Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Where I Am At Home

I took this map from a Tufts article from about a year ago.  I found it via Vanderleun's Top 40.

The article itself is interesting, but I was fascinated by the fact that, despite all my moving around, I am home in Greater Appalachia.  I have lived in the Midlands.  I was never home there.  I wondered that I was always comfortable where I lived for a decade or so in Texas, but all that was part of the same region -- defined by the dominant thinking of the residents.  I have spent significant chunks of time working and living in Yankeedom but never had an official abode there.  I was always in extended-stay hotels.

I've traveled some in other parts of the country, but most of my recreation and vacationing has been in Greater Appalachia, with some in the Deep South.

I hated the Midlands and never knew why.  Every Friday night I would hit the highway back to my homeland.   

GREATER APPALACHIA. Founded in the early eighteenth century by wave upon wave of settlers from the war-ravaged borderlands of Northern Ireland, northern England, and the Scottish lowlands, Appalachia has been lampooned by writers and screenwriters as the home of hillbillies and rednecks. It transplanted a culture formed in a state of near constant danger and upheaval, characterized by a warrior ethic and a commitment to personal sovereignty and individual liberty. Intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers alike, Greater Appalachia has shifted alliances depending on who appeared to be the greatest threat to their freedom. It was with the Union in the Civil War. Since Reconstruction, and especially since the upheavals of the 1960s, it has joined with Deep South to counter federal overrides of local preference.

THE MIDLANDS. America’s great swing region was founded by English Quakers, who believed in humans’ inherent goodness and welcomed people of many nations and creeds to their utopian colonies like Pennsylvania on the shores of Delaware Bay. Pluralistic and organized around the middle class, the Midlands spawned the culture of Middle America and the Heartland, where ethnic and ideological purity have never been a priority, government has been seen as an unwelcome intrusion, and political opinion has been moderate. An ethnic mosaic from the start—it had a German, rather than British, majority at the time of the Revolution—it shares the Yankee belief that society should be organized to benefit ordinary people, though it rejects top-down government intervention.

There is some agreement between our groups, e.g., government being an unwelcome intrusion, but, for the most part, the Midlands worldview is contrary to mine.  I don't know that we had much of a warrior ethic, but we have always been committed to personal sovereignty and individual liberty.  We also have the mindset of herders -- as much as I love my fruit trees, brambles, and grape vines.

My paternal grandfather was born in Lafayette, Indiana, which is in Tippecanoe County right on the edge of the GA region.  His family moved to the very heart of it when he was young.  My paternal grandmother was from Tennessee -- her maiden name indicating a connection to French Huguenots, and, strangely enough, also indicating that my wife and I have common ancestor four generations back.  Her father was definitely a hardcase as far as sovereignty.  I think my maternal grandfather was a native to the region whose mother was substantially and visibly American Indian, but my maternal grandmother was a Kraut, born in Nebraska. 

So I am a son of Greater Appalachia.  It is here where I feel most at home, and here is where I'll stay.  It's small wonder that the strains of Bluegrass work on me or that the lyrics of our ballads make perfect sense.

My mom was not a Deadhead, but she would sometimes cry when she heard this song:


  1. Well, I'm a potted plant I guess. Mom and Dad were from completely different regions and I spent most of my growing up in Tidewater which is where neither were from. My personality fits Greater Appalachia where I have spent many years. I'm now just one county east of that and here is my home. Maybe I can be an honorary resident, I mean, I can see the Blue Ridge from our place.

  2. I'm not sure how they draw it on county borders. To me, the River was the dividing line, but I'd also include the Bootheel as part of the Deep South. When you drop off the Plateau east of Poplar Bluff, it is another region. I think there's some element of fantasy to the whole notion. Yes, most people I talk to around here are hillbillies, and we really do not think the people from Yankeedom and the Left Coast are in touch with reality. We still have lots of individual differences and disagreements.

    Part of it has to be the kinds of arguments that will sway you.

  3. " I think there's some element of fantasy to the whole notion."

    Yeah, but we still are interested in this artifical construct aren't we? We (well, I for sure) want to belong to some sort of tribe have a sense of place. It's just a natural yearning that Americans, because of our size, short history, and mobility have unfulfilled. Well, that's my armchair sociological analysis.

  4. That's very true. We are, perhaps, less a melting pot and more a strange colloidal suspension. We've been made to feel guilty about not accepting everybody into our tribe. If we let everybody in, it's no longer a tribe, it's just a crowd or a mob with no identity. It probably has something to do with denominations in Christianity, too.

  5. "her maiden name indicating a connection to French Huguenots,"

    Huguenots? Wife sez, "Hi Cuz!"

  6. Cool. Mizell, which I think they get from Moselle or something. Short people with large noses.

  7. Her's is Mersereau which is French for swamp rat I'm pretty sure. We visited the ancestral home town on a mad-dash Eurotrip tacked on to the end of a busines trip. It was swampy lowlands.