In one day I saw an entire family riding on the interstate in the back of a truck, a hugely pregnant woman in a sequin tube top, three (count them, THREE) people on rascals speeding across busy streets during rush hour, a 400 pound man passed out on a Starbucks couch, and a 4-year-old at Rite Aid carrying a bottle of liquor and cursing like a sailor. Unfortunately they were seen at separate intervals and not all together like a supergang of crazy. People make fun of West Virginia a lot, and some of it is well deserved, but I’m pretty sure you can find a lot of this stuff anywhere. Our trashy stereotypes come from Appalachian people, Appalachian people come from Scotland and Ireland, people from Scotland and Ireland went everywhere in America and became people like MacGyver and Conan O’Brien, so what makes us so easily targeted?
It’s true that for a long time West Virginians lived in total isolation in the mountains, but this was long before cars and facebook and skype, so if you weren’t living in one of the four big cities and dressing like Mr. Peanut, you were probably living in isolation wherever you were. Like Oklahoma, for instance. Previously, my only frame of reference for life in Oklahoma was Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman—and that was set in Colorado. But recently I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a true Oklahoman, and she tells me that hope chests, fur trapping and covered wagons are still around. Only the hope chest part of that sentence is true, sorry. However, are we really that surprised that some West Virginians are still eating squirrel and making moonshine when less than a century ago the annual Sears Roebuck catalogue hitting the frontier was bigger news than Kevin Costner joining your tribe? And just to put the whole marrying-your-cousin thing to rest, the most famous inbreeders of all time 1) are not from West Virginia, and 2) are more widely criticized for non-incest related reasons. See, e.g., Franklin Roosevelt: bogarting presidency; Dick Cheney: errant weaponry; Jerry Lee Lewis: cradle robbing. In closing, I’m happy to make fun of West Virginia, but trash, nor my entertainment thereby, knows not state lines.