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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Native Contempt For Appalachian Culture

Ever since I was a teenager in Upward Bound, I have known that a great deal of contempt exists among a misled segment of native Appalachians for both Appalachia and Appalachian Culture.  I was recently reminded of it again personally and locally. While at a medical visit with my wife, we ran into someone we had known for the past 25 years.  They asked me what I was reading which happened to be "Black Earth The Holocaust As History And Warning".  She asked me something or other about why it had that title and I explained that the warning portion was due to ongoing public events in the world.  As the conversation progressed, we talked about our travels over the last few years and I said that we would be meeting new friends we had met in Austin, Texas, last year for lunch in May and they would then be driving on to Chattanooga, Tennessee, via Jenkins, Kentucky.  The woman then responded that the trip "through Jenkins will be a shock for them".  I said "No, I don't think so, they are world travelers".  Her response to that was "I don't ever want to go to Jenkins.  It is just too App-a-lay-shun", using one of those contrived Eastern mispronunciations of the word Appalachia.  I responded "It can't ever be too App-uh-latch-un", using the correct pronunciation as it is always done by natives and those who care enough to pronounce proper names as they should be according to the world wide rule of thumb which says that the possessor or a proper name or a native of a place knows the proper name best along with the correct pronunciation.  It is interesting that my early post on this blog, "Appalachia What's In A Name" discusses this concept at length, and in the time this blog has been online, has consistently been the highest viewed post on the blog with more than 63,000 page views as of today, April 21, 2018.  It is equally interesting that this woman has lived nearly her entire life about 2 miles from my home in Morgan County, Kentucky, which might not be the most Appalachian county in the region but is beyond a shadow of a doubt very Appalachian.  She is also a graduate of Morehead State University, one of my alma maters, also holds a masters degree, and spent her professional career in the field of education.

I have no idea which of her former professors or friends she was trying to please when she began to mispronounce the name of her homeland.  I have no idea where she became convinced that Appalachia is a place to be despised or belittled but I have no respect for any native of the region who exhibits that contempt and derision.  But at some point in this woman's education, she must have been strongly negatively influenced by someone from outside the area who knew little about Appalachia and did not care to learn to pronounce the word correctly.  I am appending the opening paragraph from my aforementioned post "Appalachia What's In A Name" since it makes my point much better than I have in the introduction to this post.

"The general rule of thumb in pronouncing proper names is that the owner of the name sets the rule.  In the case of place names, the rule is to pronounce the place name as the majority of residents of a place pronounce it.  We Appalachians generally pronounce the word Ap Uh Latch Uh.  Appalachian writer and song writer Billy Ed Wheeler said that his mother always said, "Billy, if you don't quit, I'm going to throw this Apple AT Cha."  Those two ways are correct.  All The Others are Wrong.  Several non-Appalachian place names provide illustrations of names which are pronounced somewhat differently than they are spelled and would include Mackinac, Michigan, which is pronounced Mack-uh-naw, and Poughkeepsie, NY, which is pronounced Puh-kip-see. The area of New York state which includes Poughkeepsie has several local place names which are Native American in origin and not pronounced anywhere near how they appear based on spelling.  There is also Apalachicola, Florida, which is pronounced Ap Uh Latch Uh Co Luh which is an amazing coincidence. Or is it? It is also interesting that the very same people who mispronounce Appalachia generally do not mispronounce Apalachicola."
I could not resist, as the discussion went on, touting my bruised nativism and saying to the woman, "I am an expert on the subject of Appalachia with several published articles which are frequently quoted in books.  Google my name and you will find some of my writing on the subject."  I realized full well that did not impress her but I cannot, will not, and  have never allowed anyone to exhibit that contempt and derision about Appalachia without confronting it.  I literally despise the kind of native Appalachians who do that kind of thing as much or more than the Eastern missionaries who have tried to change and assimilate us and our homeland ever since long before I was born.  I realized more than fifty years ago that we will never stop this kind of ignorance, contempt, derision, and othering from either the outsiders or the natives they influence.  But I will never stop confronting them and neither should you.  I know full well that nothing I said, could have said, or have previously written will ever change that woman's mind.  It is a sad state of affairs that there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of native Appalachians like her who are too ignorant to bother to learn about and come to cherish and protect the culture and history of this region.  But that does not mean that the rest of us ever should fall prey to their ignorance. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Kentucky Teachers Get Screwed By Carpet Bagger Bevin

Here is how every state legislator in Kentucky voted on the bill to destroy the Kentucky Teachers Pension Plan. (Chart by Lexington Herald-Leader March 30, 2018)   Every legislator who voted for this criminal, back room robbery should be voted out of office and never allowed to gain another toehold in Kentucky Politics.  This is blog post in progress.  Please return to read the full written opinion which will be completed within the next three days due to current time constraints on the blogger. 

ANayAdams, Julie Raque36(R)Jefferson

YeaAlvarado, Ralph28(R)Clark, Fayette, Montgomery
BYeaBowen, Joe8(R)Daviess, Hancock, McLean

NayBuford, Tom22(R)Fayette, Garrard, Jessamine, Mercer, Washington
CYeaCarpenter, Jared34(R)Fayette, Madison, Rockcastle

YeaCarroll, Danny2(R)Ballard, Carlisle, Marshall, McCracken

NayCarroll, Julian M.7(D)Anderson, Franklin, Gallatin, Owen, Woodford

NVClark, Perry B.37(D)Jefferson
ENayEmbry Jr., C.B.6(R)Butler, Hopkins, Muhlenberg, Ohio
GYeaGirdler, Rick15(R)Boyle, Lincoln, Pulaski

YeaGivens, David P.9(R)Allen, Barren, Green, Metcalfe, Monroe, Simpson
HNayHarper Angel, Denise35(D)Jefferson

YeaHarris, Ernie26(R)Jefferson, Oldham

YeaHigdon, Jimmy14(R)Casey, Jefferson, Marion, Nelson, Spencer

YeaHornback, Paul20(R)Carroll, Henry, Jefferson, Shelby, Trimble

YeaHumphries, Stan1(R)Calloway, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Lyon, Trigg
JNayJones II, Ray S.31(D)Elliott, Lawrence, Martin, Morgan, Pike
KNayKerr, Alice Forgy12(R)Fayette
MYeaMcDaniel, Christian23(R)Kenton

NayMcGarvey, Morgan19(D)Jefferson

YeaMeredith, Stephen5(R)Breckinridge, Edmonson, Grayson, Hart, LaRue, Meade
NNayNeal, Gerald A.33(D)Jefferson
PNayParrett, Dennis10(D)Hardin, Jefferson
RNayRidley, Dorsey4(D)Caldwell, Crittenden, Henderson, Livingston, Union, Webster

YeaRobinson, Albert21(R)Bath, Estill, Jackson, Laurel, Menifee, Powell
SYeaSchickel, John11(R)Boone

YeaSchroder, Wil24(R)Bracken, Campbell, Pendleton

YeaSeum, Dan "Malano"38(R)Bullitt, Jefferson

NaySmith, Brandon30(R)Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, Perry

YeaStivers II, Robert25(R)Clay, Knox, Lee, Owsley, Whitley, Wolfe
TYeaThayer, Damon17(R)Grant, Kenton, Scott

NayThomas, Reginald13(D)Fayette

NayTurner, Johnny Ray29(D)Floyd, Harlan, Knott, Letcher
WNayWebb, Robin L.18(D)Boyd, Carter, Greenup

YeaWest, Stephen27(R)Bourbon, Fleming, Harrison, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Robertson, Rowan

YeaWesterfield, Whitney3(R)Christian, Logan, Todd

YeaWilson, Mike32(R)Warren

YeaWise, Max16(R)Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor, Wayne


ANayAdkins, Rocky99(D)Elliott, Lewis, Rowan
BNVBechler, Lynn4(R)Caldwell, Christian, Crittenden, Livingston

NayBelcher, Linda49(D)Bullitt

YeaBentley, Danny 98(R)Boyd, Greenup

YeaBenvenuti III, Robert88(R)Fayette

NayBlanton, John92(R)Knott, Magoffin, Pike

YeaBratcher, Kevin D.29(R)Jefferson

NayBrown, Larry95(R)Floyd, Pike

NayBrown Jr, George77(D)Fayette

NayBurch, Tom30(D)Jefferson
CNayCantrell, McKenzie38(D)Jefferson

YeaCarney, John 51(R)Adair, Taylor

YeaCastlen, Matt14(R)Daviess, Ohio

NayCouch, Tim90(R)Clay, Laurel, Leslie

NayCoursey, Will6(D)Lyon, Marshall, McCracken
DYeaDeCesare, Jim17(R)Butler, Warren

NayDonohue, Jeffery37(D)Jefferson

YeaDossett, Myron9(R)Christian, Hopkins

YeaDuPlessis, Jim25(R)Hardin
EYeaElliott, Daniel 54(R)Boyle, Casey
FYeaFischer, Joseph M.68(R)Campbell

YeaFleming , Ken48(R)Jefferson, Oldham

NayFlood, Kelly75(D)Fayette

YeaFugate, Chris84(R)Harlan, Perry
GNayGentry, Al46(D)Jefferson

NayGoforth, Robert89(R)Jackson, Laurel, Madison

YeaGooch Jr., Jim12(R)Daviess, Hopkins, McLean, Webster

NayGraham, Derrick57(D)Franklin

NayGreer, Jeff27(D)Hardin, Meade
HYeaHale, David74(R)Menifee, Montgomery, Powell

NayHarris, Chris93(D)Martin, Pike

YeaHart, Mark78(R)Harrison, Pendleton, Scott

NayHatton, Angie94(D)Letcher, Pike

YeaHeath, Richard2(R)Graves, McCracken

YeaHerald, Toby91(R)Breathitt, Estill, Lee, Madison, Owsley

NVHoover, Jeff83(R)Clinton, Cumberland, Pulaski, Russell

NVHorlander, Dennis40(D)Jefferson

NayHuff, Regina 82(R)Laurel, Whitley
IYeaImes, Kenny5(R)Calloway, Trigg
JNayJenkins, Joni L.44(D)Jefferson

YeaJohnson, DJ13(R)Daviess
KNayKay, James56(D)Fayette, Franklin, Woodford

NayKeene, Dennis67(D)Campbell

NayKing, Kim55(R)Jessamine, Mercer, Washington

YeaKoenig, Adam69(R)Boone, Kenton
LNVLee, Stan45(R)Fayette

YeaLinder, Brian61(R)Boone, Grant, Kenton, Scott
MNVMarzian, Mary Lou34(D)Jefferson

YeaMayfield, Donna73(R)Clark, Madison

YeaMcCoy, Chad50(R)Nelson

YeaMeade , David80(R)Lincoln, Pulaski

NayMeeks, Reginald42(D)Jefferson

YeaMeredith, Michael19(R)Edmonson, Warren

NayMeyer, Russ A.39(D)Fayette, Jessamine

YeaMiles, Suzanne7(R)Daviess, Henderson, Union

NayMiller, Charles28(D)Jefferson

YeaMiller, Jerry T.36(R)Jefferson, Oldham

YeaMills, Robby11(R)Daviess, Henderson

NayMoffett, Phil32(R)Jefferson

YeaMoore, Tim18(R)Grayson, Hardin

NayMorgan, C. Wesley81(R)Madison

YeaMoser, Kimberly Poore64(R)Campbell, Kenton
NNayNelson, Rick G.87(D)Bell, Harlan

YeaNemes, Jason33(R)Jefferson, Oldham
OYeaOsborne, David59(R)Oldham

NayOverly, Sannie72(D)Bath, Bourbon, Fayette, Nicholas

NayOwens, Darryl T.43(D)Jefferson
PNayPalumbo, Ruth Ann76(D)Fayette

YeaPetrie, Jason 16(R)Logan, Todd, Warren

YeaPratt, Phillip62(R)Fayette, Owen, Scott

YeaPrunty, Melinda Gibbons15(R)Hopkins, Muhlenberg
RNayRand, Rick 47(D)Carroll, Gallatin, Henry, Trimble

YeaReed, Brandon24(R)Green, LaRue, Marion

NayRichards, Jody20(D)Warren

NayRiggs, Steve31(D)Jefferson

NayRiley, Steve23(R)Barren, Warren

YeaRothenburger, Rob58(R)Shelby

YeaRowland, Bart21(R)Hardin, Hart, Metcalfe, Monroe

YeaRudy, Steven1(R)Ballard, Carlisle, Fulton, Hickman, McCracken
SYeaSantoro, Sal60(R)Boone

NaySchamore, Dean10(D)Breckinridge, Hancock, Hardin

NayScott, Attica41(D)Jefferson

YeaShell, Jonathan71(R)Garrard, Madison, Rockcastle

NaySimpson, Arnold65(D)Kenton

NaySims Jr, John70(D)Bracken, Fleming, Mason, Robertson

NaySinnette, Kevin100(D)Boyd

YeaSt. Onge, Diane63(R)Boone, Kenton

NayStewart III, Jim86(R)Knox, Laurel

NayStone, Wilson22(D)Allen, Simpson, Warren
TYeaThomas, Walker8(R)Christian, Trigg

YeaTipton, James53(R)Anderson, Bullitt, Spencer

YeaTurner, Tommy85(R)Laurel, Pulaski
UYeaUpchurch, Ken52(R)McCreary, Pulaski, Wayne
WNayWatkins, Gerald3(D)McCracken

NayWayne, Jim35(D)Jefferson

YeaWebber, Russell26(R)Bullitt, Hardin

YeaWells, Scott97(R)Johnson, Morgan, Wolfe

NayWestrom, Susan79(D)Fayette

YeaWuchner, Addia66(R)Boone
YNayYork, Jill96(R)Carter, Lawrence

A Damp Walk In The Woods--March 30, 2018

Yesterday, March 30, 2018, I took another walk in the woods near my house in the same area I walked in on March 24, & 25.  This time the snow was all gone, the morning rain had stopped and the area was just somewhere between damp and wet.  I got a little farther out this time since the going was a little easier.  This walk was both a part of my ongoing plan for exercise and time to meditate about the visitation last night for my friend and part-time auction employee, Tim Evans.  Tim who was only 49 died suddenly on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, from a pulmonary embolism. Tim will be buried on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018, and his first child, daughter Clarissa Christine Evans will be born on Monday, April 2, 2018.  Although we were not bosom buddies, we were genuinely friends and my wife Candice & I could always count on Tim and Kim Evans when the chips were down. We had known each other since Candice & I started our auction house in Banner, KY, in August 2012.  They began working with us shortly after we began that auction house and we had worked sales together all the way from Letcher County Kentucky to Kenton County Kentucky.  We could trust them absolutely, respected them tremendously, and knew we could always count on them.  Just about a month and a half ago we had been with them in Paintsville, KY, at a baby shower to celebrate the upcoming birth of their first daughter and they had been absolutely happy.  Now, that little girl will never know her father.  Kim will have to raise her alone and is facing burying her husband of nearly twenty years one day and becoming a mother the next.   

Tim Evans & His Cat In A Dump Truck, Photo by Kim Evans

I walked and thought, looked at the buds popping out on the early trees, the spring flowers starting to bloom after a strange winter.  I have always known that life is not fair.  After working twenty years in the human services professions in the fields of substance abuse, homelessness, general mental health therapy, and juvenile delinquency, I already knew that life is not fair.  But something like the death of a man five days before his first biological child is born will definitely remind you of that.   I had also told a local friend of mine the story of Tim's death yesterday and watched as her face took on that shocked appearance that stories like this cause.  But, at the same time, you realize that no matter what happens in life if you are still alive and able bodied you pick yourself up and go on.  My wife Candice, who has been in a wheelchair nearly twenty years of the twenty-five we have been married also had her worst fears triggered by Tim's death.  She is worried that something similar could happen to me and leave her unable to live alone.  That kind of fear is impossible to directly deal with and the possibility that it could be realized is impossible to prevent.  So I am in the middle of a serious work out routine, exercise daily, eat correctly, and always take my medications.  What else can you do?

Tim & Kim Evans, Photo By Keelie Short

Therefore, yesterday was a great day to walk in the woods, hope unsuccessfully that I could find a few morels, and watch the spring come to the mountains near my home.  I never saw any wildlife to speak of and I might have been too noisy for that.  But the walk gave me time to think and that is what I needed before I went to the funeral home to attend the visitation of a friend who had the ultrasound of his unborn daughter in the lid of his casket.  That is how life works and sometimes it just isn't fair.  

Tim & Kim Evans, Photo By Keelie Short

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck---Book Review

Buck, Pearl S. The Good Earth (New York, NY, Washington Square Press 1931)  

Pearl S. Buck, Photo By Arnold Genthe

For nearly sixty years, I have been an avid reader and, at times, during that stretch I have read as many as 100 books a year.  My "To Be Read" shelf is always overloaded and I am always behind.  Yet, somehow, after all that reading and frequent writing about my reading, I have still missed out on many books which I want to read, know I should read, and keep pushing to the back of my mind until later.  Two or three still unmet goals on my mental reading list have been to read all the recipients of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes along with the recipients of the Caldecott Medal and the Newberry Medal.  I would also like to read most, if not all, the books written by the various presidents of the US.  While I have read numerous works on all those lists, I am a long way from completing any of them.  As a result, I often find myself finally getting around to reading some classic work that I should have completed decades before.  Lately I have completed two works on that list which I should read many moons ago.  Today, I am writing about "The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck which was a major factor in her receipt of both the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize.  Additionally, I specialize in Appalachian Literature and Appalachian writers.  While many people argue that Pearl S. Buck was not an Appalachian writer since she wrote most of her body of work about her life in China there is no disputing that she was a native of West Virginia and Appalachia.  She was also educated at Randolph-Macon Women's College in Lynchburg, Virginia.  Based on birth and education, she deserves as much attention in the greater body of Appalachian writers as anyone else.  

"The Good Earth" is the first work in the Good Earth Trilogy or the House of Earth Trilogy.  The central character and protagonist in the novel is the Chinese farmer Wang Lung who progresses from landed poverty to great wealth during the time frame of the novel.  Wang Lung is Buck's personification of the Chinese farmers she knew during her years with her missionary parents in China from the early 1890's to about 1914 when she was sent home to attend college at Randolph-Macon College.  She returned to China and lived there until about 1934 but was eventually pilloried as an American Imperialist after the Chinese Revolution.  But China was always the central force in her life and her writing.  Wang Lung, due to his poverty, is forced to buy a slave woman, O-lan, from the wealthy House of Hwang to be his wife.  Through their mutual hard work and parsimony, they eventually grow wealthy and after the death of O-lan, Wang Lung is able to buy the House of Hwang following the loss of most of their wealth by the sons of Lord Hwang.  In many ways, "The Good Earth" and the character Wang Lung are an every man character and story. 

 The novel delves into Chinese culture without making that culture a primary element but was disputed often by Chinese scholars as being more of a caricature of Chinese life.  But, speaking as a student primarily of Appalachian Culture and Appalachian Literature, I see elements of both in the novel.  Upon the death of his aged father, Wang Lung chooses a piece of his own land on a hilltop to use as a cemetery for his family and his friend and overseer Ching. Pearl Buck also chose to be buried along with her husband, Richard John Walsh, on the family farm in Bucks County Pennsylvania.  While I have not studied the life of Pearl Buck deeply enough to fully defend this point in my argument, that choice of a burial ground on a hilltop on the family farm in the novel as is a very Appalachian thing to do.  Many of my own relatives including my parents, maternal grandparents, siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles are buried on two such cemeteries in my native Knott County Kentucky and I have written about such cemeteries in this blog.  Additionally, the way in which the protagonist Wang Lung cares for his mentally handicapped daughter, who is only referred to as "my poor fool", is uncharacteristic of the widely publicized way in which both handicapped individuals and female babies are dealt with in China.  This particular character, "my poor fool", is dealt with by her father Wang Lung in much the same way Pearl Buck cared for her only biological child, Caroline Grace Buck, who was mentally handicapped due to the presently treatable genetic condition phenylketonuria.  That type of care, love, and guarantee of personal safety for a handicapped person is much more Appalachian than Chinese.  

As the novel progresses, Wang Lung accumulates wealth and land.   He is tied deeply and permanently to his land and chooses to move back to it before his approaching death taking both his young slave/concubine and his "poor fool" with him to the old Earthen House on the original family farm he inherits from his father.  His three sons and the wives of two of them nurture deep conflicts between them and the last few chapters of the novel are used to set up the remaining two books in the trilogy, "Sons" and "A House Divided".  I sincerely regret waiting so long to read this book and to begin my study of both Pearl S. Buck and her voluminous body of work.  Her place in the greater body of world literature is undisputed and deservedly so.  "The Good Earth" is a classic novel of a man, a family, and the land and in some ways is reminiscent of "East Of Eden" by John Steinbeck.  Its characters are fully developed.  The story is universal in farming communities worldwide.  The themes of family conflict are also universal and deeply human.  This is a great novel and should be required reading for every student or lover of literature. I cannot wait to finish the trilogy.