Jimmy Carter (Not That Jimmy Carter), Retired, Currently Flea Market Vendor; Big Stone Gap, Virginia:
“[I was born in] Bartow, Florida. [I moved into the mountains] back in ‘69. I was ‘round ‘bout ten year old. My mom and dad were born in this part of the country. They loved it, and my dad would usually travel with fruit; he’d go to Michigan and pick cherries; back to Florida and [then] back here again.
[Growing up here] was rough, because my mom and dad grew what we ate. They worked on different things and all that. I used to fox hunt, coon hunt, fishing, different kinds of things. I started to work on the coal tipple. I had to quit school and went to work. Think I was eighteen. I dropped the railroad cars; loaded them and dropped them out in front of the tipple.
[I did that] eleven years untill I got hurt. I got hurt on the job. I fell off a railroad car and injured my back. I was young; I got injured when I was twenty-five. [After that] I went into produce back three years ago. I flea market, sell produce and glassware; different things. I draw disability social security.
I used to be a drug addict and an alcoholic. I’ve been clean going’ on twenty years now. [How I got over that] the good Lord Jesus Christ. He’s the only one that can take it away. Man can’t. My mom gave it to me in the bottle back years ago when I was first born, and everything. And when I got into the drugs I started doing’ light stuff; like Xanax’s and stuff like that. I got into the hard stuff when I first got hurt, I was twenty-five. I lived [like that] untill I was thirty-eight years old.
I got depressed and the drugs got worse; and when the drugs got worse, I wanted to stay high all the time. The alcohol was making it worse. I would drink rubbing alcohol; anything you could [you could get] drunk on, I would use it. The lowest time was probably back in ‘round ‘91 when my dad passed away. It added to the depression and all.
When I first got off it was back in ‘96. I was in jail down here in Wise, and the good Lord, people may not believe this, but He came into the jail cell where I was at. People says ‘the Lord don’t talk to you’, but He does. He told me, he says, ‘I got something I want you to do.’ I said, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ He says, ‘I want you to work for me.’ I said, ‘What kind of work you want me to do?’ He said, ‘Preachin.’ I said, ‘Okay. If you can take away the drugs and alcohol and stuff away I will.’ He took it. I became a preacher.
I’ve been a preacher since 1998. I’m non-denominational. Go anywhere that God says me to preach, I go. It’s been fantastic; I got my family back now. Back when I was using, my first two kids was born. My mother took them away from my first wife and me. She raised them up until around eight and nine years old. When she passed away, they moved back home to me. They respect me now, they do. My son moved out and living with a woman and other than that, I’ve got my thirteen year old daughter living with us. She’s doing good. Everything is going fantastic.
My first wife, she passed away. She had a blood clot break loose in her body; went to her heart and went to her lungs. She drowned on her own fluids.
I’ve got a wife now; I love her with all my heart. I met her in 1973, but at the time it wasn’t for us to get together. Thirteen years ago, God put us together. He said, ‘That’s the one I want you to marry.’ I asked her mom how [Lisa] was doin’. I said, ‘Bring her to church with you sometime.’ I wanted to see her. She came to church and God spoke to me and says, ‘That’s the one I want you to have now.’
This part of the country is where it’s God’s country. This is God’s country, this is. Down in Florida, I loved it down there; but up here was where I was raised up at.
I’m a Florida cracker. I love [the word hillbilly]. I went down to Florida in ‘95 and they called me a Florida cracker. But the hillbilly mixed it in with it. They liked my accent I had; hillbilly and Florida accent together, it sounded funny to them.
[Outsiders] got their own opinion [of mountain people]. It’s not [accurate]. Tell them to look at us like we are human. We are humans living in these mountains. We don’t live in the back woods. We live out here where the people can see us as normal people. We’re normal. We’re not some mountain man that comes out with guns and starts shootin’.
[Parents legacy] I’m leavin’ my legacy not to see my kids grow up to be drug addicts and alcoholics. That’s the way my heart feels ‘cause I don’t want them to live like I lived. I lived the rough life. But by the grace of God is all it is.”