Elizabeth Ramey

Elizabeth Ramey, Stay-At-Home Mom; Clintwood, Virginia:

“[I have] lived in Clintwood all my life, right here actually. I am twenty-eight years old; I’ll be twenty-nine in September. I think it was wonderful [growing up here]. Mamaw had a little beauty shop in her house right here, and I would sit there while I was little and while she was doing the women’s hair I would sit there and do the men’s hair. They were patient with me. They let me roll their hair and everything. When I got a little bit older, sun’d come up and hit the woods and I’d come home around dusk and Mamaw would never worry about me. Now, I’m too afraid to let my kids do that. We knew what we could do and what we couldn’t do. We knew how far was too far to go and when we was supposed to come home.

There was a little underground spring that we used to go get water from. We’d go fill little bottles up and my mom used to take me. There’s a few huge rocks and we’d climb them. We’d play in the creeks and watch the animals. That’s what we loved to do.

[After graduating high school] I got married and started having babies. I have four, three boys and a girl. Joey he’s my oldest, he’s ten. He’s shy, but he is a really good kid. He started football this year. That’s exciting for us. Mickey, he just turned nine. He likes basketball; he loves to play games, video games and stuff. Joey is more out-doorsy. Jeremey, he just turned seven not long ago, and he is the baby boy of the family. He gets babied a little bit. He is into a little bit of everything. And then my little girl, she is four. Her name is AloraBeth. She’s named after our great-grandmas. Their names are Alora but they called them Alory. I tacked my name on the end of it there. I’ve truly been blessed with four amazing children, they couldn’t have been better.

My hobbies are mainly my kids, football mom, basketball mom whatever they want to do, I am into. I go with them and do what they want to do. My husband, he plays the guitar a little bit, I do enjoy to sing, but I don’t do that a lot in front of people. I like to hike and stuff.

This is my home. I couldn’t imagine living in a city. People around here, everybody waves at one another. It’s changed a little, but you still don’t worry about your kids as much as you would if you go to a city. 

I went and stayed in Alexandria, Virginia with my aunt for a couple of weeks whenever I was younger. My two weeks were up, and I was begging Mamaw to come and get me, I missed my mountains. She come and got me and brought me home. I don’t really have a desire to leave the mountains. [When I saw the mountains] I was so excited and thankful to be home. Here, everybody knows everybody…up there you, go into a grocery store and there’s such a diversity of people and language, and language is a barrier up there for a lot of people. It was strange for me. 

[69th Annual Dutton Memorial] This is our dinner on the ground. This is our memorial meetin’. I’ve been coming here ever since I was born. Also, it’s kind of like a family reunion for us, because our family comes in. It’s a blessing to be able to do this. I know that a lot of people don’t get to experience this. It’s sad, because I grew up with this. All of our cousins would come, we would always play like they was talking about, you know, even as kids. While we was playing we could still hear the preaching and we still heard the Word and everything. 

[Dinner on the grounds is] a time for family and friends to come together and hear the word of God, and everybody brings a dish. After the singing and the preaching, you sit down and you pray over your food, and you eat your food, you sit there and you just have friendship, and you have all of these people to talk to. It’s held right here on Wildcat Ridge [at the Dutton Cemetery]. It is our family cemetery and there’s nothing like it. I can’t explain what a wonderful time it is for everybody, and we all look forward to it every year.

[Media portrayal] Well I guess they see us as old hillbillies that don’t know much. You can be a hillbilly and know more than they know sometimes. I guess they would have to come here and actually spend time with us and see how we are before they would ever understand what it’s like. We are talking, come stay a week with somebody, two weeks, a month and see that we’re not all crazy hillbillies and that we live life to the fullest that we can. 

We know how to treat one another. We treat everybody the way that we want to be treated, or we try. There’s nobody afraid to help somebody else. We know who God is. We are God fearin’ people, most of us. We know how to enjoy life and enjoy outdoors and be appreciative of it all. A lot of people don’t appreciate what’s right in front of [them]. Everybody is too busy on their cell phone, which I myself have a problem with that sometimes, but it’s good to get out and in the open, and breathe fresh air and have fun.

I think that that is very important. I think that’s important for my kids. I’m glad I live in a small town so that everybody knows everybody so I feel safe, and I feel that my kids are safe for the most part. I like that, I like them being able to do that and have their little friends.

[Passed down traits] My great-grandmother taught me how to smell the rain before it came. It’s so hard to explain, but whenever I was little, right before it would rain she’d say, ‘Can you smell that? That’s the rain, can you smell the rain?’ I recently passed that on to my oldest boy. He’s learned how to smell the rain, and that just tickles me to death. Right before it rains, the leaves turn up and they are a lighter color on the bottom, and she’d say that that was the trees begging for rain and that they needed water. She also taught me to play the pie pan.

She would sit on the porch and she would sing ‘Te I da diddle, Te I da day, Te I da diddle I day, Te I da diddle, Te I da diddle, Te I da diddle I day.’ Little sayings, there was one, I can’t remember exactly how it went --- something about ‘left Old Joe the bone.’ And then there was a ‘frog on a knot, a knot on a log, a log in the hole in a wall on the bottom of the sea.’

My Uncle Tennell, he had a little stickman, and he would put a flat stick under his leg, and the little man was on another stick and he would put the feet on the thing and he would tap it and the little man, he would dance. Oh, that was incredible for us as kids, that was our entertainment. The love of music and the love of God was passed down from generation to generation.

Cooking is another thing [that’s] been passed down. [Appalachian Food] They ain’t nothing like it. It’s the best stuff in the world. Pickled pig ears! My grandma used to love those, pigs feet or pig ears. It is definitely an acquired taste, that is. Cornbread is definitely one of my favorites. My grandma always used to throw just a pinch of salt and sugar in her cornbread. Flitters, and salad. 

We grow our own lettuce and onions and everything. That’s wonderful. There ain’t nothing like growing your own food. [Perfect comfort meal] My grandmother’s tater gravy. It’s the best stuff I’ve ate. Oh, it’s the best stuff ever was. We went on our Senior Field Trip whenever I was in school and I called her a few hours before I got home and was like “I want some tater gravy, fix me some tater gravy.” And she had it waiting on me when I got home. It’s the best stuff ever was. You take milk and butter and your boil your potatoes in it and you mash some of them up not all of them you know, and you take a mixture of oil and flour and you mix that up until it gets the right thickness. I like cornbread in mine. But yeah, that’s one of my favorites is potato gravy and I like my grandpaw’s potato soup, too. He makes some good potato soup.

I’m a hillbilly and I am proud of it. It’s my heritage. It’s who I am. I love my mountains, I love my home. I love my people. I can go stay in the woods all day long and it don’t bother me. We take our kids hiking; we took them to Bad Branch to the waterfalls not long ago. If you go off the point back here, you can go all the way to Crane’s Nest boat dock, on the opposite side of the boat dock. 

My husband he likes to hunt, and he takes the boys when they want to go. They enjoy stuff like that. My oldest loves huntin’. My second boy, he don’t much like huntin’ but he loves to go ginsenging. He likes to go look for that ginseng. My little boy he‘s too much into them video games right now. I have never been really one to [ginseng]. My husband he does it, occasionally, not a whole lot. It’s just a plant that grows in the ground. You go looking for it, you dig it, it’s a root. You bring it and you dry it out, and you take it and go sell it. It’s pretty good money in it, if you find enough of it.

The passing of my great aunt, my nanny we called her, was one of the hardest things I have ever been through; and then the passing of my uncle. I called him Dad a lot. He was like a second dad to me. They were both very special to me. 

My nanny, she couldn’t really talk plain, and she couldn’t walk very good. Some people would say that she was handicapped. She taught us how to love. Now, she taught me what it is to love and what it is to be happy no matter what. She was special, Oh Lord! She was something else. 

She taught us how to smile no matter what. She had multiple surgeries and she had cancer, and not a day went by that she didn’t smile and laugh at us and make us happy no matter what she was going through. It takes a special person to be able to show people that and teach people that. 

Sammy, my second daddy, now he was the one that taught me to shoot a BB gun. That’s where I actually learned how to shoot. That’s something I hold very dear to my heart. I can shoot just about as good as my husband, if not better, occasionally. I don’t think he’ll admit that, but I’m a pretty good shot when I want to be. He would always take me sleigh riding in the winter. We’d go right down this big hill. Oh Lord, that was the best time. He would always have a great big fire in the garage for me and something to eat and drink. And fried flitters! Ohhh, Bonita, my second mommy, she’d have fried flitters all the time for me. It’s like a pancake but it’s also like cornbread. Oh my God, they’re wonderful. Put a little syrup on ‘em.

Lord have mercy, there’s so many [happy times]; being with the family, family reunions. Great-grandmaw’s birthday party was always a big thing. Having our cousins and our family close together mainly on the holidays and birthdays. My grandmother had, I think it was her one- hundredth birthday, down here, and you wouldn’t believe the family that was there, at least a hundred of us, easy to celebrate birthdays. So, family, being together with family, anytime that family can actually come together. That’s my most cherished memories.

My dad, he works at B & K Collision on Caney Ridge. He has been an auto body man as long as I can remember. Good man, good heart, he’s my daddy. Love him better than anything. I think that what I know a little bit about vehicles is from my Dad. If it hadn’t been for him, I probably wouldn’t know much about them. 

My mom she is a hard worker, a good woman. Right now she has been living in Surfside, Texas, working down in there and she is fixin’ to move to South Carolina and start a new job. She goes out and she works these jobs and she makes good money. She does it for us. She does it, and she helps take care of us. If we ever need anything, she is there to help us with it.

They had a rocky marriage, and loved each other and me and my sister better than anything [but they are divorced]. I can’t complain, we have been blessed with good family. My Dad has remarried, she’s nice, and I like her. She is good to me and my kids. Can’t ask for no better than that. I have two step-sisters which they have kids of their own now so that is nice. We’re still working on play dates; they are still pretty small compared to mine. Mine can be a little rambunctious.

(What Appalachia is about) Family, friends, closeness, it’s hard to explain. Heritage. Just knowing who you are really. You get to know who you are here. You get to live a life where you can find yourself and who you are and be close to your friends and family. 

It’s not all about work, and what you can do to make money. It’s enjoying your life and your friends and family and workin’ hard to make a living.“