“There may have been times in my life that I fell, but I always got back up. I always kept fighting and I always tried to do right and raise my babies the best way that I could.”
Brittany Boggs, Registered Nurse; Cumberland, Kentucky, Harlan County:
“There’s nothing like [growing up in the mountains]. We stayed outside. We might have crammed a bowl of Fruity Pebbles down our throats, and then out the door we went. We were in the mountains, the creeks from daylight until dark. That was life. We shot BB guns, we fished, we went hunting, and we tried to hunt our own animals with our own weapons. I’ve got a twin brother [Brandon], so I was one of the boys. If I had friends over, we would be hog tied and left beside the road. And then their mom or dad would pull up and we’re lying beside the road hog tied and they’re like, ‘Okay, I don’t know if you’re coming back here or not!’ [Hog tying] is where he’d lay us on our stomachs and tie our legs to our hands behind our backs.
[On growing up as a twin] I was never bored. To this day, he’s my best friend. We would pretty much beat the crap out of each other, but if you let somebody else mess with us, they was going to get double.
We loved the go-kart, except I had really long hair down to my butt and if I went real fast and wore my hair down and hit the brake, it would slap my head backwards and my hair would get stuck in the brakes. That wasn’t cool. Mom would get mad, have to cut some hair off.
I have the most wonderful parents ever. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t make it. I’m your typical coal miner’s daughter. My dad, he’s a pretty smart guy. He helps take care of us. My mom, she’s my babysitter, she’s my go to for advice. He [father] works in mining engineering. He worked underground when I was younger. My mom, she’s had some jobs as we were growing up, but she was pretty much the homemaker. She kept the house up, fed us, helped us with our homework and now she does the same thing for my children when I work.
[After high school] I went to college. I knew right out of high school I wanted to be a nurse, so I got my basics over with and went straight through the program. I knew I wanted to be a nurse whenever I was in second grade. I loved to take care of people. There’s nothing like it.
I've been a nurse at a local hospital for seven and a half years. The most rewarding part is saving lives and working to help my community; the most heart breaking is death and abuse. The most memorable is smiles on peoples faces and thank you's.
[My] happiest times? Well I can think of three right off! Of course, that was the birth of my babies.
My kids are all three very intelligent [kids] but they’re very different. You have to tell them plain out what you want them to do because in their little minds, if I say ‘get this stuff out of the floor now,’ you would expect most kids to go put it where it’s supposed to go. They hang it from the ceiling fans, from the windows; it’s out of the floor so they’re good. They did exactly what I told them to.
Kaden, he’s my boy, he’s the oldest. He’s very intelligent [and] very hyper. Sometimes, I make him run around the house just to burn energy off—he’ll jump up and down and say ‘how many times, mom? How many times?’ He’s a perfectionist, so his nickname is Little Dennis [after my father]. And little Angel, my middle one, who is going to be eight soon, she’s my sweet child. Dad always said, ‘don’t you name that baby Angel. She’s going to spend her whole life proving to you why she ain’t one.’ So far, she’s not done that so we’re good. But she’s carefree, she’s laid back, she don’t care what’s going on, she don’t care who’s around, she just does her own thing. Lexi, she’s my terror. She’s just like her momma. She’s four. She puts that hand on her hip and tells you how it is. The other day, we were outside and it seems like bugs attack her, and her request for the day was a flea collar. She wanted a flea collar, an orange one, she picked the color out. I said, ‘why?’ and she said, ‘to keep these dang bugs off of me when we’re outside!’ Okay, that makes sense, I guess, for a four year old!
Whenever my husband and me separated, I had a five year old, a four year old and a 13 month old. [I was a] single mother [with a] full time job, so I was overwhelmed. When I started potty training my youngest baby, she was around two at the time and you never know what my kids are going to do or say, they don't care who they’re in front of. If the good Lord above was standing here, they’d tell him exactly what they thought. Angel came running and she said, ‘mommy, Lexi’s on the potty and she’s crying.’ I said, ‘why is she crying?’ She said, ‘I don’t know, come here.’ I go in there and I’m like, ‘Lexi, what’s wrong?’ And big crocodile tears was coming out of her eyes, she says ‘I’ve got a hole in my butt!’ I said, ‘yeah….’ and she said, ‘well I didn’t know, nobody never told me I had a hole in my butt!’ I said, ‘Lexi we all have holes in our butt. That’s how we go to the bathroom.’ She said ‘well you should have told me before now!’
Kaden decided he wanted to play Pee-wee Football last year. He brings his equipment in and it has these snaps in the pants and you can snap the pads to it, that’s how they kept it all together. I’m sitting there praying that dad comes home from work, because I don’t know what I’m doing, and I’d pretty much figured the pads out where there’s this strap. I said, ‘well the only thing I can think of with this is that your bird goes in it, son!’ He said, ‘how?’ I said ‘well it’s buckled to these pants so I’m assuming we are going to have to buckle it, I don’t know which way to buckle it, but we’ll try it.’ I tried every way in the world. It didn’t work. He said, ‘mom, I know what this is.’ I said, ‘what is it?’ He said, ‘it’s a chin strap!’ Well, he was 20 minutes late for his first football practice. They said ‘where have you been?’ I said ‘this thing should come with instructions, you don’t know where I tried to put this chin strap!’
[Difficult time in life, outside of work] The most difficult time for me was probably, of course, loss of family. I lost my grandma and grandpa when I was in high school, and I was really, really close to them. I called them gran-gran and peepaw. I could call peepaw right up and say ‘dad’s going to kill me when he gets home, I need you to come here and smooth things over.’ And he would do it. I remember one particular day it was homecoming day. The parade was about to start, and I rear-ended a car. I thought he’s [father] going to kill me, he’s going to kill me dead.’ I called papaw and I said, ‘I’ve hit a car.’ He said, ‘Oh are you ok?’ I said, ‘I’m fine, but I won’t be when dad gets home.’ Well honey, I want you to know papaw was waiting in the driveway when Dennis pulled up.
My grandparents, [were] Mack and Jean. They were amazing people. The first job I applied for was at Lonesome Pine in Virginia. I walked in the room, and the Director of Nursing said, ‘oh my God, you’re Jean Wilson’s granddaughter!’ just by looking at me. My interview was pretty much her telling me stories about granny and papaw and she said ‘when can you start?’ at the end. I was like ‘yes! I didn’t know it was going to be that easy!’ They played a big part of our community.
They took us to the park, they taught us about keeping things clean, that one day we would have children that would want to use the park. They taught us it was important to make something out of ourselves. They taught me that it was important to be independent.
My twin brother was mean when we were little, but then I outgrew him for a while and I paid him back. We were at the park one day, and we were with granny and he kept coming down the slide and kicking me in the back. He wouldn’t let me get off the slide. She said, ‘if you do that one more time I’m going to spank your butt.’ Well, granny spanking was just a pat. She gave him his little pat and we went back to her house, and the next thing I know, there was a cop knocking on the door. Brandon called the police on her for spanking his butt! It was a woman cop who come to the door and asked if everything was ok. Of course, granny didn’t say much, but when old daddy got there he got a real spanking! It was more than a pat.
My other grandfather passed away when I was about five, but I can remember a couple things about him. Like I said, my brother was mean when we were little. He and my cousins would always be doing this stuff and I was the good kid back then and I would sit there and be like, ‘you’re not supposed to be doing that. One day, they were jumping off the chair arm. Two of them would get under the cover, and the other would jump off the chair arm and smack them, just dive right on top of them. I said, ‘y’all are going to break something.’ They'd call me chicken, and call me names and then I’d end up getting up there. Well, here come my Papaw Glenn. I was always the one that got caught. They would do it 30 times, and I would try it once and I was busted.
My Granny Grace, she’s one of the strongest women I’ve ever met in my life. My mom says I’m just like her. That makes me proud, because she’s a tough lady. She has suffered so much loss in her life; I don’t know how she keeps going. She lost her husband to throat cancer, and then she lost her son and daughter both in less than a year. She’s 75 years old, and weed-eats, mows the grass, has a big old garden. She’s granny to everybody.
Another thing that was tough was [the] divorce. My ex-husband was a coal miner, he’s a fire boss in the mines, and I’m a registered nurse, so of course we had good income. The change from him being gone and all of the bills placed on me and having a five year old and a four year old and a 13 month old, there was times I felt like giving up. My babies’ little smiles on their faces; they kept me going. I made mistakes and I learned along the way, though.
We are [tough in a sweet way]. Mountains make us tough. We were raised that way. A lot of people can’t handle it. I think God put special people here in these mountains. I believe another thing here is we work together. Not just the family, but the community. Everybody pitches in, and we’re taught at young ages to work. We’re in the gardens hoeing and digging potatoes when we’re five years old.
My bear kit [is] in the door of my car. [It] consists of some firecrackers and some matches. I have my bear kit because I have a bear, which we’ve named Yogi, he’s eased up now since we got the dog, he used to come every morning and he’d sit right there and look at us. I don’t care where I put [the garbage], I tried to put it on the porch one day and Yogi climbed the porch and tore everything down and got in the garbage. One day, me and my youngest daughter and my son were standing on the porch, and Angel and them went to the car. We were going to school, and she was in the car and she jumps out. Well I locked the door, and I turned around and Yogi was standing right there. He’s in between Angel and me. She’s clueless he’s even there. I started screaming, oh my goodness, I screamed, screamed screamed. He took off around the swimming pool and actually ran through the kids’ trampoline. One time, I pulled up from work and he was in the pool getting him a drink of water.
We used to have [a dog and] her name was Drill Bit; she was kind of ditzy. She got her name because my dad was up here fixing my steps and he talked about how that was the dumbest dog he’d ever seen. ‘Why do you have such a stupid dog?’ He dropped a drill bit down in between the steps and that dog went down underneath the porch and got it out and brought it to him. So therefore, her name was Drill Bit.
We got all kinds of critters. We got a turkey right now, her name is Missy. We’ve got two ducks, Quacky and Splashy. We got a couple of hens [and roosters]. Our hens don’t have names, they’re just hens. We got a rabbit named Big Foot.
[On dad playing practical jokes] Oh my goodness. He’s the master, he’s the king. It was April Fools, and I’d tried to get him. Telling him I got pregnant was getting pretty old, he started believing it after three kids in five years. So, a couple years ago I snuck down to his office and I made me a big old sign that said ‘honk if you love fat bottomed girls.’ I wrote it in big letters and I taped it to the back of his car. I didn’t tell my brother about it because he works with him. I didn’t say anything, but I did take a picture of it and put it on Facebook. I didn’t think anything of it, I forgot about it. I call mom and I’m like, ‘where’s dad?’ Well, he went to meet his boss up on the strip road. I said, ‘oh god,’ she said ‘why?’ and I said ‘well the back of his car says ‘honk if you love fat bottomed girls,’ and he’s going to meet the main guy of the mines! He called me laughing and I was worried because I thought he might get mad over this one. He is a prankster.
I love the mountains. It’s home. They're beautiful. This is where I was born and raised. You go to the cities, and they automatically know that I’m from Kentucky. I really don’t have any neighbors up here, but just for instance, at mom and dad’s house, they go out of town, they don’t have to worry about their house. When they come back their neighbors can tell them everybody who knocked on the door, get their mail for them without being asked. If there’s a death in the family, you know, people come and help you clean your house [and bring food so] you have enough food to live a month off of.
(On the economy) It breaks my heart, and I think a big part of it is coalmines. This part of the country survives by coalmines, and when the mines close down that takes miners’ jobs away. They can’t afford to go to the small businesses, they can’t afford to live here, they have to move away to find more jobs. It scares me. I’m almost afraid it’s so far gone there’s nothing that’ll be done. I would want to see more things for kids to do. There’s a drug problem here. There’s drug problems all over the world, but we’re such a small community that I guess people look at it more, they focus on it more because it affects so many people.
I want people to remember that there may have been times in my life that I fell, but I always got back up. I always kept fighting and I always tried to do right and raise my babies the best way that I could. I’m not a quitter, and I don’t want to give up, ever.”