Trecia Short, Full-Time Grandma; Daniels, West Virginia:
“My childhood was not a bad childhood. It had a lot of good stuff, but it was not easy. My childhood was spent with my siblings. There were nine of us all together; I had three sisters and five brothers. I was the older sibling, so I learned real fast how to take care of my younger siblings. It helped us become a lot closer
My dad, he managed Beckley Garbage Disposal that’s in our local town here until he was injured. He was 32, and he was hurt seriously and then he was disabled.
[As kids] We got up in the morning and we were told to go outside and play and come back at dark. And we did! We had a garden and we worked the garden. We raised chickens, pigs, carried coal in for the coal stove, cut wood in the summer so we’d have it in the winter.
We raised chickens to eat and I didn’t normally have to do the duty of choppin’ their head off with a hatchet, but I had to stand there and hold the head while my brother did, and then the chicken would just start flopping everywhere. As a little kid, you see that and it’s very traumatic! Seeing this chicken flopping around and you’re thinking it should be dead but it’s not.
We had guineas, they were really mean. The guineas would just chase us up and down the hill. We went the other way when they came. We lived on top of a hill in a holler, and the nearest house was quite a ways away. I never ate any guineas, but we got their eggs. We used the chickens for the eggs, I always got the eggs every day.
[We also raised] hogs, every year, probably two or three to butcher. My dad would butcher them right there on our table and cut it up and put it in the freezer.
We did not [have a smoke house]. The majority of it [meat] we froze. My dad can can and cook, so he did all the cooking at our house, and taught me and my younger sister all the techniques for cooking, canning and everything. He still cans. Any vegetable, any kind of meat, he would can it. Because who know how long it could last?
For the most part, even though we had hard times, we had fun. We played non-stop outside. We had oak trees in our backyard, so we would gather acorns and you ain’t felt nothing ‘til you’ve been whipped upside the head with an acorn or a cat tail. We would collect those and have huge fights until one of us got hurt and we had to go home.
I was the mama, so we played school and I always had to be the teacher ‘cause I was the oldest one. We did whatever we wanted. We played. We would go up in the woods [and] we would carry buckets of water, if say the creek was running dry, from our spring to the woods where we were at and make mud slides going down with the grape vines that would hang down. And we would just mud slide. In the summer we could do it all day long, but we couldn’t come back dirty—we had to go and rinse off before we could come back in.
My grandfathers died really early on both sides, and my grandmother passed away about 17 years ago. I didn’t get to spend much time with them ‘cause I was young when my granddaddy died so they didn’t really have much to do with us. My granddaddy was holding me on his lap and said, ‘I don’t feel too good,’ went and laid down and didn’t get back up again. He had a heart attack and died. He was young.
High school for me was okay; it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good. Most of the people that went to our high school lived the same way we did, so it wasn’t anything bad. I married the first guy I met and took off and got out!
He [was in the] military. I never thought I’d leave my little town in West Virginia. All [through] growing up, I thought I’d be right here in this little town and I had no perspective for the world. All I knew was my little world. But when I got married, I had this whole new world open up to me; different places, different things.
We went to sign up to the military in a car that had no heat, in about 24 inches of snow. It was our way out. It was the only way out for us. We didn’t have family that was going to put us through school, and we didn’t even have a concept of going to school. It wasn’t pushed to us.
I’ve been to Germany, I’ve been to the Netherlands, I’ve been to France, I’ve been to Mexico… you name it, we got to go. And my children have a perspective of the world. My girls have been to Greece, to London. Things I’ve never dreamed of doing, they’ve gotten to do. That is attributed to my husband.
We’ve lived all over. We lived in Georgia in two different places. We lived in Texas, two different places. My husband was NATO, special troops battalion, so we travelled a lot more than the average military family. He was stationed in the Netherlands, was stationed in Germany and we travelled a lot.
He was communications, so he had a Top Secret SCI clearance… I don’t really know what all he did! He did something! He worked in a bunker under the ground and helped with their signal switches and stuff like that.
I took care of two kids [while he was away]! I worked between 10 and 3 at a glass shop so I could be home in the evenings [after] my kids were in school. And when he was gone, I took care of my kids. Basically for the past, I’d say, since 9/11, I was a single mom. He deployed so many times that my older daughter and him, I have a daughter that’s 27, her and her dad are extremely close. But the little daughter and him are not, because she was a little, tiny girl when he left. When he came back, she was grown up; she was 16, now she’s 18. They’re just not as close. That was really, really hard, but he’s working on that now.
He was an outstanding soldier—he really was. He went into the service, and he excelled at it. I couldn’t be any more proud of him. He has two Bonze Stars; he’s highly decorated in our area. There’s a memorial in Mabscott, right outside of Beckley, with his name on it for the future. He’s retired [from the military], but he’s working.
[On advice for other military wives] Stick it out. It’s worth it. It’s easy to walk away. If marriage was easy, everybody would do it. But boy, if you do stick it out… I’ve been married for almost 26 years… it’s worth it. I wouldn’t trade my husband off for anybody. Even with [us] having issues that the war brought on for our family and some of the hardships that we’ve had, it was well worth it.
This [area has] most beautiful and best people that there is. They all feel a kinship. My husband and I went to a place called Idar-Oberstein, overseas in Germany, it’s on the border of Germany and France. We’re at a little festival, they have little festivals all the time over there, and we’re sitting there, happen to start talking to somebody and meet someone from West Virginia. It’s a kindred spirit that all West Virginia people have. You just feel related even if you’re not related. You feel ‘you know how I live, you know how it was, you know what the mountains look like’.
[Saddest time was] The day my brother died. He was 42. It was the hardest day of our lives, but it really brought the rest of us a lot closer together. It was so unexpected, he was young, and you think your siblings will go on and always be there for you. And when you realize you have a limit to your life, you want to make it important and make the people that you love better. And so we try to spend as much time together as we can, and we do. That was definitely the hardest day of my life.
To me, no matter where I went, this was always my home. Always. And it always will be. My husband and I were like, ‘if I can get a good job we’re going back home.’ We were fortunate enough for him to get a good job and be able to come back home.
[Describing Appalachians] Hard working. People think they’re dumb, but they’re not. Their vocabulary may be limited, but not because of knowledge. It’s just because of the culture and how to get it out. West Virginia people are hard working, intelligent, family oriented people and the rest of the world doesn’t know that. They don’t think that. But we really are. And West Virginia has one of the largest populations of military servicemen.
I came back [home] every year—that’s where we spent [our] vacation. Last year was the first vacation we really took. We went to Disney for a week with family, because every other time we wanted to come home for our vacation. It was great, because when we come on vacation, we could do all the fun stuff, [like go] boating, cause there’s so many rivers there, Stephen’s Lake is here, Flat Top is here. People don’t realize how much stuff there really is to do.
(On seeing the mountains after being away) The way I would come home up 77, there are two tunnels. The first tunnel you’re still in Virginia. But that second tunnel, every time we come through that tunnel we would start beeping and hollering, ‘West Virginia! West Virginia!’ As soon as you get on the other side, you’re in West Virginia and you know it. There’s a big sign. It used to say ‘Wild Wonderful West Virginia,’ then they changed it to something else… ‘West Virginia’s open for business.’ Everyone hated that slogan, so now it’s back to ‘Wild Wonderful West Virginia’.
I am a hillbilly. Hillbillies and rednecks are the exact same thing, just one wears shoes and one don’t. Rednecks wear shoes because they’re down south where more snakes are!
I’m a grandma! I have an older daughter that has some issues. She tried for six years to have my grandson and it took a lot out of her. She’s got a huge cyst—it’s touching about four organs. So anytime she needs me, zoom. I go to Georgia. She’s had like five surgeries, so I just go down there and help her. My job is to be a grandma and a mom.
They [media] think West Virginia, and they think [we’re] hill people, we’re dumb, they’re uneducated, they think they’re druggies… and yes, to an extent they are that, but there’s that in every single state in the United States.
I’ve been all around [and] there’s that, but for the most part, West Virginians are hard working, honest, family oriented people. And I know that, ‘cause I live that.
The happiest time in my life? Hasn’t happened yet… it’s coming. I’m not a very sad person, but it’s coming.”