Yes, we really do have all of our teeth #045; and shoes, too

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 21, 2004

Appalachia - I just like the way the word rolls off my tongue.

It is one simple word, but it is so beautiful to those of us who live here. Unfortunately, those who don't live in "God's Country" have a hard time understanding just how special this region is.

Since I've moved to this region, I've been called a hick, a hillbilly and a redneck. I am amazed so many people have no idea how wonderful Appalachia really is. "How can you live there?" some people have asked me.

Email newsletter signup

Well, y'all sit a spell, kick your shoes off and I'll tell ya.

The bad rap Appalachia gets can be attributed to ignorance. Certainly, it does not fall on the shoulders of natives. Living in Appalachia is not a hardship - in fact, it's the best-kept secret in the country.

I grew up in the Chillicothe area, which is borderline Appalachia, depending on whom you ask. Yet, in my eyes, Lawrence County and Ross County are as different as night and day. They have their similarities, but the overall make-up of the two - including the scenery and people - are, indeed, quite different.

Don't get me wrong, I have a deep love for the area from which I was raised. By the same token, though, I have grown to love the area which I now call home.

Sure, some of our towns need some renovations and might not be as fancy as some of the cities up north, but the natural beauty of this area, in my mind, just can't be beat.

Just drive about 10 minutes

out of the city limits and take a look around. Not only is it quiet and peaceful, but you'll encounter trees and hills as far as the eye can see. It is much more aesthetically pleasing than the flat farm land you see up north.

But it's more than the scenery that makes it special.

Non-Appalachians tend to want to discuss the economic issues of the area. People from other regions often cannot believe how little money we make. On the flip side, I often cannot believe how much some of my friends living in Columbus pay for amenities.

Last month, one of my fraternity brothers from college told me he pays $2,000 a month to rent a two-bedroom apartment in a suburb of Columbus. He has a roommate to help defray the cost, but it still costs him $1,000 a month.

Here, that $2,000 a month would buy him a huge, beautiful home with a garage and nice yard. For considerably less he could have a nice home, and for a fraction of that he could have a similar apartment.

Perhaps the most common misconception of Appalachians is that we are uneducated. People think a large percentage of our children do not finish high school and none go on to college.

In reality, most of our youths finish high school. In fact, all of our area schools report nearly 100 percent graduation rates. Of those, many go on to graduate from college and some get graduate-level degrees. Just about anyone can name a family member or friend who has become successful despite of his or her "disadvantaged" background.

I work in an office full of intelligent people, many of whom have college degrees. All of them graduated from high school.

The more far-fetched stereotypes of Appalachia are what anger me.

It's sad, but some people who do not live here really think we go through life living in shacks with a moonshine still out back. They think we have no teeth and run around barefooted because we cannot afford shoes. They think that our daughters marry one of their cousins or uncles when they are 12.

Since I have been here, I have seen very few shacks and, to my knowledge, we don't have any active moonshine stills. Most people I've encountered have teeth and the only people I've seen running around shoeless are children at play. I don't know of anyone who is married to their uncle or cousin, let alone at age 12.

It is sad that some people actually believe this nonsense. This line of thinking demonstrates who is truly the uneducated nincompoops.

Shawn Doyle is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached by calling (740) 532-1445 ext. 19 or by e-mail to shawn.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to