Diane Hall Creech, Service Champion at Taco Bell; Skeetrock, Clintwood, Virginia:
“I grew up in Wise, Virginia. I am a Service Champion at Taco Bell in Norton, Virginia.
Growing up in the mountains was fun. I ran around, played on strip [mining] jobs, played in the creek. I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house as a child, me and my brother and my cousins and my sisters. We just played. We played in the woods and played on the strip jobs and got into mischievous meanness I guess as kids. [We] played in the woods and got into mamaw’s garden. Our curfew was when the street lights came on. Our parents didn’t call our cell phones. They hollered at us.
This is home. This is my home. I couldn’t imagine myself in a city setting. [What makes it home] is the people. Around here, people are friendlier, we care about each other, we tend to want to help one other and we know each other.
[Hillbilly?] To a point. [What does Hillbilly mean] The way we cook, the way we talk, the way we act, our attitude toward one another, things like that. We help one another. In the city settings, in some places, I’ve noticed that people turn their head. They don’t want to help you, you know.
Here we want to help our neighbors. I am from Wise and Norton is where I grew up. When I moved down here, when I got married to my husband now, and I got moved down here, it’s like when people pass away, people bring food to your homes. And they want to be there for you.
See, I am not used to that. In Wise and Norton, we don’t do that. Families don’t do that. We go to the funeral and we go home. That is the difference, and it’s like here, when we go to the graveyards they stay and they help bury your loved ones. Our funeral homes in Wise and Norton, the funeral is concluded. You can go home, you can come back in a couple of hours. Your loved ones will be buried. You can come and say your final whatever. That is the difference between there and here.
[Change attitudes of city folk] I would tell them to just come and stay here for a week and observe and witness how we are towards one another, the hospitality we show one another and the kindness we show, especially in times of death, in times of need. [In] the winter, how families will come together and help one another, especially the elderly. How we help the elderly out. How we will go to their homes, how we will help bring them blankets and help dig them out and things like that.
Our food is wonderful. Cornbread and soup beans and greens, fried green tomatoes and things like that. Typical food you would find on your grandmother’s table. That is what I miss the most about my grandmother. She was a unique critter, if I have to put it that way. Our relationship was strained. She was a wonderful cook, she canned she gardened. She loved all of her grandkids in different ways. You never left her house hungry that was for certain.
My dad [worked in coal] for some time, my grandfather did. My girl’s dad does now. His father did, my former father-in-law, he works in coal. It’s important to this area. It is what keeps this area going.
My ex-husband, the father of my two girls, when he first got his job in the coal mines, I didn’t sleep for a month. I won’t lie. My girls didn’t sleep for a month. He’s had a few injuries, none life threatening, thank goodness. Of course I have fears. We have been divorced for five years, but if something happens to him it’s going to affect my girls. They are grown now, but it is going to affect my girls. And I do have fears for that. He has hurt his hand, and he has scraped his back on roof bolts and things, and he has come home and told me stories of rocks falling and things like that when he has been in there. But like I said, if he gets hurt badly, or God forbid, loses his life, there’s going to be effects on my daughters. That’s their dad. There is always fear.
I have lost a lot of family in the mountains. I lost my brother four years ago. He was killed on an ATV, a four wheeler, flipped with him on it. [He was] thirty four. It is still difficult to talk about it. [We were close].
There have been a lot of happy times, the birth of my girls. My wedding two years ago was a happy time. There’s many a happy times.
There is a tradition with a box. My mom and her sister have this duck box. Every year for Christmas, I think my mom has the box this year. My Aunt Rita bought my mom these coffee mugs one year for Christmas, duck coffee mugs. And every year since, their gifts have been in that box. And this has been going on for twenty plus years. I was fifteen when Rita bought mom the mugs, and I am thirty-nine now.
Every year, the gift has to be small enough to fit in that box. The box is duct taped. The box looks hideous. But every year, the box gets passed back and forth, so that’s been a tradition. It’s just something that they latched onto. My uncle passed away in January, my aunt’s husband, and she recently moved in with my mom, so their relationship has gotten stronger, the bond has gotten stronger. I don’t know what it is about that silly box. But that’s been a tradition.
I don’t think we have any food traditions. My pasta salad has become a big thing every year. I’m in the process of writing a cook book for my daughters and I‘ve started a group called Jasper's Journey.
I am really passionate about puppy mills and how horrible they are and I am a really big advocate for animals. That’s become a big thing. But that silly box gets me tickled every time I think [it]. I was teasing them one day that when they are both gone from this earthly realm, and they are floating wherever they are floating, and I will end up with this hideous box. I told them no, scratch that, whichever one of you goes first - the box is going with you. So we have done decided that. But that is really the only silly tradition that I can think of.
[Puppy mills]. Luckily, animal cruelty has become a felony in all fifty states, so that’s a good thing. We’re trying to put a stop to puppy mills where dogs are constantly bred for profit. We are trying to put a stop to that. You can no longer advertise on the side of the road, dogs for sale. That’s became a law. We are trying to put a stop to animal cruelty in general, that’s a big thing I’m an advocate for.
I’m an advocate for child abuse. That’s a huge problem in this world. Elderly abuse is a huge problem, just abuse in general. Mental awareness; people doesn’t realize the struggle. It’s a silent pain. I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I used to think it was a military thing. But it’s not. I‘ve had a lot of traumatic things in my childhood and my teenage and adult life. They said that my brother’s death just completely went and triggered it. So yes, I am an advocate for mental health awareness as well. I’m a lot stronger now.
I love to read. I love to cross stitch. My animals are a huge hobby. I have three dogs, a cat and two hamsters. I have Molly Ann, Raleigh Mae, Jasper, Jinx is my cat, and I have Sampson and Princess Eowyn is my hamsters.
[My daughters] are both in Wise. Brooke, my oldest, is twenty and she works at Asia Café. Brittany will be eighteen in November, and she actually lives with my ex-husband and his new wife in Wise. She’s an upcoming senior in Central High School this year. She is so smart it’s scary. She will either be Salutatorian or Valedictorian, and she works at Mr. Gatti’s, along with going to school.
He is a good dad, he‘s done a wonderful job with her. I get to see her whenever I want, we came to that agreement and it’s worked out well. Brittany is a good kid and she has grown into a wonderful young woman and so has Brooke. [Brittany] as of right now she wants to be a psychologist. Brooke is wanting to be a tattoo artist and a photographer. They are both wonderful artists. I will support them in whatever they want to be in life. I am right there behind them one hundred percent. I am very proud of both my girls.
[Instill Appalachian values in your children] Growing up as kids, I just tried to teach them the value of living where they lived. Don’t ever take for granted the mountains. Because when you are not here, you are going to miss these beautiful views and the food, the traditions that their grandmothers instill in them, their aunts, their uncles and their parents and everything.”