Thursday, March 10, 2005

I Bet They Even Have A Building Named After Robert Byrd

John Mark Reynolds, filling in for Hugh Hewitt, referred to his West Virginia heritage during a prologue to a discussion of doddering WV Democratic Senator Robert Byrd. Dr. Reynolds mentioned what a nice place West Virginia is, and how all of the jokes and criticism of Appalachians is unfunny, somewhat offensive, and way off the mark. (He then went into a segment where he played a number of Byrd sound bites, thereby defeating his own argument that West Virginia is not to be laughed at.) Being from the Pittsburgh area, I heard plenty of West Virginia related humor. Instead of "Mountaineers", we called them "hoopies". I had no idea where that term originated, but there is an interesting story behind it involving Mingo Indians:

...the Mingos came from West Virginia and the surrounding areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania to sell barrel hoops in Pittsburg [sic]... It appears to have been going on even into the twentieth century, for mountain people in West Virginia are called "hoopies" or by corruption "hooties" by the town dwellers even today.
In truth, anyone from Pittsburgh who has gone south into rural Washington County must feel like they have already crossed the state line. The Commonwealth of Virginia, from which West Virginia was formed in 1863, laid claim to present-day southwestern Pennsylvania during the early 1770s, and many settlers of the region had Virginia land grants. Often these settlers came into conflict with those who received Pennsylvania land grants, so there is a sort of longstanding rivalry between WV and PA that goes back over two centuries.

Still, as Dr. Reynolds said, West Virginia is a nice place to visit or even to live in. I have been to a few places in WV and have never figured out what anybody has against the state or its inhabitants.

Since I was listening to the show on the internet feed of AM 1280 The Patriot from Minnesota, I could not help but think back on my trip to northern Minnesota eleven years ago. On the way to Elbow Lake via the town of Cook, we stopped for groceries at a supermarket in Virginia, the "Queen City of the North". Since I was tracking our journey in my topographical atlas, I could not help but notice that just west of Virginia was a place called West Virginia. Naturally I found this amusing. And, obviously, the town's name refers to its proximity to the city. But no one back in Pittsburgh had even heard of Virginia, MN, so I played it smart. "Did you know," I asked my local compadres, "that there is a place in northern Minnesota called 'West Virginia'?" No one believed me. After all, who would name a town after a state like West Virginia? Silly people.

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