James Brown (not THAT James Brown) Age15, Student at Harlan County High School; Cumberland, Kentucky
“I play football, sports, go huntin’ and ride my four-wheeler a lot. Either that, or I’m at the house helping my Granny out. I tend to stay outdoors. I’m more of an outdoorsy type of person.
I’m adopted by my Granny. What could I say about my Granny? She’s a good hard-workin’ woman. It’s hard to tell her ‘no,’ and it’s hard to tell her to stop working. Regardless of whether or not you do, she won’t stop working.
Most women around here are like that, older women, because they grew up working back in the older days. It’s what they had to do, and it’s more than likely what they’ll die doing, working by choice, now. [Granny] She taught me about God. My love for God is from her and my Grandpa. He’s deceased. She taught me how to love people, and rights and wrongs.
She’s taught me [to be] a good person. She’s raised me up good, if I say so myself. She’s a real good cook. She usually cooks something like chicken and dumplings or roast beef and mashed potatoes, green beans and corn. She’ll make tomatoes, fried tomatoes sometimes, or chicken.
Every other year, I grow myself a garden. I usually grow a little bit of corn, some tomatoes. I’ve had cucumbers, I’ve had squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers. [I started when I was] 12 years old. My Aunt Pat, I used to love going up to her house because she has her big property, she always had a garden and I admired that. So I took after that and I applied it to my own back yard. I think it’s something everybody should do; it’s a fun activity.
She’s [Aunt Pat] a good artist, I love her to death. She’s fun to be around. She loves to ride four-wheelers, loves to have a good time. Generally, most people like to be around her. She has a lot of friends, a real good person. She has a lot of dogs, about 10 of them. [Her sister] Pam, she’s an artist, too, but she lives down in Tennessee and I don’t get to see her as much, so I couldn’t tell you as much about her, but I love her and she’s a good person. She’s a real good artist, too. She likes Jeeps.
What Browns are, our family, [the] Browns, you look at them [Pat and Pam] and that’s really what our family is. They’re all that’s left besides me and my Dad. They’re just cool to be around. [They’re identical twins.] I’ve heard most people get them [Pat and Pam] mixed up sometimes. The first time they see them they can’t tell the difference, who’s who.
[For football] I play right tackle; it’s an offensive position. I play right guard some. I’d say we’d be pretty good this year. We scrimmaged the other day; we did pretty good. I’d say we’re going to win more games this year than we did last year. Way better team. We have a good coach, a Christian coach. He teaches us right.
I love football. I’ve played it for seven or eight years. It’s grown to me. I love playin’ it. I’m proud to be a [Harlan County] Black Bear, and it’s an honor. It’s taught me discipline and I’ve learned respect. It gave me some mental toughness. You have to learn to be mentally tough, if you want to play football.
[My Dad], he’s cool, I guess. Me and him don’t generally talk. But overall, he’s a good person. Loves the Lord. He lives with me and my Granny. He mows the grass whenever I can’t. Granny doesn’t feel like coming [to my games]. I ride the bus.
It’s been amazing [living here 15 years]. There’s no other place on this planet like Appalachia. It’s a family-type environment. Everybody knows each other, cares about each other, always willing to help each other out in the hard times. It’s a good place to be, and I wouldn’t change nothing about it if I could.
[People here are] laid back, they’re nice. Most people will tell you how they feel. Most people are honest people, trustworthy. Everybody’s kind of like a family, they love each other, willing to do anything for each other.
If it’s possible, if I can find a job here, I will [stay]. My personal preference, I would like to drive a big truck or operate big equipment, big machinery. If the coalmines are still around, I’m going to try to get in the coalmines.
Or, I was also considering going to the military, in the Marines. I want to fight for my country because my family, my Papaw and his brother and dad, they was doing it, and I want to fight for my country. I think it’s something I’ve always thought about doing and I’d really like to do that. If it wasn’t for our military, we wouldn’t really have our freedom. We’d still be at a war with the Middle East. I don’t know necessarily if they’d come over here, but if we don’t take care of them over there, they actually might come over here.
(When asked about his Superman Ring) I got it at Walmart. I like Superman, I used to watch the movie growing up when I was little. I used to love that movie.
As of right now, the happiest time [of my life] is whenever I got my 12-gauge for my birthday, this past birthday.
The saddest time [in my life] was when my Papaw passed away. He was my best friend. He adopted me. I was always with him younger, as I was growing up. He was like a superhero to me and whenever he passed, it was real hard. I was 12, going on 13 years old. He’d always take me places, and he’d always want to have a good time.
He’d try to be the life of the party. He’d always try to give everybody a good laugh. He’d do anything. He’d just want to have fun all the time. [He was an] outgoing person, everybody loved him.
One time, my Granny had bought a jar of dog treats, you know those bacon-flavored things? He thought it was real human food and he ate the whole pack of them. He didn’t know it was dog treats and whenever Granny told him it was dog food he said, ‘That was good dog food.’
I haven’t had cattle, but I’ve had chickens before. Me and my Papaw was cleaning out the chicken coop, and he washed them with a water hose. He washed the chickens! Whenever they were little chicks, he didn’t know that you wasn’t supposed to get them real wet, and he washed them with the water hose. He tried to dry them off with the hair dryer. It was hard because we had a little Chihuahua. They looked like food to her.
After I get older, after I retire, I want to go and buy a farm and do that, raise cattle and stuff.
Most people [outside the region] think that we’re dumb people that don’t necessarily know much and just because we live around here, they think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s a nasty country person, a hick.’ I’ve been told that we’re called hicks and rednecks (which, I’m proud to be a redneck, but anyway).
They think that because coal’s going down, we’re going down. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the 15 years I’ve been here, there ain’t no taking down no country person. They ain’t never gonna go down. We’ll always be here. Yeah, [I’m a hillbilly]. Proud of it, too. It means someone that talks like me, with a country accent, and likes to go muddin’ and huntin’ and has a garden.
I want to be known as the person that would do anything for someone, like a hardworking, loving, family-type of person that loves God and [is] proud of it.
If you love having a good time, and if you like the family type of environment, you’d love it here. Everybody here loves each other. Don’t mess with Appalachia, though. That’s a bad thing to do. Something I wouldn’t recommend.”