Friday, December 16, 2016

A Trip to a Troubled Place


Sattler's Mountain, between Clay and Dille. Population: 19.
We drove across about half of West Virginia yesterday to take our donations to a food pantry in the fairly remote community of Dille, WV. It was a beautiful drive, with scattered snow in places, but the sun was bright even though the temperature didn't reach 20 degrees all day.

Along the Dille-Widen road
As we wound along the creek that borders the road leading to Dille, I considered what it must be like to live in places like this. When I moved to the mountains, I wanted a remote place away from people. I wanted space, and a whole lot less development than what was going on in Prince William county, VA, where I grew up. I wanted deep country and simple living, and I found it here in the place where I still live.

The church that is home to the area's food pantry
There were advantages to living here that I didn't consider at the time. Landing here was pretty much dumb luck. Our place was not easy to get to back then, and the road was in terrible condition. It was pretty much a mile to anything--mail, schoolbus, phone and power lines. But the town that was closest to us had the kinds of services a person needs: a pharmacy, hardware and farm supply stores, a decent couple of grocery stores, a five-and-dime, a small department store or two, gas stations, a small hospital, doctors, etc. So we could get most of what we needed without traveling too far. For bigger purchases or things not as easily available, we had two small cities within an hour or so. The schools were decent too, and so was the local library. And the neighbors--one does not find good neighbors like ours every day.

Snow blows off the roof of a mobile home on the Dille-
Widen Road
All this was passing through my mind as we drove the winding central West Virginia roads yesterday. The place we were going was pretty far off the beaten path. Maybe once there had been work here--logging, mining--but there is no sign of much industry now. And it was ragvaged by the June floods so people who had little to begin with have even less. Getting to a place with the kinds of amenities I mentioned above means about an hour drive, or more, along some fairly tricky roads. Even in those towns, prices are higher than in my area because it costs more to get goods into places like this. And work is scarce there too.

Downtown Clay, WV
There have been a lot of federal and other funds pumped into these areas, particularly after the floods. Recently a scandal broke in one town (Clay) when the mayor and the head of the development authority made derogatory comments about the First Lady on Facebook, and it went viral. That has led to some close scrutiny of the development authority and its head, who apparently lacks the required credentials for her job, but gets a salary of over $80,000 a year--this in a place so depressed that the national press says it is in a Great Depression, a place with huge drug problems and deep poverty.

Downtown Clay
Places like Clay are usually off the media's radar and local politicians can and do bend the rules to help themselves. Monies that might have benefited the community often end up benefiting the few with the power to allocate those funds. This happens in other places too, of course, but in such a depressed area it has far more negative impact.

Downtown Clay--the book from which this Inn got its name is
a classic of West Virginia's early history.
I came away feeling sad for those caught in a place with so many problems and so little light at the end of the tunnel.


On Sattler's Mountain
There is great beauty in those hills and in many of the people who live there. The remoteness, the deep woods and wild rivers, the freedom from traffic and crowding and the problems of city dwellers are all pluses but there are huge challenges. I hope and pray that some miracle comes to bring jobs and better times to them.



Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

4 comments:

Mac n' Janet said...

We live ruralish, is there such a word? We live in a small development of homes on acreage about 8 miles from the nearest small town. But my sisters live in a truly rural area of Oklahoma that sounds a lot like the area you're describing, complete with bad elected officials. If it were not for being Cherokee and receiving much help from the tribe life would be extremely difficult.

Charlotte Spears said...

Many prayers going up for the people of Clay and for all of the areas affected by the flooding in June. Hoping that the funds begin going to the small businesses, homeless and others who so desperately need them to rebuild their lives.

Quinn said...

That 80K salary is an eye-opener, even apart from the scandal which was a hot mess. I think the last I read was the woman who wrote the original comments was going to be keeping her job - even less understandable if she isn't qualified for it in the first place! I know it's easy to criticize from a distance, but it's so sad to see funding intended to help folks who need it, misused by others.
Sue, I'm curious about the book you mentioned - I don't see the Inn's name but I'd like to look up the book of West Virginia's early history if possible - could you share the name please? Thanks!

Granny Sue said...

Quinn, the name of the book is Tale of the Elk. It's got great stories from the men who ventured into the area and journaled their experiences.

Problems of drugs, poverty, unemployment, and the crime that goes with all of the above is not unique to central and southern West Virginia for sure. But add in suspicion and intolerance for those of different religions and backgrounds, education levels lower than the rest of the state and the politics of the region make it unlikely that change will come anytime soon. One can hope. There are so many really good people there. And many working against huge odds to make a difference.

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