Shaleigh Ryan Lilly

Shaleigh Ryan Lilly, Age 14; Beckley, West Virginia:

“I’ve been living with my grandparents, since I was two. It’s great. I get spoiled. I love that. 

[They have instilled] Christian faith; going to church. Worship. It’s just something we got, [we’re] holding on to. We cook a lot. Oh yeah. Oh, yeah. We cook. I cook fudge a lot. You can’t make fudge on a rainy day. I didn’t know that. 

We make sweets mainly [like] Monkey bread. It’s kind of like cake, and you roll little pieces up in a ball, and then stick ‘em in a pound cake pan, and then you bake them [with] cinnamon caramel sauce, and all that good stuff on it. You take it apart [and] eat it in little pieces. It’s just so good. 

I did dance for a long time, and right now I take piano. I was doing band at school [and] I played xylophone. My grandfather, he can pick up any musical instrument, and just start playing. Anything. 

If you live in the city, you don’t really get to do as much. But when you live in the mountains, you can play around, and be as loud as you want.

My grandparents live in Hinton. We live up on the mountain and there are no streetlights. You just have the light on the four-wheeler, and it’s so much fun to go around. You see deer and bears, a whole bunch of pigs. 

Just go get a four-wheeler, and ride up in the mountains. It’s fun to go mudding, like you splash mud everywhere. Especially when you can’t drive, but you know you can drive a four-wheeler. 

I’ve been coming here [the annual Lilly Family Reunion] as long as I can remember. It’s just a good time to meet family, hang out, and have fun. Honestly, it’s a whole bunch of old people, but just sit down and talk to some of them. They’ll tell you like how they used to come here when they was a kid, and how the old life used to be. All that penny candy. It’s just going around meeting family, telling stories, having a good time. 

When they was younger, they didn’t have, I guess that you’d call them privileges. When my Pawpaw was fourteen, he was driving a car, and going out and about, and doing whatever. I can’t do any of that, but it’s like, back then they [were] young and clueless about things. Now, we’re just more advanced, so it makes things a whole lot different. But either way, it’s still fun. 

(Difference between country life and city life) A kid up in New York, they have malls, and they can go out places. They have a lot more things to do. But out here, we go outside, we kind of make up our own things to do. We can run around. We have the stars. We can see the stars. They can’t see the stars. We just have more freedom, and places to run around. There’s more outdoors activities that we can do, like going to the lake, and going hunting, and fishing. 

We are kind of behind. You know they have taxis, and they have more updated technology. [In] our schools, we all have our own iPads to take home. They probably had that since they first came out. It’s just that we are a little bit behind, I guess you could say. We’re not really as dependent on it. 

I’m planning on going to college here, and then I’m going into the Air Force, so I’ll be deployed around places. But until then, I’m staying here. (Why the Air Force?) All my uncles have been in the military, and they’ll pay for college. [I like the] discipline [and] the history they have behind it.

I want to be in criminal justice [and] do forensics. You know, be like Sherlock Holmes, and solve mysteries. 

My Grandpa’s been to Germany, and England, and Africa, and all around in America, and as far as I’ve been, I’ve been to New York. I want to go out of the country, at least once. I want to go to Amsterdam [for] the history. I want to go see the Anne Frank House.

(Are you a hillbilly?) I don’t know. I’m wearing boots. Do you consider me a hillbilly? (Laughs) It’s no different than anybody else. There are people that are like, ‘Oh, hillbillies, going outside to use the bathroom.’ But, you know, we have a Wal-Mart like everybody else.

Some people see us as people, but others see us as stupid. But you know? They should probably come up here, and see for themselves.

I just want to say I’m living. I’m making it, like everybody else.”