West Virginia Wednesdays

IMG_7620Over Memorial Day weekend, I went with my parents and kids to place flowers on the graves of my grandparents and other relatives.

My mother’s family had lived in Marion and Harrison counties in West Virginia for generations.  We placed flowers on the grave of my grandmother’s brother in a small family cemetery that’s now at the edge of a housing development.  The land of the development once was a farm that my grandmother’s family worked.  Her brother wanted to be buried in that cemetery because he and my grandmother enjoyed playing there when they were children.

IMG_7612It seemed odd to find a cemetery among all these new houses, but I could tell it was taken care of, so at least the graves aren’t neglected.

Next, we stopped at the large cemetery in Shinnston. My grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents on both sides of my mom’s family are buried there.

As my kids place flowers around the graves, I wondered if my distant grandparents ever thought their great-great-great grandchildren would come to pay respects almost a hundred years after their deaths. It’s a stunning thought.

IMG_7623The next day, we drove into the hills above Moundsville to place flowers on the graves of my dad’s parents.  Both sides of his family had lived in the northern panhandle of West Virginia for several generations. My grandfather served in the Navy during World War II.IMG_7641

I am so glad I got to take my kids to see our family history.  I hope they can feel a connection to the relatives who came before them and the land where our family once lived.

West Virginia Wednesdays

img_20160817_0004Stil Talkin’ Like a Mountaineer

Here are a few more quirks of the West Virginia dialect which I learned from relatives.  Like I said last week, these may be found in more areas than just West Virginia.  And not all West Virginians may talk this way.  West Virginia is a crossroads.  Not North, or South, or West, or East, the state contains a little bit of all those regions.

“push” and “bush” are pronounced “poosh” and “boosh”

“dish” and “fish” are pronounced deesh” and feesh”

“wash” and “gosh” are pronounced “warsh” and “garsh”

Words ending in “ow”, making an long “o” sound, are pronounced “er”.  For example, “follow”“hollow”, and “yellow” are pronounced “feller”“holler”, and “yeller”.

I find myself using “be” and a verb ending in “ing” when a present tense verb works just as well.  For example, if my kids are doing something they shouldn’t, I don’t say, “You can’t do that!”  I say, “You can’t be doing that!”

When writing my novel, I had a hard time choosing between whether my characters would use “y’all” or y’uns” for the plural form of “you”.  My grandparents used “y’uns” and they were from the northern part of the state.  I have friends who lived around Charleston and they use “y’all”.  My setting is north and east of Charleston but south of my grandparents’s hometown.

In the end, I decided to use “y’uns”.  When anyone reads “y’all”, the reader knows the setting is the American South.  Since West Virginia and the Appalachian Mountains are different from the South, I thought “y’uns” would signal that difference and my characters’ rural background.




West Virginia Wednesdays

rafting-2071983_1280Talkin’ Like a Mountaineer

I wrote in my tip about what I learned from Damon Runyon that a writer should only sprinkle in slang or words from a dialect.  Since my book is set in West Virginia, I use words my West Virginian relatives speak.  I use some of them myself, even though I grew up across the river in Ohio.

Just a note: If you are not from around Appalachia, you should understand there’s a difference between a Southern accent and an Appalachian one.  In the book The Story of English, some experts consider the Appalachian accent a cross between Midwestern and Southern. The further south you travel in the Appalachian mountains, the more southern the accent becomes.

The words I list below may not be unique to West Virginia but they are not common in the Midwest where I grew up.

No account — no good, disreputable, unreliable.  The farmer down the road was no account – he let his farm fall down to rack and ruin.

Lopper-jawed (I am guessing on the spelling) — to hang crookedly.  The door to the abandoned house hung lopper-jawed.

heap sight (I am guessing on the spelling of “sight”) — a great amount.  We had a heap sight more tomatoes this summer than last summer.

red up — clean up.  We red up the house before our company comes.country-lane-2089645_1280

fer piece — a long distance.  My nearest neighbor is a fer piece down this road.

pert near — almost or close.  “Pert” is short for “pretty”.  When that dog lunged for me, it pert near scared the pants off me.

I will have some more Appalachian words and patterns of speech next Wednesday.



West Virginia Wednesday

nypl-digitalcollections-510d47e3-5cd8-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99-001-wFestival of Lights

If you enjoy driving around to see Christmas lights, you should visit the Festival of Lights at Oglebay Park outside of Wheeling.  The Festival was started in 1985.  You follow a six-mile route through the park to see light displays covering more than 300 acres.  My family has visited the lights since I was a kid.  My most recent visit was December 2014.  It’s a lot of fun go with a carload of people.  We didn’t want to get stuck in a huge line winding up into the hills before we ever got to the park, so we arrived right at sunset.  It wasn’t very dark at the beginning of our drive, but it got dark quickly so we could enjoy the displays.  There is a per car donation and lot of other Christmas events within the park.  To visit the park’s website, click here.

West Virginia Wednesdays — From Davis to Parsons

IMG_8584When I was visiting Blackwater Falls State Park in Tucker county this summer, I needed to do some research in the county seat of Parsons. Taking US 219 south from Davis, I found the 30 minutes drive beautiful, exciting, and sometimes, nerve-wracking for someone not used to driving in the mountains, even on a two-lane highway.

In Scenic Routes and Byways: West Virginia, author Su Clauson-Wicker includes my drive as part of the longer Canaan Valley Loop. I would love to try the loop some day. The quotes below come from this helpful book.

Driving out of the state park, I skirted the edge of Davis, “the highest incorporated town east of the Mississippi”, then fairly soon found myself driving through the tiny town of Thomas, which has an interesting layout. Most of the town is built on one side of the North Fork of the Blackwater River. The mountainside is so steep, the town is built in layers like a wedding cake with buildings on the higher level set back from those below.

After passing through Thomas and descending Backbone Mountain, an enormous wind turbine popped into view. Its appearance was so surprising because I had had no hint of what to expect until the entire turbine loomed into sight, complete and colossal.

IMG_8567I pulled off onto Sugarlands Road and found the gate to a line of wind turbines open. I could taken the service road that ran under them as far as I wanted and when I returned with my family, we did follow it a short way to get some pictures. The turbines are 345 feet tall, and 166 of them line “the top of this north-south ridge for miles.”

Less than a mile past Sugarlands Road is a small picnic and observation area. The top photo is what can be seen from this spot. It was just gorgeous with mountains rolling to the horizons like waves. The farm in the photo stood out beautifully from the surrounding deeper green of the mountains.

Past this observation point, I continued to descend. At one point the road was six miles of a six percent grade. Driving that was a lot of fun, but it also made me nervous when the tractor trailers, coming up the road, swung around curve.

I noticed Tucker County High School is located a long this stretch, and it made me wonder what does the school do when it snows and the busses have to come down a slick road or crawl up one. Maybe the county clears this road first, but I could see all kinds of hazards for the bus drivers and high school students trying to make it to school on a snowy morning.

By the time I pulled into Parsons, which sits in a flat river valley along the Cheat River, I had descended 1,600 feet in half an hour.

It was a wonderful drive, and if you want to take scenic routes through West Virginia, check out Ms. Clauson-Wicker’s book.



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