Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wandering the Appalachian Trail

Just Wandering says:

I did a lot of the Appalachian Trail this past summer and loved the people down south in the mountains. Kind, considerate, helpful.

She's right, of course. I don't think you'll find a friendlier, more outgoing bunch than real bona fide Appalachian people, usually the variety who haven't fled North. The reason I wrote what I did about the state of affairs in the Appalachian region is because I don't think many people know or understand the true history of the place, they only know what they've been told by others. The truth is that historians aren't even finished telling the story, because the history of Appalachia is still being discovered and told. Fortunately for us, there are still many people alive who lived that history and can tell the story because they witnessed it with their own eyes. I hope historians are careful to take account of these people before they aren't here to share their lived experience with us.

People in the Southern Appalachians generally do love visitors. They want to show the world that they live in some of the most beautiful places on earth, and they want to share those places with others. The caveat, of course, is that they want their homes, land, and way of life to be respected and cherished. The Appalachians and Appalachian people have contributed more music, art, literature, linguistic vocabulary, and notable public servants to the wider American culture than perhaps any other cultural group in the U.S. They've never asked to be recognized for these realities in return, but now that other important cultural groups and their contributions are being recognized, more Appalachian people want the world to know about the musicians, writers, artists, famous members of Congress, even U.S. Presidents who have called the mountains their home. That's why a day in the mountains is often a history lesson.


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