Monday, June 8, 2020

I Thank God for my Contrary, WV Father!

I hadn't even thought of the connection to the upcoming celebration of Father's Day, but, now that I think of it, it fits.

My Dad was born (1922) and raised in WV - he always teased that he wasn't a hillbilly, he lived in the valley of New Martinsville, a sleepy little town on the Ohio River. Part of his youth was spent on his grandfather's farm in nearby Folsom county, and part of it with his elder brother, who worked in an ammo factory, and kept a small farm/dairy in the hills near New Martinsville. He and his brother Everett were always exceptionally close. When Everett died, it was like losing his father again.

My Dad's father died when my Dad was 7. It was in 1929, a particularly bad year for him to have done so. He left 7 children and a wife (this was her, shown in the early 50s).

My grandmother had been forced to place most of her children with relatives, as they were in danger of being removed from her by the welfare department for inability to provide for them after her husband's death. After calling upon family to help her, she managed to find a job in a factory, Viking Glass (in the 1930s, not an easy job). She worked there consistently, until her retirement in the 1970s. At that time, she was over 80 years old.

So, a tough woman, and and quiet-spoken and gentle one.

Her son, my father, was a bit of a hell-raiser when he was young. Nothing all that bad, other than the years he ran with a bootlegging crowd as a teen. But, his most salient characteristic was what I've come to call West Virginia Stubborn.

You see, there's Normal Stubborn. Those with this trait will be slow to follow the crowd, and tend to hold onto their opinions firmly. Don't try to "nudge" this kind of person into a change; they will require all of your efforts, the law, and - occasionally, a gun to their head.

But, you can - with enough time and effort - change their mind.

Not WV Stubborn.

That's the kind of Stubborn that led the Highlanders (their direct ancestors) to hold out against the Scottish/English governments for decades, refusing to surrender no matter what blandishments they were offered. Only when their leadership left for greener pastures were the Highlanders defeated. Later on, the religious wars between England and Scotland led to wholesale emigration to America.

In America, this stubborness led to insistence on making their own untaxed whiskey from before the Revolution through the Whiskey Rebellion, and on into modern times (with occasional branching into pot and meth). It was, and is, worth your life to go into the hills to try to get them to stop.

Others of the same heritage included the King's Mountain men, whose actions made the Revolution possible. Time and again, the hill people demonstrated their willingness to fight to the death for their beliefs.

The solitude of the hills breeds someone who learns to only count on family and close associations. Someone who views authorities as those that offer little of value, and whose orders need to be resisted.

I remember butting heads with my Dad in my teens and beyond. He wasn't against all change - he backed me in wearing miniskirts when my mother was fit to be tied at their length - or, lack of it. He (mostly) accepted my boyfriends with decent grace.

But, over politics, he would not be moved. It wasn't that he supported the government - he was even more anti-government than many of the 60s Radicals. But, he generally favored stability, not revolution, and was highly suspicious of the motivations and aims of the Radicals (in that, he was proven right).

He took his time thinking about things. But, once he'd made his mind up, that was that. He would not, could not, be moved by any argument or enticement to change it.

He generally took the contrary position to conventional thinking. In part, that was just an extension of his natural inclination to not follow the crowd. When he did support the government or its representatives (such as the cops), it was often qualified by his teen experiences on the other side of the law.

This was surprising to outsiders. For a while, the union tried to force him to shut up and go along with the leadership. After a few experiences, they learned to stop pushing, and make their case. If he got on board, he was solid. If he opposed their actions, step aside, and hope he didn't talk to too many others.

Either way, no amount of force was going to move the WV-bred Wall of Resistance.

But, his influence on me was profound. For a long time, I tried to go along with the crowd; I was a loner, and had few (but solid) friends.

But, by high school, I'd found that agreeing for the sake of being included just wasn't me. I'd always had a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I opposed the thinking of the majority; by my mid-teens, this had become impossible.

I can only say that my apparently inherited disposition has only become more obvious over time. I started blogging as a way to vent, without completely alienating my more conventional family members. When I blog, I can express all my irritations without worrying about making family get-togethers impossible.

In fairness, my sister is even worse; I'm a mild crank - she's moved all the way to a true eccentric. I guess genetics tells. We're apparently resistant to Going Along with the Crowd - a trait that, according to this thread, is becoming increasingly rare. Will this lingering tendency to buck the conventional wisdom die out? Will the indoctrination win? It will if the Karens and the Virtue Signalers have their way.

But, not as long as ONE WV descendant lives.


ligneus said...

Great story. I think by the number of friends I've lost over the last several years I must be an honorary member of your clan. Which ain't bad for a person of the English persuasion, though I guess the English can be pretty stubborn too, hence Brexit. I'm still overjoyed that happened.
Don't forget that Trump's mother was Scottish, from the Isle of Lewis off the west coast.

Francis W. Porretto said...

What a great idea for a horror story:

"They were everywhere...had their masked noses in everything...and no one could shut them up!"


(Soon to be a minor motion picture)