America seemed hungrier back in the sixties than today. My family did whatever they could to survive. My grandpa ran a country grocery store. My dad drove two hours to work in an underground coal mine. We raised a garden and had livestock. One uncle drove to a northern city to paint during the week. Another uncle raised strawberries and drove a school bus. Another uncle was a peddler salesman driving over several counties. Nobody was rich but everybody was very busy trying to take care of their families. This was all back before food stamps and other current government programs became popular. There is no question that people in our area of Appalachia had struggles but people had a hunger and a desire to survive.
I watched the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter long before I went to Van Lear to see Loretta Lynn’s old home place. Sure enough it’s up a “holler.” However, in many ways it’s a beautiful place. Her brother, who at that time, was battling cancer and still running a country grocery store gave my wife and I a tour of the old home place. When touring that old house I knew there was something within Loretta Lynn and her now deceased husband Oliver “Mooney” Lynn that was greater than the conditions of poverty that engulfed the area. The innate desire to live and rise above their surroundings lifted them higher than they probably ever imagined. They first moved to Washington State to work before Loretta started having success with music that took them to Nashville. Of course, we all can’t sing like Loretta Lynn. However, we can all do and be something. Much of America has lost its desire to rise above life’s circumstances. We have become mired in our joblessness, poverty or stuck in a situation.
A lot of America has died. We are breathing and going through the motions. We are collecting our food stamps, government assistance and in too many cases numbing ourselves on prescription drugs. Hopelessness is widespread from Butcher Holler to every mega city house and condo throughout the United States. Sadly many suburban houses are filled with depressed, drug sedated Americans who cannot find the internal wherewithal to get up and get moving. More Americans now die from painkillers than from heroin and cocaine combined, (Mark Koba, USA Today, July 28, 2013).
I’m sure the people who lived where I was raised, on Milo road in Kentucky, had days when the dark cloud of hopelessness almost killed their spirits but I doubt it happened a lot. People were too tired. They found something to do with their minds and bodies. We didn’t have computers, cell phones and social media. We had yards to mow, gardens to tend and were trying to figure out how to make a few dollars. We didn’t need drugs to numb ourselves. We simply fell into bed exhausted.
An America that’s not hungry for a better life and is reliant on the government and the politicians to care for us and solve all of our problems will live sadly and die tragically.
Glenn Mollette is an American columnist and author. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com. Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette.