“We aren’t making it big. We aren’t rich, but we do what we have to do to get by and make it the best for our family.”
Samantha Buckler, Works at Family’s Swimming Pool Business; Greenup, Kentucky:
“I work for my grandparents. They’ve owned a swimming pool business for twenty-six years. I’ve pretty much been there all my life, and I just really can’t imagine working anywhere else.
What I can recall [about my childhood], it definitely didn’t include electronics, like kids have nowadays. I mean, I had a computer, but it was dial-up, so who wanted to wait on that? I played spotlight that was a big thing. One person has a flashlight, and everybody else goes and hides, and you have to find that person just with the spotlight. It was really fun.
That’s what my entertainment was, and also just looking at the stars. There’s not very many lights at night, so you definitely have the stars. I remember looking at the airplanes, [and] just the other day, we saw the space station, which I’ve never seen until the other day. That was really cool to see.
[In high school] I was really big into softball and golf. Sports was basically my life in high school [but] I quit, when I was in Junior year. I guess I became a rebel. (Laughs) Didn’t want to do that anymore.
What makes [Appalachia] special for me is everybody has a big heart. I know everybody pretty much in this town. I couldn’t imagine just living in a big city, not knowing everybody. When I walk down the street, I can say, ‘Hi,’ to everybody. Just like across [these people are] basically like family. (Pointing) They own a kitchen, and then right over here, she cuts my hair. And then my bank’s right there. Everything is right here. I couldn’t imagine it being any other way.
[My grandparents have] run this business since I can remember. I spend a lot of time with them. They do a lot for me [and] I really appreciate them. I obviously have more than one set of grandparents. All my grandparents do a lot for me. If I was to move anywhere else, I would not be surrounded by family like I am.
When I was younger, my mom was a schoolteacher’s aide, and then she also worked for my grandparents. She still does accounting for my grandparents. My dad and my mom got divorced when I was little, and he ventured his own way. He owns a swimming pool business, as well. Surprisingly, they are not rivals, even though it’s a small town. He does more of in ground, and we do more of above ground. We actually help each other out.
The most difficult thing I had to go through was when [they] divorced. My dad had to sign his rights over to me, (struggles with tears) so I got adopted. I did not meet my dad and really get to know him until I was eighteen years old. That’s definitely the most difficult thing.
He was [always] on the outside. He would come to my softball games, and he would be out there, and I didn’t know he was there, but he was. We’re very close [now] He lives ten minutes up the road. He loves [my son] who is his pride and joy. This little boy is definitely blessed with a lot of grandparents!
[My mom] works with me out here every single day. I don’t know one hundred percent what happened there, but I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason. So there’s a reason.
I might be a redneck or hillbilly, in my view, but it’s not what everybody else thinks. We wear shoes. We have teeth. We have big hearts. There might be rednecks in this world that live a different life than we do, but I’m sure they still have a big heart. They’re still normal people. A lot of people just don’t think we’re normal.
[I considered leaving] at one point. I went to Ohio University for electronic media and I would have had to travel to Huntington, which is like forty-five minutes, if I really wanted to work for a news station. A lot of people in this area, even me, say, ‘this town is a crap hole. I want to get away.’ As soon I got out of high school, I tried to stay around, and some part of me wanted to go. I moved to Lexington, which is only two hours away, but it’s a city. I had a contract for twelve months to stay there in my apartment, and I stayed there nine. My grandparents offered for me to come work for them, and I knew that I needed to be here for them.
I feel like they need me, and I really just couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. What I would tell other people is if you want to come somewhere where you know you can get to know everybody and be welcomed, this is the place to be. You can go anywhere and know everybody, and that’s what I like about it. You can even go uptown, which is Ashland. It’s like twenty minutes away. It’s considered kind of a city around here. But, you normally know a lot of people there, too.
At one point, I had a bigger dream. When I visited New York for the first time, I had this weird thing, like I wanted to move there. I [literally] just went there, and I wanted move. I couldn’t ever do it. Even when I was pretending that I want to move, I could never do it.
I’ve been outside the United States. I’ve been very blessed with being able to travel. My grandparents have always wanted me to see the world. I’ve been to all kinds of places, Mexico, all down in the Caribbean but I really love just traveling the U.S. There are so many beautiful places that nobody has even seen. I like to kayak. That’s kind of my thing lately. You can see places [kayaking] that people don’t see every day.
I do love to travel, but I always want to come back home. Even though I do like to see everything, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else, and not being able to come back. I’ve got a lot of family here. I have a really big group of friends, and instead of friends, they’re more like family. If I were anywhere else, I definitely wouldn’t have that.
My happiest time is definitely him. (Hugs her son). I was young when I had him. Not real young, I wasn’t sixteen or anything, I was twenty-three, but to a lot of people that is young. In this area, it’s not, but I feel like in bigger cities, people have bigger dreams other than just having a kid, but my dream was to have a kid, and to experience life with him. His name is Holden Buckler. He’s three years old. [My husband] works as a merchandiser for Pepsi.
There’s always these people who make it really, really big. You wonder how they got there. Some people just fall into place there. You wonder, ‘Why why can’t I do that? Why am I not special?’ I just want people to know me as a good person. I don’t want to be a drama starter, or anything like that. I don’t feel like I am, but you never know what other people think of you. I just want to be a good person for my son, and my family.
I’ll live here all my life. I can’t see raising him anywhere else. I don’t want him to depend on video games, or electronics, or staying inside all the time. Where we live, he can pretty much go outside and play, and me not have to keep an eye on him 24/7. I just can’t imagine him not being able to go outside and play. Another thing I really like about this area, compared to a city life is I really enjoy hunting. I think it’s something that we need to enjoy and experience. We depend on a lot of people to survive. I don’t know if the time actually came where we had to depend on ourselves to survive, a lot of people could do it. There’s all kinds of things to learn about being able to survive on your own, but I feel like if that time ever came, I could actually do it. I wouldn’t be afraid to take my gun and do what I had to do to survive. I wouldn’t want to kill anybody else, but I’m talking about food-wise.
I couldn’t imagine killing another person. I feel like in a city they wouldn’t be afraid to kill others to survive. Around here, we would come together and help each other to do what we had to do. We would start our own little tribe maybe, and one person go out and hunt for the day. My great grandparents had a farm and they raised their own food. They did what they had to do to live day-to-day, and that’s kind of what we’re doing here. We aren’t making it big. We aren’t rich, but we do what we have to do to get by and make it the best for our family.
I like photography. I own a small photography business. It’s not nothing major. I really like portrait photography and I also like to photograph nature; anything that the eye sees. I don’t want to have a fake view of life; I like what real life is. Kind of like what you all [Humans of Central Appalachia] are doing here.
My grandfather’s dad was a guitar builder, and then my grandpa built guitars. My grandfather, he built a guitar, and I don’t know if you know who Keith Whitley is, [but] he sold Keith Whitley one of his first guitars. He lives just down the road from me. I’m very musically uninclined. (Laughs) Something skipped a generation with me. I don’t know if that was part of not being raised around that part of my family, but my dad, my brother, even my sister, they all could do it. I just can’t learn. Maybe one day it will hit me, but at least I’m surrounded by it. I really enjoy going and sitting by the campfire and listening to my family play music. Mainly country, bluegrass, and the old stuff. Nothing new.
People tell their stories by music, and it comes from the heart. [Guitars are beautiful] They are. They put their heart and soul into it. My grandfather has several that he has built. I’m sure one day one of them will get passed down to me. My great-grandfather worked with several famous people. There’s a lot of people in this area know of him, Charlie Parsons. And then my grandfather just took it along. He had a little store right by his house that he would build and sell guitars. He does it now, but he don’t have a store, it’s just kind of by word. Somebody says, ‘Oh, yeah, Mike Parsons, he builds guitars.’ They know who they’re talking about, and they go to him. Even my dad, he knows how to do all that.
I hope [my son] will learn to play. He really enjoys it. He was playing this morning. He don’t know nothing, but he just pretends and plays, and I guess that’s where it all starts.”