Outsider

An excerpt from The Soviet Union and Lincoln County USA my Lincoln County memoir.

Outsider
As the boy said, I wasn’t from around here. A few years later, the fire chief was quoted in the weekly Lincoln Journal calling me a “hippie, communist and outsider” all in one breath and in a public meeting. He denied the quote but the reporter told me that he was sitting right beside the chief at the meeting and did not have a hearing problem.

Besides outsider, communist is another convenient discrediting brand used by demagogues. That the communists were taking over West Virginia and Lincoln County was exposed in 1989 when Black Gold Coal Company applied for a permit to strip mine coal in Lincoln County.
I’ll call her Dragon Lady. She was from Indiana and filed for the strip mine permit. Her allies were the owner of Black Gold Coal Company, a man from Kentucky, and another man who was a public official in the state of Montana. Now this trio was full-blooded outsider.

Dragon Lady told the Lincoln Journal that she believed there was a communist group in Lincoln County against anything that brought change. “I believe West Virginia may be seen as the last foothold for communism in the country. I am convinced this area has been infiltrated by communists. And if mining gets started here, they will no longer be able to control it.”

Dragon Lady’s communists were exceptionally evil, they were also dealing drugs. She told the Lincoln Journal, “I mean all of us sitting here know what the problem is—it’s drugs.” Dragon Lady knew the communists aka drug dealers had “sophisticated radio equipment and towers” on their property. I suppose the communists used the towers to communicate with the Kremlin and, consistent with their other interest, to arrange drug deals.

Dragon Lady researched communism’s presence in Lincoln County at the public library in Hamlin. She found that one book, What You Should Know About Communism and Why, was checked out by some, “well-known county residents.”

Dragon Lady left it to paranoia for folks to figure out who the well-known county residents were and why it was bad for them to educate themselves about communism. And did she really have a list of the people who checked the book out or was she bluffing. I don’t think libraries keep lists of who checks books out and if they did it would require a court order to see them. Not that it matters, but the book had been borrowed from the library only five times in the fourteen years between 1974 and 1988.

Communists, hippies, outsiders and drug dealers, what else could you ask? It was too early in the culture wars to include terrorist and Muslim.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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3 Responses to Outsider

  1. Wendy Johnston says:

    Wow! Does the librarian who gave her that information still work at the Hamlin library? That is something that real librarians would never do. Number one the information of who checked out what should not be kept and number two if it is, it should only be given to outside parties through the issue of a search warrant.

    • Sam's Branch says:

      Wendy–that was a long time ago, probably not the same librarian. I hadn’t thought about the fact that the names of those checking out the book was not public info.

  2. Deirdre Purdy says:

    Love this. Want to read more.
    Hippie, Communist, Outsider — Calhoun County brand

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