Having the “Want To” – Being Home

Sadly, I think when people say “I’m going home,” others look at them as if to say “how sad.”  Through popular media, going home has come to represent the last move of one who has failed – at a career, in a relationship, in life.  Yes, after going home, learning a valuable lesson about what is important in their lives, these poor, broken, people are strong enough to leave again.  They go out into to the world and make the difference they were always meant to do. End scene.

That’s not why I wanted to come home.

Rocking in the family home - way back!

Rocking in the family home – way back!

No, when it came time for a change, I wanted to come home because I truly missed my family.  I was more than willing to move away from them when I believed I was doing it for the sake of my own, future, family (husband, potential kiddos), but the longer I was away, the loss of family members, the more important it became to be to be home, near my family.  I have three cousins that are 16, 21, and 24 years younger than me and I want to be in their lives the way their fathers – my uncles – were in mine.  I still have two grandparents with us and I’d like to spend time with them as well.  My parents, my brother, my uncles and aunts – I just want to spend as much time with them as I can.  See the theme developing here?   They just mean that much to me, and they always have.   Also, I know I may not always have the opportunity to be near my family so I feel I should take advantage of it while I can.

My family - yeah, I'm pretty lucky....I am more aware of that than you know.

My family – yeah, I’m pretty lucky….I am more aware of that than you know.

Now, when I went to college, all those many years ago, the area was at the end of a coal boom.  Jobs were many, energy and gas were cheap, and the possibilities were – at least in my mind – limitless!

Fast forward to now – it’s a very different Tug Valley that I have come home to.  Jobs in the mines – the dominant work opportunity for YEARS – are leaving under pressure from the federal government, drugs are a more visible problem, and I truly feel like I’m a part of  a people under attack simply because I would like to live here in our little corner of Appalachia. That bright future, the one I have wanted for me and the region I grew up in, seems like a faint dream.

welcome to williamson

But it doesn’t have to be!

I understand that coal is not the most popular fuel in our country, but I don’t understand the mentality of shutting down an industry completely and immediately without any concern for the workforce that’s being affected.  By all means, let’s work on developing renewal energy sources, but why displace a whole population in the process?!  What happened to compromise and working together to find a solution for all?  Why not take advantage of what has happened – the reclaimed strip mines – and make something of them and work towards a better future in this area?!  The truth of it is, change takes investment.  Those willing to work for change and improvement don’t necessarily have the money to invest and those who have the money – in my mind the government – would rather pay into the welfare state that has been created.   Please know, this is not true for all those capable of investing.  New businesses have been opened in the area – cell phone stores, coffee shops, gyms (private and public), t-shirt printers, among others.

People are really trying to make a difference and we are on the cusp of something that can be great.  We just need to tip the momentum forward and start rolling.  That’s where me, and my peers, come into play: the younger generation in the Tug Valley.

To be more involved, I am currently investigating what it takes to open an artisan center – at least participating with the Pike County Artisan Center of Pikeville, KY – and wanting to participate in the Mingo County Redevelopment Council.  There is definitely a “want to” for something other than coal mining dependence, but, like I said, it requires investment.  This shouldn’t be a swift change, which harms more people than it does good.  This change from coal dependence should involve steps where, as one industry leaves, another is inserted.  With the resurgence in the interest in the Hatfield and McCoy feud, I can see the potential for tourism taking root as I type.  The annual Hatfield – McCoy marathon attracts runners from all over, but once the race has been run, what is there for our guest to do?  Right now, not a whole lot after 4pm – unless you want to go to Logan, WV or Pikeville, KY.  Both of which are viable options.  On a side note, if Logan – Williamson – Pikeville ever joined forces and worked together….watch out!  Everyone would benefit….but that’s a whole other thing.

Envision with me: on the reclaimed strip mines, we develop an amusement/theme park, similar in vein to Dollywood – I’m thinking more like an adventure park though to take advantage of the Hatfield/McCoy trails already in place and the potential for hiking/climbing/extreme sports.  Around that adventure park, other attractions can develop (river rides, guided tours, rock climbing, etc).  With these attractions, comes other needs: hotels, restaurants, entertainment options.  You also have a base of both traditionally trained artists and artisans, along with folk artists – galleries can develop with the influx of people looking for unique keepsakes to take back from the “Heart of the Billion Dollar Coalfield.”  Pavilions that host music of all genres, performances by local choir and drama groups – the potential is amazing!

I can see the Williamson to Pikeville area develop like Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Galtinburg area in Tennessee.  This is a beautiful region with lots of natural attractions (Pine Mountain, Black Mountain, The Breaks Interstate Park – the Grand Canyon of the South) – we just need something that not only will attract visitors, but give them a reason to stay a day or two.

There are other scenarios that are possible as well.   Attracting other industries to build on the reclaimed strip mine sites could have the same affect.  Want renewable energy?  Why not take the time to train the work force already in place, used to dealing with specialized equipment, and start switching – GRADUALLY – to solar/wind farms?  Again, it comes down to investment.  Not just monetary investment, but investment from the people of the area to make a difference; to change and take control of our own destiny which has been shaped for so long by outside forces.

Personally, I’m tired of someone telling me what I can and cannot do based on the area in which I live.  I have been blessed with the opportunity for an education – as well as have many of mine friends.  It’s not like we are a poor, ignorant people, that desperately needs someone to come in a show us the “right” way to live.  We are capable!  We are willing!  We want positive change!

I love my home.  I recognize it’s faults but can see what it can be.  Our window for action is small though.  If we, as a community, don’t become more proactive and try to build on progress completed to this point, I’m afraid we are in for a great disappointment.  We will see the end to a vibrant community – one with a great, and very interesting, history (mine wars, feuds, baseball…heck, we have a coal house!  A coal house!).

A house....made of COAL!

A house….made of COAL!

Should I leave the Tug Valley region again, I want it to be because I want to go somewhere else – not because I had to just to survive.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. opciones binarias
    Aug 12, 2013 @ 07:08:51

    I’m not sure exactly why but this blog is loading incredibly slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still


    • stacigilliam
      Aug 12, 2013 @ 20:33:46

      Sorry I’m just getting to your comment, but I didn’t have any trouble loading the page from my home computer. I’m really not sure what the issue could be, but if it persists, I’ll try to find out if it’s on our end or not. I hope it’s no longer a problem though and thank you for checking out our blog!


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