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Almost Heaven, here’s to you

WEST Virginia, my home, happy 150th birthday. You are not perfect but I love you anyway.

I love your birth from rebellion. I love the story of your secession from a secession.

I love how you got your start on the right side of morality.

I love the image of Abraham Lincoln walking corridors in his nightgown and fretting about your existence.

Were you constitutional? I'm not sure, but you were the right thing to do.

I love your crazy shape. No one would mistake you for a square.

What is that shape called, anyway? I say it is an Appalachalese Infinitangle.

I love how you don't quite fit in among the states around you. Are you north or south? Are you Midwestern or mid-Atlantic?

Who cares? Anyone wanting to pin you down is welcome to walk across the mountains for a quick debate.

I love how your very existence is a test of geography and history for so many of the unenlightened. "Is that near Richmond?" Why, yes it is — sort of.

I love how "Country Roads" misses some facts but captures your spirit.

I love your motto. "Mountaineers Are Always Free." So true.

You are West Virginia, and you are unique. And if you are from West Virginia, then you are unique, too.

I love the can-do country spirit of flying ace Chuck Yeager and the deadly aim of basketball icon Jerry West.

I love that rascal Randy Moss and the big-smiling charm of Mary Lou Retton — that perfect 10.

I love weird stuff, like the Mystery Hole and The Dancing Outlaw. If you're from West Virginia, you know what and who I mean.

Speaking of weird, I love state politics.

I miss the days when we had a senator who played the fiddle and a congressman who liked to clog.

I like having a governor who eats barbecue and rides an all-terrain vehicle.

I like seeing my congresswoman at Kroger. I love that we are small enough that this happens.

I love how we are too small to honk angrily in traffic or to toss rude gestures at each other. (Usually.)

I have no favorite in the debate over official state food.

I love it all — those pungent ramps (awesome in potatoes and eggs), the delightfully portable pepperoni roll and a hot dog — yes — with slaw. I love Grandma's half-runner beans cooking all day in a pot. I believe I just described the most perfect meal.

West Virginia, thank you for being a comfort.

I love the majesty of your mountains and the cool flow of your streams.

I love the idea that within easy distance of home I could go skiing, whitewater rafting, fishing, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and hunting — although most of the time I don't.

Our state inspires people to jump off a bridge into a gorge — and that's considered a good thing.

I love traveling far from home and unexpectedly encountering a West Virginian. For we are family.

I love coming home from a long trip and having the gold dome of your Capitol greet me.

West Virginia, you are not heaven. But without a doubt you are almost heaven.

Happy birthday, and here's to 150 more.

Brad McElhinny is the Daily Mail's managing editor. Contact him at bradmc@dailymail.com or 304-348-1703 or follow him at www.Twitter.com/BradMcElhinny.


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