My family moved from Washington, DC to Buckhannon, West Virginia in the summer of 1983. I was on the verge of 3rd grade. I didn't know it at the time, but I'd spend my entire childhood in "Sunny Buck," as well as my college years at West Virginia Wesleyan College (class of '97).
Although I came to The Mountain State as a transplant and I haven't lived there since 2000, I still consider West Virginia my one, true home. I'm eternally connected with the place and people of Buckhannon, and while nowhere is ever perfect, I wouldn't change a damn thing about it.
One thing that makes Buckhannon (and more broadly, West Virginia) so special to me is that it's truly a "community of individuals." There's an independent streak among the populace, such that most folks are inclined to live their lives how they see fit without casting judgment on their neighbors. Yet there's also a strong sense of community among Mountaineers. To put it colloquially, West Virginians have each others' backs. I rather like this duality - a place where you can be left alone, yet embraced at the same time.
That's not to say the residents of West Virgina are perpetually agreeable. Far from it. Mountaineers are some of the most opinionated, hard-headed folks you'll ever meet. We're not bashful about speaking our minds and, in particular, will gladly call out BS when we see it. This brings me to the subject of my post - an old letter to National Public Radio written by the late James Liotta, the father of one of my high school acquaintances, Carter Liotta.
Carter is a Facebook friend. Like me, he no longer resides in Buckhannon. But Carter routinely posts commentary about the town and state he's from, sometimes in reverence, occasionally in frustration, and always with the best of intentions.
A recent post of Carter's caught my attention:
I asked Carter if I could post his father's letter because to me it represents (with biting humor) the extent to which the people of Buckhannon - and more broadly West Virginia and Appalachia - take umbrage with inaccurate depictions about our home. It resonates with the story I'm telling in Muck because like many outsiders, the lead character - Albert Edwin Carter - comes to Buckhannon with a certain set of assumptions and misconceptions. It's doubly fitting that Mr. Liotta's 1993 letter was addressed to NPR. In my story, Albert is a brash, young journalist for a fictitious podcast called "The Muck" - a show one might imagine hearing on NPR. I guess Mr. Liotta's letter is, as they say, "truer than fiction."