of Southern patois loops and larrups through all the tangled tales. One strand evokes the kind of recondite romanticism espoused by Sidney Lanier, a contemporary of George Washington Harris, creator of Sut Lovingood. Another tracks up through as strong a writer as Anne W. Armstrong, who wrote This Day and Time in 1930. Ivy Ingoldsby, deserted by her husband and left with a young son in the East Tennessee mountains, frets in the following paragraph about neighbor Doke's cow to an aristocratic summer visitor:
       "I tell ye," she would complain angrily to Old Mag or Mrs. Philips, "I tell ye, ef I had me a gun, I 'ud as leave to shoot the sorry critter as no, me a-workin' hard the endurin' day, an' a sight to do atter I gits home of a night, me a-needin' my sleep, an' then a-havin' to git up from the bed an' run her off! Of course, Doke hain't got no chancet to keep his critters up. He's done burnt all his fence-rails for firewood....But Doke, he's got to do somethin' about that old cow o' hisn. I 'ud put the law on him. I 'ud take a writ, on'y I'm afeared he 'ud witch Enoch or burn me down. I do know Duke Odum is the aggravatin'est man on earth - I won't except none!"
        The central, abiding role of women in Appalachia recurs in literature and life. In Esquire, Phillip Moffitt called his late grandmother, Etta Lee, "one of a special breed of women [she] used to tell me, 'took their strength from the mountains and from living day to day.'" As a five-yea-old, Moffitt lay
       for hours on end underneath a tall pine tree on an old homemade quilt...listening to her...real stories, without rose coloring, adult stories of human weakness, of betrayal, of domination - stories without heroes and happy endings, but also without self-pity or defeat. Life as it is.
        He realized later, like one of Laura Milton Hodges' students,
       that despite my outward drive for success and worldly accomplishment [he became editor-in-chief and president of Esquire], I too was of those hills and valleys, and my days, like [those of Etta Lee], could be filled with the sweet sadness of observing life from the isolation of the dark mountains.
        Tourism, coal mining, and hardship
        "On our side of the mountains," Milton Hodges - as many friends call her - said, "we don't have coal or minerals except for the mica and feldspar, but we've got tourism and a new influx of people who are buying up second homes and trying to pass laws to keep the mountains beautiful. They don't want to see filling stations, but that may be our boys' talent, or a second job so we don't have to sell the land to develop it.
        "It's real hard because all of us, all the mountain folks, hate to see the development, and there's not one man who didn't cry when he had to sell an acre of a farm his great-granddaddy got a grant for, fighting in the Revolutionary War. We also realize we have to eat, and we may not put up a little log cabin replica of a moonshine still, we may just have to do something real, like fixing cars.
        "We're a little on their side too, but we have to eat, and we want to stay where we are."
        To do so, farmers raise tobacco, trees, and "the best cabbage in the South," the Watauga Country native declared, on nearby Beech Mountain, where cool weather helps the crop. Ginseng, the much sought-after root locally called sang, is found in the woods. Originally shipped almost exclusively to China, it now is prized in urban American markets as well.
        Federal and state projects have helped the area, "but most of it was a temporary shot in the arm. We have centers for our older citizens now, but you can't help a people unless it comes from them. They had classes, for example, on how to make strawberry preserves. Now you tell me that's not ludicrous, because our mountain women have always known how to do that. With my job, I still can and freeze things, cure hams and work up pig meat."
        Some help has come to the Beech Mountain area from three brothers - Harry, Grover, and Spencer Robbins. After prospering in the lumber business, the brothers built a golf course and clubhouse, and laid out a mammoth project keyed to the highest ski runs in the East - clustered resort homes, a modern airport, and a snazzy monorail to hook all the planned activities together. These projects provided jobs for many residents of Beech Mountain.
        All three brothers also rescued Tweetsie, a little train that earned its nickname from the sound of its whistle. In the 1930s, the brothers often rode Tweetsie from Boone, North Carolina, to visit a grandmother in Fosco. First to cross the Blue Ridge Mountains when track was laid into Tennessee in 1881, Tweetsie - as it is lettered on the side of the coal car - went out of business in the 1940s after the Watauga River overflowed and tore up a lot of track. In the late 1950s, the Robbins brothers located the train in Hollywood, where it had been used in movies. With some help from Gene Autry, they brought it back home and reopened the old line.
        Over in Kentucky and Tennessee, most families also tend gardens and keep a few animals, but coal mining still is the main outside employment. Traditional craftsmanship centers on hand-carved wooden dolls, hand-sewn quilts, gun cabinets, furniture, needlework, and musical instruments. Death and accidents still are stark facts of life in the tight, dangerous adyta far below the ground, although strip mining, a highly mechanized process that scars the land unsparingly unless landscaped afterward, has come to the region.
        Billy Gaylor, from Fonde, Kentucky, followed father, brother, and grandfather as a coal miner. After a bad accident in a tunnel, he said, "Not one man out of the whole crowd thought about themselves, they wondered about the others. There's a closeness, a bond between us underground." An informal survey in Letcher County showed that all miners had either been injured themselves, quit because of coal dust afflictions, or had friends hurt and killed in rock slides, afterdamp explosion, or other disasters.
        Hardship has been a way of life in Appalachia from the first settlement, but it has taken very hard times to force people to seek work and new horizons elsewhere. Fred Dotson, from Lee County, Virginia, found a good job as layout and quality control inspector at a Plymouth factory in Detroit in the mid-1950s.
        "But I was homesick," he told Appalachia magazine. "I don't care much for inside work." His father was there also, "and homesick real bad, too, " Fred's wife, Audrey, said. "We were there almost four years - three of our six kids were born there. And I'll tell you this; it's a hard place for children. You just can't keep kids fastened up in an apartment all the time, but we couldn't let them out the door either."
        Coming home
        "Seems like people always come back," Laura Milton Hodges said. "We don't have as much migration at this time as we did into the fifties. People were going to Detroit and Cleveland and Flint and anywhere they could get jobs. It was just like they'd died and gone to heaven when they got their paychecks, but really they hadn't, because of the places they had to live.
        "It took their freedom and some of their spirit. I've heard them talk....You couldn't believe people were so close together living, and you could hear what your neighbors were doin'....They kind of stayed together, though, among themselves, the kind of people they understood."
        Hodges, who took part in the Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C., last summer, was fooling with a piano in her hotel one evening when an older man with a banjo asked if she knew how to play "I'll Fly Away."
        "We started," she said, "and he hit the same licks I did, just exactly like I was back home. He didn't talk like me, but when I looked at him and he looked at me, I knew where he was from. He had changed his way of talking, but he was from twenty miles away, and still remembered the old mountain style of music, certain beats, little embellishments. It was just like I found a friend, right there. This was homefolks."
        They got together with a Caribbean group with lute and bongos, Mexican musicians, and some Chinese participants whose daughter Margaret loved to dance and learned to do the mountain flatfoot.
        "We'd take turns," Laura Hodges exclaimed, "for each culture. I felt as accepted there as I've ever felt in my life. You don't see that all over these United States, but there I made a lot of friends. And our dances, we weren't that far apart.
        "I was raised not to have prejudice, as much as possible, and I'm proud my mother and daddy put that to me."
        Misnomers and stereotypes
        In eastern Tennessee, a group of dark-skinned people called Melungeons remains something of a mystery, as with other apparently triracial mixtures. They are believed to be part black, part Indian, and part French, Portuguese, or Jewish. Several books and a number of articles have been written about them. Bonnie Ball, in The Melungeons: Their Origin and Kin (1969), traces the name to a slight transformation of the French word melangeon, for mixed breed. While acknowledging the presence of French trappers and traders in the area centuries ago, she also speculates that the reputed lost colony of North Carolina may also have provided a source for the Melungeons.
        Long ill-treated by many whites in the area, they were encouraged to attend community meetings by a local organizer, Ellen Rector. "They don't talk exactly like we do," Rector told Kathy Kahn in Hillbilly Women, "but they're really good to talk up at our meetings. I don't hardly know who is a Melungeon around here. They've called us all Melungeons. What ain't called Melungeons is called hillbillies."
        The word hillbilly itself may derive from a combination of hill and Billy, a name popular among the Scots-Irish settlers. Sweet William, a flower from the British Isles, is prevalent in Appalachia (along with more than half the species of plants found throughout the Eastern United States). Many old ballads featured a young man named William, as in "Barbara Allen," where the namesake dies for Sweet William, and a boyfriend in a latter-day song is Common Bill.
        Cratis Williams, the "father of Appalachian studies," adds to the discussion of this misnomer. During the period of industrialization following the Civil War, Williams argues, people began calling Appalachians mountaineers (a term that residents consider a misnomer). The term hillbilly was in use at that time, but it was only applied to the poor white residents of the Alabama and Mississippi sandhills and piney woods. Williams points out that only recently has hillbilly become synonymous with mountaineer.
        Sensitivities ran higher when outsiders used the name a decade or so ago, Eric Olson, librarian at Appalachia State University, commented, especially in the burlesque television shows of Hee Haw and The Beverly Hillbillies. Some of that has passed (along with the shows) because of a stronger, more positive sense of identity within the area. Nevertheless, Olson noted, Appalachians remain one of the few groups of "minorities" that still are or can be made fun of publicly without much outcry.
        "Somebody asked me the other night," Hodges said, "what the hillbi - he caught himself and said, in a northern accent, what the hill people do for entertainment. I didn't take offence, but it's an example of what we always hear, and I told him we go to lectures and symphony concerts, we love those. Then we make music in the kitchen with the kids, too.
        "And he was really shocked. He was wanting me to tell him, I guess, that we make a little moonshine, that we sit back and drink it, and have a free-for-all, because somewhere in the backs of people's minds, I think they want there to be a race of people, an ethnic group that's still a little on the romantic wild side."
        A region of growingness
        Some two hundred years ago, William Bartram, son of a Quaker farmer from Philadelphia and America's leading botanist, crisscrossed Appalachia as settlement was first taking hold. In his book, Travels, he writes about coming upon a rich sylvan scene, replete with a "meandering river gliding through," strolling turkeys, prancing deer, and" companies of young, innocent Cherokee virgins" gathering the lushest fruit imaginable, reclining under the shade "of floriferous and fragrant native bowers...disclosing their beauties to the fluttering breeze, and bathing their limbs in the cool, fleeting streams" while yet other groups, "more gay and libertine," played yet more lascivious games.
        By the 1960s, Harry Caudill, in his landmark volume, Night Comes to the Cumberlands, wrote:
       Though fabulous wealth has been generated in Appalachia, the mountaineers' share in it has been held to a minimum....To the industrialists who opened the coal mines, set up the great saw mills, operated the quarries, built the railroads and hauled away the resources, the population was a made-to-order source of cheap labor....The debasement of the mountaineer is a tragedy of epic proportions.
        Progress has been made in the twenty-five years since those words helped jog official Washington and many others to take remedial steps, and since Charles Kuralt touched a nerve for millions of television viewers with his program, Christmas in Appalachia. Measures have been taken to improve health, education, transportation, and employment. But the old ways remain on many sides.
        Post offices still serve as general store, church, and school. Place names remind one of violence and hard times: Squabble, Gouge-eye, Shooting Creek, Vengeance, Hell Mountain, and Long Hungry, Bone Valley, Poor Fork, Needmore, Weary Hut, and Broken Leg. Humor comes in with Shake a Rag, Squeeze Betsy (a tight place between two cliffs), and Chunky Gal. And mountains, showing that gift for a turn of phrase, go by Hogback, Hound Ears, Standing Indian, The Devil's Courthouse, Sharp Top, and Naked Place.

        Yet that bedrock question of whence derives the region's flavorful speech draws this flat-ut statement by eminent philologist James Robert Reese:
       Although the language of the area has been referred to as Elizabethan English, Early English, and American Anglo-Saxon, very little scientific investigation of it has been completed and published.
        In an article carried in the bountiful anthology, Voices from the Hills, Reese continues:
       Too many items of the supposed mountain dialect, such as the pronunciations indicated by the occasional spellings of gin (again I get home), sich, ye borry, jest, haint, jit, gin'rally, kem (came), fer (far) larnt, denamite (dynamite), rench (rinse), cheer (chair) and hundreds of others, as well as morphological variants such as housen, beastes, postes, nestes, waspers and even such phonological generalizations as the appearance of /t/ in final position in such words as behind, end and shed not only had been recorded as common in other areas of the country, but were spoken by persons who were neither socially nor culturally related to the mountaineer.
        Reese concludes that the way Appalachians speak and write, what he calls "rhetorical sources" and not any dialect as such, are fit subjects for study for those who want to understand the area's culture. He finds that the dialects are not dying, only changing, but he fears for the deeply rooted "art of oral rhetoric." Its three main ingredients: "the conscious belief that it is important, a closeness to the mountain land, and time to sit and talk."
        In the meantime, a no less distinguished linguist, Earl F. Schrock, Jr., delved into Anne Armstrong's novel This Day and Time several decades after it was published, in connection with his own detailed two-year survey of southern Appalachian speech. He credited Armstrong with a sensitive ear for phonetic spelling. Schrock sees peculiar verb and adjective usages falling away, chiefly due to radio and television, and exposure to people from other areas, and notes a continuing attachment to double or even triple negative exclamations ("Hain't no use lightin' no lamp") a love of God ("Laws a mercy"), and heavy use of comparative and superlative suffixes ("He was the most moaningest-fullest hound I ever did see").
        Also enlightening are the comments of three artists. Lester Pross, who grew up in New York's Appalachian region and became head of the art department at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, told Appalachia magazine:
       Although I've traveled and even lived in other countries and been strongly influenced intellectually by what I've seen, my paintings continue to reflect the growingness of this part of the world, the beauty and variety of the landscape.
        Frank Fleming, one of seven children of poor farmers in Bear Creek, Alabama, whose ceramic sculptures invariably have animals in them, said, "I guess when I was growing up living close to the land like we did, we got so we kind of trusted animals more than we did people."
        David Lucas, who returned to hometown Haymond, Kentucky, after working as a welder for U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana, was inspired to work full-time as an artist by a visit to the Chicago Art Institute. In talking about his painting, Hoeing Potatoes, he said, "People around here are always digging in the ground. They plant, they strip for coal, they bury people."
        Harry Caudill, noting that Appalachia was "the nation's first frontier," added that "it may be foretelling America's final form." Appalachian-Americans represent not only a complex, rugged past but also an evolving present in the ever-shifting mosaic of life in the United States.

by Eli Flam
Eli Flam is a free-lance writer who has traveled widely in Appalachia and is a son of immigrants.
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