Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Folk Hero (Part One)

Image by Hazel Holley Crabtree c. 1920's

The Appalachian Mountains are filled with stories. They are the building blocks and food for thought in an enriched hard working spiritual people. Many of these stories comment on the actions of one man or woman who do extraordinary things up against the odds of life and come away knowing they did well. Even if the end turns sour the moral of the story remains uplifting. In all of these stories the bottom line is the human connection to either the land or others around them. The stories transfer a normal mountain folk into a hero. Some stories we have heard come directly from the actions of a relative, a friend, and a community member while other heros are integrated into the fibers of a culture. These giants of the story may have lived at some point or may actually be refinements to dreamed scenarios. Either way the story becomes history, a type of fact, no matter if the history is completely right. I think in many ways most of us can overlook the factual discrepancies if the story grips us just right. Over the past 40 years our new “folk heroes” seem to be few and far between. Most of our new heroes are rebels against the man, the one individual who uses their voice to scream out against injustice. The physical feet of holding a hammer in one hand and outlasting a steam engine is no more. Out physical endurance has now become sport instead of story. The folk hero remains one who uses their energy to go further than the normal person does. These heroes may use their superhuman powers to tame wildcats on the slopes of the Cumberland or they may speak out against the coal industry in Kentucky or they may even just single-handedly lay track for the West Virginia Railroad. The hero is now not only a story but also a way of life for those of us who grew up sitting around a coal fire winter. On that note I think we need more heroes. We need new people that stand out for doing something important no matter how small. I am asking you for your stories. Let’s make new legends for our children.

For example, my story comes with Papaw. Trying to save our own Christmas several years ago the two of us hiked for days in the cold cold wind torn hills of Clinchburg VA to carry a magical tree back to the house. Our hands and feet burned bloody by the bitterness and those razorblade spikes of the tree. We didn’t eat of sleep and came across the most disagreeable creatures I know. (The rest is for Sean to write.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello again,

This is second time I try to post comment.

I read with much interest your blog. As boy I spent some time in town called Haysi in Virginia. There was local hero there all young boys try to be like him, I tried to be him too. His name was Richard Colley. He was Daniel Boonesque character who killed bear with hands, and won many fights. I often wonder why this man "Fighting Dick" they called him, is not more famous in America.