Dakota Green, Unemployed; Cowan, Kentucky:
“I live up on Cowan. I’m eighteen. Right now, I’m trying to get a job up at Pine Mountain Lumber. I have a four-month-old baby. Her name is Chloe, and right now I’m just trying to find work around here to support her. I just recently resigned from McDonald’s ‘cause it didn’t pay too much.
Growing up, I lived up on Buck Creek. It’s a little, small holler over in Colson. I used to go up in the mountain, go berry picking with my papaw. Just normal, everyday stuff --- hunting, fishing, four-wheeler riding.
I was with my friends one time and we were just hanging out. It came a real bad snow that night. They told me to go to one of their buddy’s house, and get something for them. My buddy, Donny, and me we hopped in my truck, and it’s a two-wheel drive, and it don’t really go good in the snow. It was when I was a little bit dumber. But we went up there, and I pulled in his driveway. I let him out. When he got back, I was going to back up in his driveway, and next thing I know, my truck started sliding. I was cliff hanging on two tires, just about went over the mountain. I told my buddies, ‘You’re going to have to come up here, and get me out.’ We stayed up there for about an hour, trying to get my truck to go somewhere. Well, finally, we ran across somebody, and they helped push it. They had to put their legs against the tree, just to push it out. That was a time right there.
I’ve lived here all my life. I just enjoyed my time being in here in the mountains. A lot of people say there ain’t much to do around here, but if you know the right people, you’ll find that there’s a lot of stories up in these mountains. It’ll shock you. It’ll surprise you.
The way I see it, there ain’t nothing like family around here, especially in a small town like Whitesburg. I mean that’s all family to me. That’s all I’ve ever had growing up was family and friends.
I play guitar. I’ve done it, since I was seven years old. My daddy played in a band. He lives in Georgia. I was born there, but I was raised here all my life. He was in a singing group, him and my mom, at our old church. They picked and sang, and I’d always have a little guitar and I’d pick and play with ‘em. I never really could play. Finally, he taught me how to play, taught me what frets are, and taught me exactly how to do it right.
Now, I’m trying to get a little band going. [I play] mostly Bluegrass. It’s just soothing. I like sitting out on the porch, [and] listening to Bluegrass really calms me. It’s just something I’ve always been interested in. Bluegrass and Gospel. My grandparents never really played music. It’s always just been my dad and my mom, but I’ve had inspirations over the years. I used to be into a lot of rock bands. AC/DC was one of my all time favorites. Angus Young, he’s another one of my inspirations, other than my dad, that inspired me to play guitar.
(Passed down traditions) Just learning things over the years, like things that my dad taught me, and things that my papaw taught me, like how to spot danger when you see it, and how to fix things. All my life I’ve been working on things. Working on vehicles, houses, repairing things here and there.
(In response to hillbilly question.) Yeah. In my opinion, I just think it’s someone who really loves these mountains. Someone who lives up in here, and wants to be here, and die here. Someone who don’t really enjoy the city. Someone who just loves being here. It’s peaceful, and it’s quiet, and it’s not really a lot of trouble.
The hardest time that I’ve ever had was when I moved back to Georgia. It was my fifth grade year. I just completed it, [and] was about to be in the sixth grade. We moved back to Georgia, my mom, and me and we moved in with my dad. That right there was probably one of the roughest times I’ve had, because he didn’t have a job.
Well, actually he had a job. He just didn’t really work much. We didn’t have much. We struggled. It was hot, and we were real poor. We lived in a trailer park, and we had to walk down to my aunt’s house to take a shower, and that was about a mile up the road. By the time we got back home, we were already dirty and sweaty. It was rough, but we somehow made it.
The greatest time in my life was when I met the right girl. Started hanging with the right crowd. Started going to church. I just changed my life. I accepted Jesus Christ in my heart. It was just happy for me, because it just made my life so much better.
Right now, there’s not really many jobs. The coal mines is going out of business, and many people are getting laid off, and a lot of families are losing their homes, and they’re having to move to different parts of the U.S., trying to find jobs. Just moving everywhere.
They’re leaving. They’re leaving the place that they called home, and the places that they’ve grown up in, ran around all their lives, and they love. And, you know, they have to leave it. It ain’t their fault. It’s just real, real hard to find a job around here, but somehow you’ve just got to learn how to survive, I guess.
I’ve been to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and I’ve noticed that, that place is a lot like Whitesburg. Its just got way more stuff, and honestly, I believe that if we can put the same attractions that that’s got in it, then a lot of people will want to come here, and there will be a lot of places to have good jobs, and the city will make more money. I think that’s what we need. Attractions, and just things like that. Get tourism in.
Like I said before, there’s a lot of stories up in these mountains that you can find. And if there’s a way to make it to where more tourists can come check it out, I think a lot of people would be interested in it. You know, they pay good money to see it.
If you go up on Pine Mountain, there’s a place called MARS. That place is beautiful. The overlook is beautiful, looking at all the mountains. It’s a nice, clean environment. A lot of people say they like it.
I’m afraid to see what it’s going to look like [5-10 years]. ‘Cause right now, it don’t really look like it’s getting anywhere. I guess people who own a lot of land are being stingy with it. They don’t want people to buy their property. They don’t really want to put a lot of businesses in. The past twenty years, it’s really gone downhill.
I’d love to see it go somewhere. I’d love to see all those attractions be put in. If there was a way they could that, it would be great. Then, I could see this place really going in a good ten or twenty years, but the way things are going right now, it don’t really look good.
But it’s still beautiful.”