Chadwick Maxwell Atkinson, Student; Beckley, West Virginia:
“I live in Beckley, West Virginia. I was born in Newport News, Virginia. My Dad was in the military. My family is originally from West Virginia. I was in second grade when my family moved back.
[I like living] in West Virginia. I like the people, and the area. I enjoy playing in the mountains, the creeks. I like camping on the riverbank, fishing, catching crawdads, worms and all that. I hang out with my grandpa a lot. My grandpa has taught me a lot. He has taught me how to fish, the footprints of the animals to look for, how to know if the deer is a doe or buck and how to take apart a car. I know a bear footprint, a coon, a deer, lizard and snakes, stuff like that.
Me and my grandpa and uncles go to a little pond that nobody knows about, but us. We catch bait, enough to put on a trout line. A trout line is like a rope across the New River, and you put bait on it and it catches fish with hooks. [I just got back from a fishing trip three days ago.] We caught two muddy cats and a channel cat. We have also caught turtles.
[What makes this area special?] The mountains, the rivers and the people. Some of them are pretty nice. They help you find anywhere, they pull over for funerals, and they take their hats off when somebody dies. They care for you.
I do kinda [consider myself a hillbilly.] I like the woods a lot. I would rather be in the woods than in the city.
My dad was a military dad. He was always fighting for this country. He was giving his life up for his country. It makes me feel proud of my dad. He did get hurt and [had to take disability]. Fighting for this country means [possibly] giving your own life up for someone else’s family, so we can live free. [Being free] is doing what you please without being under rule.
[I won’t go into the military because] I feel better in the woods and in the creeks and in the river. [My job] will probably have something to do with the woods, probably a Park Ranger or something.
I have one sister that is younger than me, and one brother older than me. He is sixteen. We get along sometimes, he plays jokes on me. During school time, he wakes me up early like at midnight and he says, ‘get ready to go to school.’ I dump water on him to get back at him.
I probably will always live in West Virginia. I will probably move off to go to college and then move back.
I am aware that people from away from here make fun of us. I feel they don’t know how our ancestors actually lived. History is really important to West Virginians and Virginians and all that. My grandpa is passing down to me a way to live, the way to hunt, the way to build and help yourself to live off the land. My dad is passing down to me survival skills like which tree bark can you eat, how old does a plant have to be before you can eat ‘em and which berries.
The funniest thing that has ever happened to me was when I was a little kid. My grandpa told me there was moth man and cannibals at his house and probably Slim. That’s a ghost in my grandpa’s house, his name is Slim. Well my mom’s uncles went to bed at night and they saw a man in the bed and another one that said ‘help me.” I still see faces in there now at night.
[I would tell kids who don’t live here] in West Virginia you basically don’t have rules in the wild. You can play in the creeks, you can dig up worms, you can build anything you want. You can have fun.
I have lived almost everywhere; Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Virginia but I consider West Virginia home.”