West Virginia Hillbilly, a newspaper published in West Virginia from 1957 until 2001. On my first trip, I bought 10 copies; returned to buy 20 more, then went back a third time to buy whatever was left.
I had never seen a copy before, although apparently the Hillbilly was around for a long time. The papers are filled with stories, jokes, political commentary and history.Jim Comstock, the founder and editor of the Hillbilly, is one of my personal heroes. Not because I agreed with his politics--our views, even back in the days he was publishing, were radically opposed. But his writing style was so engaging, individualistic and devil-may-care that reading these papers is like sitting down and talking to the man.
Comstock passed away in 1996, but his words live on for people like me who are addicted to the 50-volume West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia he published. The encyclopedia covers everything from biographies to jokes to folklore to full-length novels. Had Comstock not collected the information when he did, many great stories would have disappeared in the mists of time. This the encyclopedia is not 100% fact: I remember reading an article about a supposed monster sighting that concluded with Comstock's bald confession that he'd made up the whole story because it just seemed like there should have been such a story!
Back to these newspapers: in each one is "The Comstock Load," which contains his ramblings, observations, stories, political comments and anything else he felt like writing. It was in a way like a blog before blogs were even thought of. The stories of the hitchhikers he picked up (there were quite a few, apparently) are real windows into humanity.Comstock, for all his rough-and-tough talk, had a soft heart for those down on their luck. According to the WV e-Encyclopedia, he also was a main mover behind saving Pearl Buck's homeplace as well as the historic Cass Railroad, both popular visitor sites today. Jim Comstock was a man with a dry humor and a long vision.
So far I've read stories of old homes, of unlikely heroes, tragic events, ghost stories, and many, many funny stories. And I've still got a lot of reading to do.
Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.