Danny Dorsey

Danny Dorsey, disabled truck driver, photographer, originally from Princeton, West Virginia, has lived in Bristol, Tennessee since the age of seven:

“My dad’s job transfer [brought us to Bristol, Tennessee]. He was a milk manager for Flav-o-Rich Dairy. 

My grandfather died in the mines. I never got to meet him. He died when I was probably three months old, so I never knew him. I was too young to remember. We just never got to talk much about it. I had three cousins that worked in the mines. All of them are retired. I had a lot of family from West Virginia work in the mines. They grew up in a very rural part of West Virginia, and that was all that was available. 

I graduated from Tennessee High School. [My childhood years] were great. We spent a lot of time at the lake, instead of school. It was good. 
We did a lot of stuff with sports, and stayed pretty busy. My dad was a mountain guy. We hunted, fished, camped, every day it was possible. 
[It was] very laid back. Just living in the mountains, doesn’t get any better. The love of the mountains. The love of the people. 

I drove a truck for thirty-five years. I started the minute I got out of high school, and never looked back, which was a mistake, but I learned a lot. Made good money, and I was out of the area. 

I drove with the best group of guys, and we always tried to trick each other. I was in the sleeper one night sound asleep. A buddy of mine had a truck that was real high, and he pulled up and shined floodlights in my sleeper, and he had a train engine horn on his truck. So when he blew the horn, I woke up, stuck my head out of the sleeper, and thought I was getting ready to be nailed by a train. I dove headfirst out of my truck, and he was sitting there, just dying laughing. 

I’ve hauled gasoline. I’ve hauled everything imaginable, except explosives. I didn’t want to get into that. I traveled all over. And then, I finally came home, and went local. 

Coming home, [I] was at peace, because you were in a rat race, flat lands, nothing, cornfields for miles. I couldn’t stand it [in the cities]. I like the quietness. I like being out. I like just waking up, and not hearing traffic. Horns blowing. People screaming. 

And then when you come home, and topped the mountains, and you see it, it’s like coming home all over again, every trip. That’s what I live for. 
[In Appalachia] the biggest thing is the friendliness. Nobody meets a stranger [and] for the most part, everybody’s friends. I think it’s really a special breed of people. It’s different to a lot of other people, but they don’t understand the culture. I mean it’s just a way of life. 

The variety of people, all the different stuff people do. You take people that have so many different talents. Like in the art industry, they’re from one end of the spectrum to the other. I just like the way people take small stuff, and make huge things. 

I sing some. I listen to music. I love music. Music is my getaway from all the stresses of life. It’s a huge part [of the culture]. I think that’s what built this area. All the different types of music, I mean, it’s anything from bluegrass, country, rock and roll, gospel. You’ve got it all. 

[Outside media portrayal] I know they’re missing the boat on a lot of stuff. The beauty, what God’s created, living right in the middle of it. We take a lot of it for granted, and then when you go away, and you come back, you really appreciate it.

Come down here, and live for six months, and let you see the difference. They think we’re just dumb hillbillies, that can’t do anything, that don’t know anything. They don’t understand, what all is available here. 

I say Appalachia. [When you hear ‘Appa-layshia] Well, that’s when you go, ‘And they call us hillbillies?’ (Laughs).

(Are you a hillbilly?) I guess I am. [A hillbilly is] somebody that loves the mountains, lives off the mountains, enjoys being in the mountains 24/7. Capturing what God’s made. 

I think we need to provide more for the younger generations. People are moving for the money, and we need to somehow work on getting the money back in here. I don’t know where you start. We’ve got to get the pay increased. To keep people here, we’ve got to provide more opportunities, and that’s going to be up to our government. 

I do photography. I’m trying to capture what I see, and I want everybody to see what I see. I do a lot of landscape photography. I also do people. I travel Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, just wherever I need to go. 

The perfect shot? I haven’t found it yet. I’m still looking. I just want people to see, like early morning. A lot of people never see that. I’ve got friends that are handicapped, that can’t go [out in nature]. I just want to show them what’s out there, that they can’t get to.”