Growing up, my father felt it was important for my brother and me to know about our roots as dirt farmers and coal miners. My mother and father were raised in the coal mining regions on the tri-state border of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. It was a cultural conflict for them. On the one hand, they wanted us to learn about our Appalachian heritage, on the other they never wanted us to emulate or be around people that lacked in education or standing to a certain degree. Looking back at this, I don’t see it as hypocritical on their parts. They grew up well acquainted with living in grinding poverty and company towns. They didn’t want their kids to have any part of it. We got the back-to-the-land movement version of the Appalachian experience.
I grew up thumbing through the Last Whole Earth Catalog and reading Mother Earth News, but the coolest books were had were the Foxfire series of books, based on the magazine of the same name. They were an amazing high school / community based project started by Eliot Wigginton at a small rural school in Georgia. The program does more than collect oral histories. In the books and the programs, students have learned diverse practices such as constructing a log cabin, butchering hogs to conjuring.
So growing up in Florida, in a typical upper middle class home, why did my parents all have these back to the land, neo-hippie books and magazines? My father kept a pretty sizable garden all our lives, we kept backyard beehives for honey (much to the consternation of the neighbors), later there was the cattle ranch where we lived dual lives as ranch and city kids.
I wonder if this reflects the 1st generation immigrant story, but intra-state? My bother and I were the first two kids on either side of the family to be born and raised off the mountains. My father was the first in either family to have a college degree, much less his MD and ABD. My bother and I were next with our own alphabet soup of letters after our names.
My parents wanted to leave the poverty behind, but pull the culture with them like a hermit crab dragging its shell. Like the immigrants that despaired their children would not be able to speak or understand that language and values the connected them to their ancestors, my parents worried for the same, even if they did not know it. I was raised listening to mountain music, the first instrument I learned to play was a traditional lap dulcimer, and as you know, reading the foxfire series.
I have no idea what the point is…. I was just noticing the book in my shelf this Sunday.