Recently my wife, who has the misfortune not to be from West Virginia, commented on how she has met so many people who have moved back to our state after spending most of their adult life in other states. She told me one of those people had said, “Most people move to Florida when they retire. However, if you’re from West Virginia, you move back to the mountains of your home.”
So what is it about West Virginia that causes people who were raised here to want to come back at the earliest opportunity? What is this bond that the people of West Virginia have with their state? Is it a love of government? God forbid!
When we say we love our state, we don’t mean the government, or any one thing or institution. I’m a fan of the WVU Mountaineers, not because I love the university, but because it represents the state I love.
Which brings me back to the question, why do we come back? I’ve heard people say the mountains get in your blood and there seems to be a comfort in them. Surprisingly, there’s truth in that statement. No matter where you are in the state, you’re between two hills. Your horizon is limited, as well as your focus. Instead of seeing a limitless expanse of land, we’re limited to an area which seems to funnel people together. The mountains serve as a protective barrier between the outside world and our own small communities. Not only do they protect us from the forces of nature like hurricanes and tornadoes, but they seem to hug us with their nearness and the safety they provide.
Therefore, the people here have a strong sense of community and there’s a neighborliness that you don’t usually find elsewhere. There’s a simplicity of life where people aren’t competing to see who can drive the nicer car or live in the bigger home. It’s more important to be a good neighbor than to have wealth. We don’t look down on people who are poor, anymore than we look up to people who are rich.
While all of the above is true, it seems to me that the main reason for this love for our state and the strong sense of bond we fill within these borders is due to the “Cinderella effect.” We are the underdog that has to put up with others making fun of us. People who have never been here more than to just drive through are surprised to discover we have teeth and wear shoes. Some don’t even realize West Virginia is a state! Richmond is not our capitol, Charleston is.
We, as a people, seem to be constantly bashed simply because of where we live by people who have never been here long enough to find out who we really are. So we unite together to defend our people and state. And sometimes when we’re feeling a bit beat down and misunderstood, the mountains hug us and our love is nourished. It is then that we feel sorry for those people who make fun of us and our state, because they cannot understand what it means to truly have pride in your state. We come back because the mountains have helped create a people who share a bond that only we can understand.