Rick Crawford, Retired Welder, Currently A Civil War Reenactor; Middlesboro, Kentucky, Born and Bred:
“I couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else. I’m definitely not a city person. [There’s] nowhere I like as good as the mountains.
I am retired, and I do blacksmithing for the regimental, for the 37th Virginia, 63rd Tennessee, 23rd Tennessee, 19th South Carolina. We do re-enactments of the Civil War. This is my first year as a regimental blacksmith, and I’ve been assistant regimental blacksmith for seven years. I am a certified welder, and welding ain’t nothing but modern day blacksmithing. When you can take a small piece of metal and make anything you want to out of it, that’s what I like about it.
My grandfather was a retired coal miner. He was crushed in 1936 in Appalachia, Virginia. He about died from it, and [he suffered] the rest of his life. One of the roof bolts gave away and it tumbled down on top of him. I’ve been in the mine. I went almost a hundred foot inside the mine with one of my cousins on one of the carts one day. I said, “Nah, God didn’t make me a gopher. Take me back.”
My mom is from a place called Appalachia, Virginia. [In] The movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” the house that Loretta Lynn grew up in was the house that my Mom was raised in. [In] the movie when Doolittle Lynn is driving the Jeep up the coal slate [that] was in Appalachia right there, right in front of my aunt’s front door.
Appalachian people [are] just a different breed. Even if we don’t know each other, we’re friends. Even if we don’t know each other, then somewhere down the line we’re probably kinfolk. And it’s just a different atmosphere than what it is up north. And it’s always been that way. We’re just so much more laid back. Sociable. Easy going. More than what northerners are.
And I say northerners not wanting to say what I’d normally say. No, I’m going to go ahead and say it. I tell my wife, who was born in Sidney, Ohio, there’s two types of Yankees. There’s a Yankee, and there’s a damn Yankee. A Yankee is one that comes around, and looks around and goes back. A damn Yankee is one that comes down here and stays. Now, she was born in Sidney, Ohio so that classifies her as a Yankee. And since she’s still here, I guess that classifies her as a damn Yankee.
I was working at a nursing home as a CNA, and one of her friend’s husbands worked with me and I think they just tried to pawn her off on me. They kept telling me about her and telling me about her. And then one day, I’m mowing grass and they pull up about 500 foot away. She gets out, and they leave. And I said well let’s go out and eat. About six months later, we were getting married. We’re working on our 25th year.
There’s been times it’s hard when you have to pay your bills and every thing, money gets kind of sparse and it’s hard to live and eat. But the good thing is, we live in the Appalachian Mountains. A 12-gauge shotgun [and] you’ve got supper on the table whether you got money or not. I love hunting. I cannot remember not going hunting and I got a 24-year-old son and he couldn’t hit a side of a red barn painted blue.
I used to walk out of the house with a 410 or a 12-gauge across my shoulder as a little punk and hit the woods. If they seen a kid walk out of the house now with a shotgun you got to believe there’s going to be a cop behind him. But you know, 40 years ago people didn’t think about that.
[A few years ago, a tornado touched down in Middlesboro, Kentucky] When it came through, I was sitting in the field hugging a goat. I couldn’t get all my goats in the barn in time, and I was actually in the field hugging a goat when it came down. It picked up a car in front of my mom and dad’s house, spinned it around in a circle, and put it nose first in a ditch. The church we got married in was rebuilt because the tornado demolished it. It hurt town down a bit because it destroyed a lot of businesses, but it didn’t take long to bounce back.
When it [the tornado] got inside Middlesboro, it just bounced around and then found the gap and went across the gap. Honestly, I had heard in movies and stuff about how it sounded, and let me tell you, a tornado actually sounds like a locomotive coming through the woods. It was just like something big coming through knocking trees down, breaking them and stuff and it scared me. Didn’t hurt me a bit. It killed one woman, and permanently injured her son.
I just sat there and held the goat. I wasn’t smart enough to get under the bridge, I guess. Close enough I could see it, but not close enough. It came down within 15 feet of my mom and dad’s house and never touched it. It was just like God took his hand and guided it where he wanted it to go. And that’s exactly how it done.
[When asked about Middlesboro’s native son, actor Lee Majors] Actually my aunt dated him in high school. I’m not really a Lee Majors fan anyhow. I used to be when he was on “The Big Valley” but [the] “Six Million Dollar Man” just kind of killed me out on him. That was all I wanted of him right there.
Hillbilly doesn’t insult me a bit. I’m proud to be a hillbilly. I’m proud to be a gully jumper. A bushwhacker or anything else you want to call me. Just don’t call me late for supper. There’s nothing any sweeter than a good jug of moonshine. I’m a hillbilly born and bred. So it doesn’t offend me a bit.
My daughter goes to the hospital in St. Louis, Missouri and they call it Appal-ay-sha. And I’m like, I don’t know where you’re talking about, because I’m from Apple-at-cha. One day, they said, so you’re from Florida? And I said, no I’m from the mountains. But I don’t know what the meaning of that word [Appal-ay-sha] is. It’s just not right.
To help the economy around here, we got to get some people in our cities and in our county government offices that actually want to do something. Because, until these mountain regions around here change, and they want to change, it ain’t going to change. We’ve depended on coal for so long and now that we can’t depend on it as much as we used to, we’ve got nothing to fall back on.
If you’re not from here, you’re not going to understand us. And if you understand us, you better stay here.”