Wednesday, July 17, 2024

My Appalachian Elegy

Have you ever considered how the place where you grew up continues to shape you, even if you’ve moved far away and never returned? With the recent announcement of a Vice-Presidential Candidate from Ohio with roots in Kentucky, much discussion has centered around his 2016 memoir, Hillbilly Elegy. I read the book and watched the Netflix docu-drama adaptation. Opinions about it are polarized; some love it, others hate it. Many of my friends, who also have deep Southern Appalachian roots, have strong feelings about it. If nothing else, it has sparked some great discussions.

Having grown up in the mountains of Appalachia, I understand the term “hillbilly” in a way not everyone does. Some parts of Hillbilly Elegy resonated with me, while others did not. I’ve also lived in various parts of the country, and I believe some of the themes in Hillbilly Elegy—poverty, dysfunctional family dynamics, and educational challenges—are not unique to Appalachia. This is an important point to make. Similarly, strong family connections are not exclusive to the region nor are they present in every Appalachian family.

My Appalachian family wasn’t wealthy, large, or particularly close-knit, though I knew many who were. My parents weren’t uneducated nor scholars. Our family has faced struggles with addiction, but it didn’t touch my life directly. My personal hillbilly elegy would be quite different. This is the challenge when an individual’s story is seen as representative of a larger group.

Despite my Appalachian roots, most of my adult life has been spent far from those hills and the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m now a flatlander, more coastal than mountain. The cultures are as much the same as they are different, and my ears are more accustomed to the Carolina Low Country drawl than the twang of my mountain roots. I have moments when I deeply miss my hometown, lifelong friends, and the region. But I also cherish seeing Spanish moss blowing in the breeze or a palm tree against a Carolina blue sky. These experiences are equal parts of who I am, blending to shape my identity.

Yes, the deep, unique, and rich culture of Appalachia is part of my soul, but it’s mixed with so many other life experiences. None of us can fully claim to know all the facets of what it means to be a hillbilly.

Signed, Southern Flatland Mountain Girl

Friday, July 5, 2024

Convertibles in the South

Who doesn’t love a spin in a convertible? I find it to be hugely stress-relieving and calming. But for those of you in other parts of the world who prep and put your convertibles to bed in the fall for a good six months or more until convertible weather returns, we in the South have a different routine.

Where I live, we enjoy a convertible season that lasts pretty much nine to ten months. The “off months” for us are not during the cold, winter months. Instead, our top-up time is in the dead of summer. Personally, I have been known to drive in freezing weather with the top down, wearing a heavy coat with the heater blasting. However, when it starts to feel like the backside of Satan’s toaster oven, there isn’t enough AC to keep that top down. I will keep the top down and the AC flowing until I could cook a lasagna in the passenger seat. But after that, it is no longer convertible season. I. Can’t. Roll.

So, for the next couple of months, my top-down days will be missed and very limited (maybe left for a few nighttime rides).  Though, this is a good time to tweak some of the "work in progress" and maintenance that comes with driving a vintage a new clutch. I am counting down the days until I can feel that air in my hair again! Y’all up north, just know I am envying your summer rides!

Until the cooler days return, I'll be dreaming of my next top-down adventure!