Unexplainable bond ties residents of Appalachia together


Ciara Browning

By Ciara Browning, Contributing Writer

Appalachia is more than a region. We are more than a statistic, a preconceived notion or a stereotype. We are different from the people in big towns in unique ways. This is what makes our culture so different and distinct.
When I think of the word “Appalachia,” my mind immediately takes me to the winding, mountain roads. They are so familiar to me, yet most only know of them as lines in a song. I wonder if other people would dare to drive these twisting roads that are so high you can look over the edge of a tiny metal rail and see your doom. If they did drive these roads, there is no way they could know where the potholes are, or the breaks and dips in the pavement like we do. Those things are familiar to me and others who live here.
I almost feel pity for teenagers in large towns who haven’t ridden in a truck with their friends as music blasts through the speakers while everyone screams the lyrics. They haven’t smelled the breath of the mountains mixed with the beautiful hues and shadows they cast. They haven’t felt the pure bliss that comes from experiencing, and enjoying, these events with people you have a special tie to.
What makes me Appalachian is the sense of community and family wherever I go. Here you see the same people you’ve seen since you were a child and know all of their family members by name. You have cookouts with your family and family friends. Here in the mountains, the common wildfires we have are the ones spread by the tongues of middle-aged men and women. Here you might hear of a friend’s uncle facing drug charges once again, while eating your fried chicken with soup beans and cornbread. You’ll hear your older family members’ stubbornness that has also been bestowed on you. You would hear that familiar accent that might sound like gibberish to outsiders.
Most of us don’t see a need for change, or at least I don’t. Our roads need a permanent solution, but our culture is ours, and no one can take it away or change it.
There are your typical cliques in school, but Appalachia is a clique in itself. We are all connected and tied together by this unexplainable bond. Most feel like we are all that we have because these gorgeously fierce mountains have shielded and hidden us away from the rest of our ever changing society.
I don’t mind it most of the time though. This is my culture, and it is something I learned to be proud of years ago.

(Editor’s note: Ciara Browning is a student in Tami Brock’s English 102 class at Harlan County High School and wrote this essay on growing up in Appalachia as part of a class project)