“I’ve about got my kids raised, and they’ll go to college, and yeah, I feel I’ve done my job. I don’t think I was made to be famous. This was my purpose. I’ve served my purpose.”
Becky Claxon, Works at Kinner Lumber; Greenup, Kentucky:
“I haven’t lived in town all my life. I grew up about three miles from here, and then I moved about twenty-five miles, and then I moved back. [As kids] we were really involved in sports. Mostly Little League, and then we played basketball, oncewe got a little bit older. They used to have dances in town, and dances after school, and stuff like that, but our parents kept us involved in a sport all the time.
My dad worked for Mansbach Metal, and I work with my mom at the hardware store. It’s not family-owned, but almost everybody that works there is somehow related in one way, or another.
I loved high school. I just liked being there. We had a large class, but we were really close knit. Since then people’s went their separate ways, but most of them I’m still friends with. A lot of them moved away, and then some of them came back. We have a pretty successful class. Some of them work with the school, school board. I think there are a couple doctors. A few work at the hospital as nurses.
Almost everybody knows each other. It’s almost like the six degrees kind of thing. You can always trace back, and then somebody’s like, ‘Oh, I know them. I think there is a friendlier group of people. That’s been my experience anyway.
Our family’s really close. I have a sister and a brother, and my sister has two small kids, but it’s like we all raise each other’s children. Whoever drops off at school, the other one would pick up, and there have been times where this one’s had to take that one. My sister and me look alike, so everybody just thinks one of us has a whole bunch of kids.
I spent a lot of time with my Grandma Blanche. She’s passed away, but we’d always take her to town, and she liked to get a hamburger. She was just full of life and fun [and] she liked a good time. If she had money, you had money. It was that kind of thing. She had a stroke, and it was hard for her to get in and out, but she always wanted to go. We had a truck, and I would have to haul a cinder block around for her to step up in the truck, because she couldn’t just pull herself up in it.
Then my Grandma Ruby, she lost her husband, when I was five, and I can remember bits and pieces of him. He liked to eat raw bacon. He did. I can remember that, and I can remember he would try to give it to my brother, and my mom’s like, ‘He’s not eatin’ that. He’s not eatin’ that.’ Grandma Ruby, you would go to her house and she would have on wrestling, gospel music on the radio, and cooking dinner at the same time. She did it all at the same time! She made the best fried potatoes, but my dad makes the best salmon patties.
My Grandma Blanche, she was married a couple of times, but as long as I can remember, she just did things on her own. My Grandma Ruby had fourteen children, so she had to be a strong woman. I think there were seven girls and seven boys, so I’m sure she had her hands full. They all turned out to be good people, you know. You think larger families, somebody’s going to get out of the way, but they’ve not, and they’ve all remained pretty close for the most part.
[My grandparents taught me] hard work and honesty. If you want something, you have to work for it. You can’t just expect somebody to give it to you. My mom does this thing with my kids. You know growing up you see drugs come and go. You see some really good people fall into that. She set them all down, and told them there’s a family circle. You can move around in that family circle, but once you get outside of it, don’t expect to come back in it if you’re going to do something that brings shame to yourself, and shame to your family. So, far, knock on wood.
I do think that’s why a lot of them haven’t been in trouble, they have stayed close, they have each other’s back [and] somebody can always go to somebody if they need to. I tell Breanna that you don’t know, I may not be there, but somebody is watching you at all times. Her group of friends that she’s been with since Kindergarten and the parents are all the same. We all loaf together, so we’ve got some pretty good kids. They’re all going to do some things, but for the most part, I think they’ve turned out okay.
That’s all we talk about, is those kids. Breanna, she’s my adventurer, she wants to go and do. She’s always had big dreams to go away. I don’t want her just to pigeonhole herself here. I do want her to go away, and whatever she decides to do, I’d hope she’d be able to bring it back and do it. If you keep pushing people away, then you’re not going to be left with anything, just a bunch of empty buildings. But if she goes away, I’ll be all right with it.
[Breanna] was an easy baby, always has been an easy child, never give me any trouble. [Then] the twins came along. She’s been a big help with them. To think that you’ve survived those two boys. Each time they go out that door, it’s like we made it another day. (Laughs).
The boys, one was born at sixty years old. He thinks he’s a Vietnam veteran. He’s a history buff. The other one, Chase, is really quiet, but sneaky into stuff. It’s nothing to get a call from school [about] something one of them’s done. It’s not really anything horrible. It’s just they think they’re old men, so they just say and do whatever comes to mind. They’re real outdoorsy. They like to hunt and fish, and ride dirt bikes, and all kinds of stuff like that.
Breanna was in Kindergarten, and at the time you actually got to go in, walk back, and stand by the classroom door. Now you have to stand, they buzz you in, and wait for them to come out. One day, her teacher opened the door. She said, ‘I need to talk to you. Is Breanna Gail’s last name, Claxon?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘She told me her last name is Treehorn, and she’s from an Indian tribe.’ Breanna believed it. We don’t know why. She likes to read a lot, so I don’t know if it’s something she read. But those boys, they, they’re something else. Yeah, that’s been my happiest time, is with them [the kids].
(Stereotypes) I think we’re smarter than what we’re given credit for. I know we have a twang, and all that, but that doesn’t mean we’re ignorant people. We learn things in a different way. We’re more of a hands-on society, instead of just reading it from a book and learning it, but I just don’t think they give us credit. It’s the same thing here at the high school. [Other schools] don’t see them as good kids, and [they area] really smart, really talented bunch of kids. It’s been this way for years though. It’s always, ‘ Aww, you know, we’re Greenup County.’ They kind of laugh and go on. I got a fine education there. I think other people did, too. It’s all in what you put in it, and for the most part the teachers there are really good teachers. But you have to put something into it, to get anything out of it.
I like it here, and some people are like, ‘Why do you want to live here? I’d go here. I’d go there.’ I’ve always liked it here. I just like the people, and I was thinking about it the other day, because somebody said something about the age of my friends. They range anywhere from that little girl, two years old, to a hundred. I just think everybody here’s nice, and even the ones that some consider bad people, you have to talk to them and respect [them].
I don’t like to travel a whole lot. I don’t really like to go three hours away from home, and I don’t like to stay gone longer than a couple days. I like to be back home. It’s just the way I’ve always been. I guess I’m afraid I’m going to miss something here, or something’s going to happen, and I’m not going to be able to get back.
We have some plants that kind of fuel [the economy] here. Railroad, a little bit, [but it has] declined. I would hope, that there would be a big revitalization, [in town] and not totally change it. I don’t want to take away from the buildings. I just want people to appreciate what they have, and don’t think some of them know what they have here. It’s going to take hard work and all that, but you know you’ve got to put something into it, or we’re just going to be setting here.
If I was going to have a meeting with people, [I’d} say, ‘This is how we’re going to fix [it here]. We need to draw in. We have to have something for kids here.’ If I ever hit the lottery, I told them the first thing I’m doing is build a YMCA, because for our kids to do anything, they have to drive. We have a park that’s really nice. [It has a] basketball court, but as far as movies, bowling, skating, anything, they have to drive to do it. There needs to be something for the young, and not just the kids, for the twenty and thirty year olds, like a café. They do have a new, Iittle restaurant across the street. I think we need to stay open later. Really at 5:00, other than the library staying open late two days a week, [everything] is closed. They need to open up something new, like a bookstore, or a coffeehouse where people could come in and sing. [It] doesn’t have to be a grand scale, just something for them.
I used to play the clarinet. I love music. Our radio is on more than our TV is because all of the kids like music. I like live music. I just like to see people put themselves out there, and I think that’s another thing that people from Appalachia don’t get credit for. They do put themselves out there. It would take a lot to get up on the stage, and play music, and sing, and be judged, basically while you’re up there.
It takes a thick skin to be from Appalachia, because there’s a stigma. You have to just let that roll off your back, and go on, and not pay attention to it.
I love to dance. I go to the Senior Citizen’s Dance Hall on Friday nights. I’ve always liked to dance. I like to do Zumba. I like to paint, but not pictures. I like to paint furniture. I’m not really crafty that way, I just like to paint, and I love to talk. (Laughs).
They used to have square dances here, right in the street, and that was back when they had the big skirts. My aunt used to do that, and she had the fanciest costumes and the shoes. She probably still has some of them. We used to come watch them dance. Grandma Blanche, she liked to dance, and I think that’s probably where I get it.
I consider myself a well-rounded person, even though I don’t like to travel. I love to read, and I love to talk to people, so I think that I’ve done all right. I’ve about got my kids raised, and they’ll go to college, and yeah, I feel I’ve done my job. I don’t think I was made to be famous. This was my purpose. I’ve served my purpose.
Probably one of the toughest times was my divorce, not really sad. I won’t get into the whole story, because it got ugly, but that was probably the toughest time because I felt let down. Breanna was sixteen, and Trace and Chase were eleven. It will be a year in October.
I’ll tell you two ways it changed me. I kind of got lost in that marriage, and it was nothing that either one of us did. You have this mindset of what a marriage is, what you should be doing as your job. I like to laugh, and cut up, and carry on, but I didn’t do that. Now I’ve got that back, honestly I like him better now that we’re divorced. He is there more for the kids. He’s a different person. He seems happy, and we get along just fine. He went through some really tough times, and I was there for him. When he just decided to call it quits, you’re kind of like, ‘Twenty years and that that’s what I get?’
Honestly, we should have just been friends. I see that now. I’m happy for [him], and I still talk to him every day, sometimes four times a day. We get along a lot better [and] that was a good thing that came out of it.
(How do you want to be remembered?) I do get aggravated with people, and I’ll cut up on them, but I really like people. I like to be around people. That’s what I want people to remember. I did the best I could, and that if you needed help, I was there to help you. [I don’t want to be remembered for] how much money I had, or what I didn’t have, or what my house looked like, because that’s all material. I want to leave something behind that’s going to change somebody in a positive way. Sometimes I don’t always make headway in that, but I keep trying.
I like you until you prove me wrong, and then don’t make a fool out of me. But then I’m the kind, also, that always likes to give you a second chance. You only go around once, so you might as well make it a good one.”