A reporter once figured out there are more West Virginians living outside of West Virginia than there are inside it. Our state’s rapid population decline during the second half of the 20th century turned bustling cities like Welch in McDowell County into near ghost towns.
It’s not easy to move away. A blog post on the The Revivalist from guest blogger Jason Headley is a letter to his home state. “Dear West Virginia” captures perfectly what it was like to grow up here:
We were perfect together at first, weren’t we? As a boy, I couldn’t have asked for a better playmate. Your hills and trees, your railroad tracks, rivers, and run-down factories… My blood in your soil, your splinters and gravel under my skin.
But as he grew up, he began to realize he wasn’t going to stay, though he couldn’t point exactly to moment the change happened.
You were the only thing I knew and somehow you weren’t enough. But my interests and ambitions grew beyond any realistic expectations. Far beyond the reach of your panhandles. And I suppose that changes a relationship forever.
Many years later, living in California, his heart still returns to this place.
I have grandparents and great-grandparents buried in your ground. I have family living in the curves of your hills. I have pieces of me scattered all across your land. And I have the best parts of you locked here in my heart.