A wonderful activity I’m wild about in West Virginia is rafting on the New River. If you haven’t done it, do it. If you’ve done it, you’ll definitely do it again. Theme parks spend millions trying to outdo what God has given us to enjoy in West Virginia. “Almost Heaven” is far more thrilling and substantially cheaper too. The rapids are tricky, but they’re not nearly as difficult to maneuver as some rafters I recently met.
My last trip, I hit the roughest waves on the bus ride to the river. We were winding our way down the gorge when a group from Ohio started belittling West Virginia. Unlike real rapids, they had no class. A drunk couldn’t have slurred better with his words than these yahoos. Ripples of resentment rolled through my mind, until I realized these poor ignorant people just didn’t know any better. I calmed.
You see, manners are one of the first lessons we learn in West Virginia. Even an “ignant idgit” knows you don’t insult your host, when you’re a visitor. Maybe it’s an Ohio thing. Or, perhaps, the Buckeyes didn’t think poor hillbillies like us could afford such a fancy excursion. I certainly hope they weren’t being blatantly impolite to us intentionally. The West Virginians on the bus were too gracious to embarrass them. We just listened quietly, like hunters, and exchanged irritated eye rolls with each other.
My grandma taught me to ignore people who try to pick on you. She always said “hurt people, hurt people” so I figured their lives must be really miserable. They’re from Ohio, after all, so I can only imagine their suffering. You don’t see hordes of tourist rushing to Ohio to ride threshers through cornfields. I’ve never heard anyone say it’s such a beautiful drive from Akron to Cincinnati or Ohioans are just so darn friendly. Have you?
Here’s my point. Wherever you’re from, don’t assume you’re stupidity isn’t offensive to someone. Odds are, it is. A stereotype is just a senselessly oversimplified interpretation of something you don’t understand. It’s how dumb people make sense of things, I reckon. There’s no such thing as a definitive “this way… or that” in West Virginia. Like the New River, we’re pretty much every which way. We’ve carved out a pretty perfect path through paradise too.
Enjoy it, but remember it’s our home. If you’re a guest here, show some respect. Our greatest advantage is how ignorant we let people think we are. It keeps the riffraff away—but don’t be fooled. We’re always aware of what’s going on around us. Be nice to whoever you’re sitting beside on the bus ride through life. I personally know, if you ever find yourself up a creek without a paddle, you’ll be blessed to have friends in West Virginia.
– Jim Shock. Hashtag #91. July 2017