28 July 2010

Mike Fink and Other Less Interesting Folks

Darn Mike Fink

Yesterday I was driving through Calhoun County, West Virginia. This is a beautiful place, although quite different than the homes of many readers. It is a county of two-lane highways. I grew up in such places, and I know both feeling of isolation and insulation and indeed comfort of “home” and “neighborhood” that a place like Calhoun County engenders.

My mission yesterday was as a marauding Philistine, to find land for uses inconsistent with the quiet nature of Calhoun County. As I drove up Route 16, I passed through the unincorporated community of Chloe and was reminded of the comment of Gertrude Stein that “there is no there there,” and then I arrived at the community of Minnora and found that there wasn’t even any there. And, of course, I jest, these are simply tiny communities where neighbors nest in comfort and security and where in the deep snows of winter, neighbors check on each other.

Well, the land lies beautifully along Route 16. America is such a beautiful and varied place, and I love so much of it. But my home is, indeed, among the hills. Here, finally, was a place to share with people who have been deprived of the quiet joy of living in Mother West Virginia.

And then: Darn the luck! I ran across a historical marker alongside the highway. In West Virginia, the Department of Culture and History erects permanent markers at historical sites. This particular one marked the “Grave of Mike Fink.” The pleasing vapor of my pleasant (and financially advantageous) visions blew away. You see, this Mike Fink (not that Mike Fink, the other Mike Fink) was a seminal figure in central West Virginia history. To countenance development within shouting distance of his grave? Heresy! Besides, dealing with the Department of Culture and History would be nightmarishly expensive and the flood of tourists would make any sort of regional development just another tawdry collection of souvenir stands. And so, the grave of Mike Fink as well as the unnamed Indian who killed him (photograph above) remains unsullied, as does the Valley of the Elk, which is only right.

I Got It Wrong

I have been reflecting on the strange case of Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture official who was fired by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack after Andrew Breitbart published edited videotape of a recent speech she gave. In that speech, she described an incident 25 years ago where she first sandbagged a white farmer and then, after her own reflection, undid the damage and helped the farmer out. In my post of 22 July 2010, I roundly criticized her as having made a pretty stupid speech.

I’ve followed the news, I’ve considered the comments of Friend Rosa, and now I think I just got it wrong. Taken as a whole, Ms. Sherrod’s speech was a self revealing story of learning. I can hardly object to it having been hokey, inasmuch as I do so love hokey. I’ve also been reading Child of the Appalachian Coalfields, by Robert C. Byrd, and particularly his discussion of his membership when he was in his 20s in the Ku Klux Klan. Although it followed him all his life, in West Virginia he became the most popular public servant of all time and pretty well got a pass on the Klan thing.

And then I considered if what disturbed me was Ms. Sherrod’s reaction to the uproar in the firing as victim-like and whining, and I still think it was. On the other hand, to expect her to have remained calm after she was sandbagged was probably asking too much. I do know that my own reaction would not have been effective at all. A selected few may differ, but I lay claim to a reasonable degree of mellowness. When I screw up, I think I say yes, I’ve screwed up. But in this situation, of both Brietbart’s and the Secretary’s big white horses would have figured in my reaction. So, perhaps a response such as Ms. Sherrod’s was the only way to change the status quo, I don’t know.

In the world of the sound bite, we have to be careful, for we don’t see a lot of accurate representations of people’s beliefs.

My hand to God: A Lawyer Ad

There is an old custom in Mother West Virginia when one is relating something that is not very credible but which is nonetheless true. You raise your right hand when someone expresses doubt and say, “My hand to God . . .,” and that imbues what you have said with the strength of a solemn oath.

I was cruising craigslist.com this week, looking for a printer. I saw that one can advertise legal services. Who (and how) would one advertise legal services on craigslist? So I looked, and My Hand To God, I found this ad: (I’ve changed only the name)


Mortimer Snerd

Now accepting divorce clients for hundreds off normal fee.

Mention this ad and get a divorce for $1200. Call me today.
304 555-5555

123 Snerd Lane
Snerdville, WV. 26101

Stunning, just stunning. The ad is either misleading or really indicative of not a lot of attention being paid to a case. One cannot predict in advance how much time and effort a divorce will take. The $1200 may be OK for a “no-fault” divorce with no children and not much property. But if you add ANYTHING else, the lawyer will be working for free or not doing stuff that should be done. Is this some sort of “get ‘em in the door” thing? Beats me, and I’m not going to ask Mort. You don’t always get what you pay for, but if you don’t pay, the chances of getting go down a bunch. And “mention this ad”? Tacky, tacky, tacky.

Pippa passes.


1 comment:

doreenmary said...

My dear dad used to raise his hand (when telling a story and professing its authenticity)and say, "God as my witness..." Thank you for reminding me of him today and making me smile. oxoxo