Bobby Ramey, HVAC Technician, ; Wildcat Ridge, Clintwood, Virginia:
“I have lived here in the mountains all my life. I was raised on Rose Ridge, a neat little place. It was peaceful. I stayed in the woods and beat on the trees with sticks pretty much. Of course, I went to school and all that good stuff.
I was always interested in nature though. It’s where I spent ninety percent of my time; either hunting or something like that. I love turkey hunting. Spring turkey season is one thing I really enjoy. She [wife, Elizabeth Ramey] gives me an out of jail free card to go turkey hunting.
I play a guitar, which that is a common thing for our area. If you don’t at least have a guitar, or have picked one up at some point in time, you really ain’t from around here. [My music] is just soft stuff that I’ve come up with, country and southern rock, stuff like that. I just picked up the guitar and started playing one day. I was sixteen.
My boss, he plays and we get together ever now and then and just pick around and play a little bit. It’s usually a Friday evening thing. I love it, its [playing music] peaceful. You don’t have to worry about what you’ve [got] to do tomorrow, or what you done yesterday. It’s there in that one moment playing.
I don’t get to play as much as what I used to whenever I was younger. I’ve got a large family to take care of. My wife, she is stay at home, so I try to do everything I can. I don’t have too much free time.
I went to Ervington High School, a very small school. It’s shut down now. It was an amazing school though. If you needed help, you got help. There might have been only twenty-two people in your graduating class, but it was good.
I worked from ninth grade on. I worked for Big Al at 83 Gas and Grocery, so I pumped gas after school and on the weekends until about eleventh grade or so, and then I started working for an auditing company. I worked there on the weekends.
I was working on heavy equipment and I wasn’t getting paid for my overtime. I had known Eric [his boss] for several years. We’re neighbors, pretty much. I was talking to him one day and he said, ‘I’ll show you, come with me.’ I have been working for him for about four years now. I have on the job training. You can read about something all day long, but hands-on is a whole different story. You see it firsthand. I love the electrical side of it. I have been shocked several times so… I enjoy it though. You meet a lot of good people. You’re not doing a lot of the same stuff every day.
My sister, she was born in Colorado, so my mom was over there for a little while. My step-dad, he’s from Michigan. I really didn’t know my own dad very well. They divorced when I was really young. My step-dad raised me. His name is Doug Rose. He drives an oil truck for 83 Gas and Grocery, and that’s how I got my first job.
Alka Mae Bosquette was my grandmother on my mom’s side, or Mae Rose, whichever you prefer. She was a tough little lady. I remember she used to go bar hopping, she did, and she was like seventy something. But she always would carry this little knife with her and she was getting ready to go bar hopping one night and she had that knife down the side of the couch. Somehow, it had opened and she sat right down on it. My brother reached up and pulled it out of her back.
She had every bone in her body broken at one point and time [from a] bad relationship that was the French side. That’s where you get Bosquette. That was way before I came into the world. She was a wonderful lady though. She passed away of aspiration on the way to the hospital.
The papaw that I called papaw was actually my step-dad’s dad. Enos Rose. He was a tough booger. Always went shirtless everywhere he went. That was my go-to person. You know you have someone when you are little that always does something with you? He always helped me out. I helped him in the garden and I would go to the store with him everywhere. I got his 12 gauge, which I‘ve got it at mom’s put up. It means a lot to me. I never did get to go hunting and fishing with him. He retired from the Ford Motor Company. He was from Detroit also. Which there was a lot of people that come from Detroit. They had roots here.
I had a very good childhood. I didn’t have to worry about people bringing guns to school and stuff like that. [They taught me to] respect your elders and work hard. That’s why I got a job young. My step-dad told me, ‘if you ever want anything you’d better go get it.’ So I jumped right on that ball.
[I see myself] living here the rest of my life. I lived in Greensboro and Durham and Raleigh in North Carolina. That wasn’t my home. I was nineteen and twenty. Whenever I worked for the auditing company that’s where they had me at. I was in and out of there for about six years. I got to see the city life and I don’t fit in there. I’m just a country boy. I got to come home for one week out of the month and then I’d go back down.
But getting down there and out of the mountains, it’s not right. It’s not natural for me. [When I would come home] and I would see the mountains, it gives you a fluttery feeling. There’s nothing like coming home.
A lot of people, they’ll leave out of here and ninety percent of them always come back. There’s just nothing like this, you don’t have to worry about the hustle and bustle or what the person behind you is going to do to you if you say ‘hi’ or something like that.
(What is Appalachian culture?) The way we think. The way we act. To me, we are more outspoken than others. We’ll speak our mind. We’ll tell people you know, well hey, I think that’s right or I think that’s wrong. Other people around our area will respect that.
[Coal] is where a lot of people around here got their money. I’m worried that this is going to just be a little ghost town now and plus, they’re coming in with a new highway and it’s going to by-pass Clintwood. If you ain’t got nothing here, the closest Walmart is what, twenty-five miles away? It just makes me worry about our area, I guess.
You have your local shops, they don’t want nothing big to come in, like Walmart or Lowe’s or anything like that. So it’s kinda like a win/lose situation. If you bring somebody in, you’re going to lose all your local businesses. Those are businesses that have been around for years, ever since I was little. If you don’t, what’s going to happen? So what do you do?
Tourism is a possibility because we are in the mountains, and some people do like to get out and hike. They are working on some trails and stuff around here, which is a good thing. Horseback riding, that’s a big thing around here. Getting people to travel here is the thing, though. If there is nothing here, why would you want to put forth all of the effort to get here to see nothing? You have to drive two hours away to get to do something.
[Media portrayal] They‘ve the wrong point of view, which everybody has one. To me, they think that we are just a bunch of coal miners. It’s hard to put into words. I wish they could live here for a day and walk [in] some of our shoes and see what it’s like. What would I tell them if I could? We are hard workers that’s for sure. We are very proud Southerners. We love our heritage. Coal keeps the lights on, you know.
I’m a hillbilly. To me, it means that I’m a hard worker, I enjoy life. I don’t care about what other people think about me, that’s for sure. We grow our own food. Papaw’s got a big garden back here. I hunt. I fish. Don’t ride planes. I talk to everybody I see. I wave at my neighbors and help them any way I can. To me that’s a hillbilly.
And of course my accent. That’s a bonus I guess.”