Chelsey Sims

“I really don’t care how we’re stereotyped. I’m proud that I let my kid get her feet dirty. I’m proud that I have chickens and gardens and plan on getting cattle and sheep next spring. I’m not one bit embarrassed by it.” 

Chelsey Sims, Nurse Practitioner, SOMC; Greenup County, Kentucky:

“The culture here is completely different than any city or town I’ve ever been to. I went away for four years for college in Morehead and even that change is completely different than just little, tiny Greenup County. {Here] you know everybody, and there’s never a stranger you meet. You can walk down the streets and you’re going know somebody at some point. I like that. I feel like hard work was instilled in all of us, and that’s what I want to teach my kids. That’s why I’m never leaving!

As a kid, I danced, which is funny for a country girl. I enjoy it and I miss it, but you get a little older, and you can’t do it anymore. It was fun to escape a little bit. I also enjoyed being outside and hanging with my brother and doing things like that. 

I live in Argillite, which is maybe ten minutes away. We live on East Fork River or Little Sandy River, those two rivers connect right behind our house. We had a boat dock that went out to the river. And by river I mean like, fifty foot across, not as big as the Ohio. I never really got to play on the Ohio River. But growing up on the East Fork and the Little Sandy River was a lot of fun. We had a lot of good times down there fishing and swimming and swinging. I always joke and say it was like a country music video. Like what all those people pretended to do, that’s what we really did growing up. 

My grandmother is my hero. I’m going cry now. I get all excited about her. She’s taught me how to be strong, she’s taught me hard work, and that even though you’re from little ol’ pinpoint, Greenup County, you can still be successful. She’s taught me how to can, she’s taught me how to garden. She’s taught me all of the things that I feel like my generation skipped. I’m twenty-eight, so the people I grew up with, a lot of them want to leave and want to go to big cities like Lexington. I never had that desire because of her. Hard work! That’s it. I love this place. My grandpa worked for CSX, a railroad system. He’s a good Christian man, kind and gentle. Tiny! I’m probably bigger than him. [He’s a] good person, he makes me feel like I’m very special. 

Goodness yes, my grandma gardens! Even today, we’ll call each other and compare broccoli. ‘Is your broccoli coming up?’ She’ll call me and say I’m out of jars, I need you to bring me a box of my jars, because of course all my life I’ve stole jars off of her. I’ve never bought jars. I feel like the whole self-sustainability thing is what my family is all about whether it is my husband and my daughter or my grandparents. That’s what I get excited about; I can provide for myself, and she’s taught me that. I’m not as good at it as she is, of course, but she’s had quite a bit of practice. She grows honey select corn only! That’s the only kind you can grow, honey select. Tomatoes, cucumbers, you know the basics. Potatoes. They grew up doing tobacco. My Mom was raised stripping tobacco, and they kind of fizzled that out after I started getting a little older. I never had to do hands-on tobacco, but I can remember the smell of it when I was a kid, [and] my grandmaw and grandpaw stripping tobacco and selling it. That was cool. I miss that. Now all the regulations and stuff, it’s like, is it even worth it? And they’re getting older. There’s really no need for that anymore. 

My Mom is my number one fan, the reason that I am who I am today. I went through nursing school, which I feel like is one of the hardest things you can ever do, and if it wasn’t for her to support me and push me...It was never a choice IF I was going to college, it was WHERE are you going to college. That was my choice. She’s wants me to do well and sit back and let me get all the glory, versus her saying look what my kid did. She’s a good grandmaw to my little one. She lives right next door, because that’s just how you’re raised around here. We all live side-by-side. I have two dads. I have a biological dad who is a very successful person. He’s a nurse as well. We joke and say we went to nursing school together. He’s a good guy. I have a stepdad that raised me from the time I was four; I call him Daddy, too. My stepdad’s a good man to come in and raise a kid. He was young, he was 24 or 24 when he came into my life. He’s my dad and my daughter’s Papaw. 

[When I’m away I miss] Kindness and courtesy, simple thank you’s when you hold open doors for people. I think a lot of times when you’re in the city, people [have a] one-track mind. They’ve got blinders on. Not that they’re self-centered, but that’s just how they were raised; to do whatever task it is at hand versus helping someone along the way. You walk down the streets in California or Louisville or wherever and they’re going walk right by you. You walk down the streets in Greenup and they’re like, ‘Hey, how are ya? Good to see you!’ 

We’re very close as a community. When one person has a problem in the community, it’s the entire community’s problem. That’s really every little town, not just Greenup, every little town in Appalachia. We come together as a team, versus if you were just one of the millions in the big city, then you’re one of millions, not one of a community. I really don’t care how we’re stereotyped. I’m proud that I let my kid get her feet dirty. I’m proud that I have chickens and gardens and plan on getting cattle and sheep next spring. I’m not one bit embarrassed by it. 

What does irritate me though, is that people think we’re stupid or uneducated. That’s not true. I think that happens everywhere. Some people chose to not go on and get a further education and not be as successful as they can be. That’s everywhere! That’s not just here. I don’t know, maybe it’s our accents they think we’re stupid. I’m happy if my corn’s successful in the fall. I think success is having your family close and having good relationships with family and community. Success is definitely measured differently here, than in the big city. I think success in the big city is how much money you make. I wouldn’t care how much money I made as long as my kids are happy and my family’s happy and we’re making our bills. That’s all that matters. 

We’re good people. We’re kind. We are smart! We might not talk ‘right’, but we sure can write it. I think they’re missing out. People that have never come here and never have given this country life a chance, If they could come here for one weekend, they’d probably never leave. I think we’re lucky. 

Scarlett, my daughter, she’s two and a half and she means everything to me. Gosh, you’re going to make me all emotional again like chick! It’s fun because I get to re-live life. The first time she put her feet on the grass, makes you feel like you’re doing it, too. Taking her to the zoo is so much more fun because she gets to do it, and I get to do it, and I get to live it through her. What did I do with my time [before her]? Now, she’s obviously very mobile, and very fast and very dangerous. How do we get anything done now, and why didn’t we get it all done three years ago? Why was my house a mess three years ago? I have no idea. 

(Interests and hobbies) Farming. I’m not like some big, huge farmer, but maybe small farming. Mini-farming. Right now, we are clearing out about three acres. My Dad’s giving us some sheep and then we’re getting some cattle in the spring and I’m really excited about that. We’ve got chickens and quail and all that. Scarlett really enjoys that too, gathering eggs every day. That’s our main excitement. 

My brother can play anything you hand him. He can play the drums, the piano, the guitar, the mandolin. He can play on a fiddle, whether he’s good at it or not I don’t know. He can play the banjo. It makes me happy that he can do all those things that say, someone that’s not from here would never want to pick up a mandolin. Why would you do that? That’s not cool. Our Pap, my Papaw, he’s very musically inclined. He’s our music center; he’s where it all started. My uncles play music. My Pap plays bluegrass or gospel, but my uncles will play old country, and when I say old I mean like sixties and seventies, which is probably not really old. But now my brother, he likes eighties country. He definitely does not like today’s country. He says it’s not country and I get that. My brother will play any type of genre; he’s not just country. I don’t think he’s very country, honestly. But yeah my Pap he’s the one that got us all started, he gave us all the rhythm. I’m not good, but I’ll play it. I used to be able to play the piano; I could probably still play on it a little. I sure couldn’t play a whole song or nothing like that. I like to sing with my brother and his friends. I’m not some big super star, but it’s fun. 

I drug my husband up here from the city. He’s from downtown Louisville. He’s never going back, so we ain’t a leaving. It’s fun (visiting Louisville) and I enjoy his family. It’s fun to go to cool restaurants and stuff, but I would never want to live there. No offense to them. It’s totally different. My husband works in California right now, and I went out there to spend a week or so with him and I was glad to spend time with him, but I was ready to come home. It’s just a different mentality. 

My husband is a hard worker, a kind man. He’s from the city, but he’s a transplant. He travels [and] he’s only home like two days a week, which stinks. When he’s home, we try to make the best of it and we try to get all of our work done in two days. He is a nurse as well, but he also works on computers. He builds computer documentation systems for large hospitals. He’s actually finishing up this week with Stanford in California. He’s been there for fifteen months. He was in Hawaii for six or seven months right after Scarlett was born, and that was not a bad gig. I went and loafed for a couple months. Honestly, I felt like the Hawaiian culture [while] it was a lot different from country, how kind and open and thoughtful that they were [made] it felt more like home than anywhere else I’ve been. They were really nice people. 

(On her husband adapting to Appalachian culture) The language! (laughs) We’ll still joke about stuff I’ll say today and he’s like what? What are you even talking about? He thinks that me saying ‘it’s pouring the rain’ is the funniest thing he’s ever heard. His family does the same thing. They’ll joke on me. I call the the linens that you put on beds, bedclothes. He thinks that’s hilarious. We joke about what soup beans are. His idea of what soup beans are, he thinks it’s bean soup. I’m like, it’s not a soup. It’s totally different. 

I’m honestly not a beans and cornbread girl. I don’t like beans of any kind. I’m a minority. My favorite comfort foods are mashed potatoes and corn. Of course, honey select corn only that my grandma raises. That corn and some good mashed potatoes and any kind of meat with it. I don’t care if it’s meat loaf or steaks, anything. Mashed potatoes and corn? You can’t go wrong with that. 

Sure, sure (I’m a hillbilly). Hillbilly means, I think, hard work and determination. Overcoming any obstacle that’s presented to you. We live in a very poor economy obviously. It’s not like Greenup, Kentucky or Argillite, Kentucky are booming, by any means. Yet I have still somehow managed to go out and get my education that allowed me to go on and do bigger things than just sitting around hoping one day I’d do something good with my life. So, I think overcoming those obstacles that are naturally here. 

I’m afraid that we’re losing touch with what we used to be. I feel like all the people closer to my age, in their twenties and thirties, we’re not looking on how it used to be say when my grandmother was a kid. When your main goal was raise your garden, raise your farm. And then what’s next? Then go to your work or take care of your family or whatever. I feel like my buddies want to go out and party or move to the big city. What I’m afraid of is that’s going continue to fizzle. We’re going continue to lose what we’re all about here. The traditions are going to be gone. That’s what scares me, because that’s my favorite part about it. I would say most of the people that I went to high school with have never put their hand on a hoe in their life and have never put their hand on a rake. That scares me because if the whole world loses that, then what do you have? 

(I want to pass on to my daughter) family value. Like I said, we live house to house to house. I live by my mom and by my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents, we all live right there together. I’m not saying I want her in my back yard, but I hope that she doesn’t want go on and move away and do all these different things. If she does, that’s okay. I just hope that maybe I instill that family value and what that means and why it’s okay to want to come back. That’s hard. You see these little, tiny, small mom and pop shops down the street and while they’re probably not in the red, I’m sure they’re not booming, because all these big corporations are coming in and taking over. That’s sad. Fifty years ago, this street would’ve been hopping on a Sunday and look at it. It’s quiet. 

I want my legacy to be kindness. I hope that people look at me and think, ‘she’s a good person.’ I hope that I raise my kid or kids to do that too. I guess my legacy will be my kids because that’s what you leave behind. What else do you leave behind? I hope people remember me and think wow, she was a giving and kind and honest person. And I hope that they can see that in my kids, too.”