I moved to West Virginia when I was 12. Moving from the flat, corn-filled Midwestern state of Iowa to the mountains of Appalachia was about as close to culture shock as you can get in the States. However, as the years passed, this state has become home. As summer draws to an end and I prepare to go back to school in Pennsylvania, here are the main things I know I will miss about this wild, wonderful state.
1. The scenery.
I used to think that all areas of the country are equally beautiful in their own way. Many states do have their own unique beauty, but I spent a significant amount of time driving this summer and realized that West Virginia spoiled me. Some areas of the country are simply not as beautiful as West Virginia. You can feel free to disagree with me, but it is difficult to beat West Virginian Falls when the mountains glow with reds, yellows, oranges, and greens against the rich blue sky or the exuberant Springs when even the most insignificant bushes burst into bloom and the greens are so vibrant and wild they seem ready to reclaim the paths man has made.
2. The self-reliance.
We learned soon upon moving to West Virginia that when you have a problem, you solve it yourself. If you don't know how, you find a friend or a friend of a friend who does know. When this approach fails, you improvise. If there ever is a zombie apocalypse, West Virginia would be a safe bet to flee to, them people here have the grit, resilience and improvisational skills to survive just about anything thrown at them.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention an important lesson that moving to West Virginian taught me and that is the difference between ignorance and stupidity. West Virginia has poor educational attainment. However, many of the people here are more independent, thrifty, and frankly intelligent, than you or I. They have simple yet sound insights to life and a solution to every problem. I am grateful that our nation emphasizes education as much as it does. However, this emphasis prompts us to think that ignorance and stupidity are the same. They are not.
3. The sense of community.
West Virginia is the third state I lived in, and I rarely lived in the same state as any of my cousins. In West Virginia, however, your grandparents live down one road, and your cousins and second cousins live down the next. Because families rarely stray far from their roots, there is a strong sense of community in West Virginia. People are very willing to help one another. When I meet people, they ask me if I'm related to anyone in the area or tell me about a relative who lives close to me.
Because of this community, West Virginia does have its own little kind of culture, from the accents to the music to the activities, and its inhabitants are proud of it. If you just ask, any West Virginian will quote "Country Roads" for you or tell you that "Mountaineers are always free."
4. The accent.
It isn't quite the honeyed accents of the deep South; it's sharper and has more to do with coal and rusted railroad tracks, but it is perhaps the thing that I miss the most when I am away and the thing that lets me know I'm close to home.