Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jefferson Also Passed Judgment on Rednecks

"My dream, or even more so my wife’s dream, would be to live in Santa Cruz and ride for a small American team to do Tour of California, Tour of Colorado etc. but for now I am a bike rider on a European team." --Laurens Ten Dam

The vibe you get when you leave DC and you're riding out in, say, West Virginia...

Ever wonder what to call it? 

And the helmetless man on the quad with the gun holster comes ripping by at top volume.

And the smell of chicken farms rises in his wake.

And then behind him comes a seaworthy Buick, floating nearly as softly for its captain as his ship did off the shores of Inchon.

And you pass the church where a group gathers around a soldier in dress fatigues.

All the while in the background is constant chatter of guns being discharged.

And god help you if you're looking for arugula, or for the votes of anyone who is.
Ever wonder what America this is?  Working class country, says Dante Chinni, is an American community, 8.5 million people in 337 counties, almost entirely white (94 percent) and the poorest in the country. Mostly, they are in Appalachia, the Ozarks, and Smoky Mountains."

When I head to West Virginia, I get a familiar feeling, and now I know why--I grew up in Newaygo County, Michigan, one of 20 or so Michigan counties in Chinni's 8.5 million Working Class Country communities. 

I see the same stuff I saw as a Michigan kid:
  • deer corpses hanging from garages, shot out of season;
  • disassembled vehicles in lawns;
  • crosses on roadsides marking teens killed, usually caused by drunk driving; 
  • no trespassing signs warning immediate and miserable pain, usually by dog teeth;
  • distrust of government and God; and
  • dependence on government and God.
We say we go out to the mountains to ride the mountains, for the land and for the absence of traffic.  It might be even better riding if there were no people; only us cyclists, never having to worry about slamming into a Korean War vet's Buick. 

Do we gain anything from a weekend away from arugula and DC, this city whose name now means failure? 

That's the rhetoric:  "The Washington people want..." goes the grassroots appeal, and they mean us, and it's never a compliment.

Jefferson published his Notes on the State of Virginia the same year, 1785, the state established Hardy County in what is now, thanks to the Civil War, West Virginia.  This was five years before Congress conceded to found Washington DC as part of a deal between the big and small states to share power between large and small states.

The boundaries of Hardy, declared the 1785 Act, stretched from High Nob to "the gap of the short Arse Mountain..."

View Larger Map

The act merely split a large county into two counties (one bounded by a small-bootied mountain), the purpose was to establish another court to meet in Moorfield, to adjudicate legal disputes.

Three years prior to Hardy's founding and Jefferson's Notes, Letters from an American Farmer suggested that we are, essentially, where we live:

Men are like plants: the goodness and flavour of the fruit proceeds from the peculiar soil and exposition in which they grow. We are nothing but what we derive from the air we breathe, the climate we inhabit, the government we obey, the system of religion we profess, and the nature of our employment.[29]
The author and Jefferson were both responding to what was then accepted science in Europe:  America and everything from it was smaller, weaker, dumber, and less beautiful than the products of Europe. Jefferson disagrees; he uses an entire chapter of his book to say, hey, wait, we've got huge, smart, and beautiful stuff here in America.

As his name suggests, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur, author of Letters from an American Farmer, takes the side of European superiority.  He casts scorn on incestuous North Carolina hill people, on slaves, on much of the continent; it's an interesting place to go for a stroll, but the people of the soil are lesser beings.

It's been there from the beginning, this snobbery. 

There's an additional scorn I feel when I ride through these parts--the rube on the bicycle, surrounded by miners and chicken farmers, who then goes back to the city and writes about it in his pussy blog.  It's unsettling, but comforting to know Jefferson and Crèvecœur, not to mention the West Virginians they scorned or defended, felt the same conflict.

The dream of American cyclists, even Virginians, is almost unanimously to travel to Europe where cycling is bigger, more beautiful, and more storied.  But then there is at least one European who dreams of coming here to race, among the mountains and the Working Class Country, winding through Hardy County.

If you ever come, Laurens, make sure to read your Jefferson, and to call up Jay at Raw Talent Ranch.  Be prepared to see some savage and beautiful American scenes, out there on the climbs up to short Arse Mountain. 


Chuck Wagon said...

One always imagines that the Europeans who live out in the more scenic and cycling-enriched, perhaps even "epic" (have to go punch my self in the nuts real quick for using that word ------- okay, back) locales are somehow more cosmopolitan, educated, enlightened, better dentisted, blah blah blah than their American counterparts. History tells us that this isn't necessarily the case, by a long shot. But I do prefer the picaresque vernacular of just about any European personal aesthetic about a million to one over the no shirt, trucker hat, overalls look.

Chuck Wagon said...

Also, read this:

Kevin Cross said...

By "picaresque vernacular" I take it you mean "hot, hairy armpitted euro babes"? Is that what those big words mean?

That Colin Woodard article is great. That "N nations of America" stuff is always interesting. Myself, I pledge allegiance to El Norte for purposes of readily available salsa and the aforementioned "picaresque vernacular."

Chuck Wagon said...

Well I was thinking more about dirndls, Tyro jackets, and those awesome Wellington-like boots they have all over the continent, but smoking hot hairy arm-pitted euro babes work too

dj cyclone said...

Thanks Pappy.

Digging up dirt as it be. And the dig becomes endless. Rough edges hard scrap, fertile soil dry bed minerals, fuel and all the variations that come forth as 'our' harvest (and evolution) both tangible/scientific in raw goods as well as metaphorically in aspects of our memory and perception. Stories and versions.

Or as James Brown says 'What It Is and What It Is'

Where you've come from where you've gone. Looking back and looking forward. Is the foundation the only authentic place or the vaulting point. Are what evolve a bold new breed or splintered and watered down by simple math. Some one is always going to want to voice either answer depending on where they inhabit the continuum.

Questions to maybe ask but at the same time pointless if the object is a lunge at superiority rather then historical monitoring.
To dwell perhaps is to never bridge worlds and even create a self fulfilling vague middle area vortex with a foot in both, stretched out and unable to gain footing or rhythm in either.

Crooked Run Road yall.
Get you up and over.

Look back look up and look in wonder,
but don't forget the treacherous descent.

Kevin Cross said...

Love that Crooked Run Road Yall verse.

heidi said...

Or DJ Cyclone, to gain footing and rhythm in both worlds. Very interesting map Pappy. I think there is a lot of blurring there in the rural poor areas. From having lived in the rural poor areas for the past 7 years after 11 years in DC, I feel that what you find are many rural people who are displaced from their roots, either by no longer owning land or no longer being a part of a community. Whereas in the European countryside, you have cultures going back thousands of years. Also, I find that out here in rural America, bicycling just doesn't exist as much of an option after childhood, although for example, you have those who still get into it, like my cousin Ricky who puts in miles on his road bike and his Harley Davidson.