Sunday, November 7, 2010
WEST VIRGINIA HILLBILLIES
Twice I've watched this film in the last 2 days, THE WILD AND WONDERFUL WHITES OF WEST VIRGINIA. It's a great deal of fun. To the middle class eye that aspires upward, the way the people live in this film is shocking, even pitiful. Yet, to working people of the mountains, this is the way people are. Every county has its family name that is the lowest on the social ladder, the people well acquainted with the courtroom. This film is a documentary that watches the White family in Boone County, West Virginia, for a year. They are the family of Jesco White, subject of an earlier documentary by the same director, Julien Nitzberg, DANCING OUTLAW.
When I see these films I laugh like with a Larry the Cable Guy video. They are held up as different, the White family of Boone County. The lawyers and sheriff interviewed in the film call them different. But where the country people are concerned, redneck hillbillies, they're not different at all. These people are all up and down the mountains. They're everywhere. The only reason middle class folks are freaked by the White family and their particular craziness is they don't pay enough attention to "trailer trash" to notice how they live, don't want to know. Hillbillies are down the ladder. The same middle class people who make an issue of disapproving of the N-word don't know any Ns.
In my first year in the mountains, I went riding the roads with Bill Pruitt, Don Pruitt, Van Pruitt and sometimes Herman Pruitt. I don't know if Herman is still living. Bill and Van are not. Don is in a nursing home at Black Mountain, last I heard. Bill spent a long time at the nursing home in Sparta. Van had heart attack after heart attack until one finally got him. "Them Pruitt boys" is how they were known. They were Tom Pruitt's nephews. I got to know them pretty well. Their story was similar to the story of the Whites in WVa. The daddy was killed when the kids were in their teens and younger, like cousins of mine in KC whose daddy died when they were little. In every case of the 3 families, the kids went to shit after the daddy died.
The White family in the film are mountain people who have a rough go of it. They get by the best they can. Like one of the law enforcement officials said of them, none of them work, but they always have money. One of the town lawyers brought up a kid in the county who was going to MIT. He wanted to know why all the attention was on people like the Whites and not on the kid going to MIT. For one thing, there are a lot of people in these mountains like the Whites. They are Southern redneck hillbillies and proud of it. One of the guys in the film, Les, wore a ballcap that said DIXIE Border Patrol. He also wore a tshirt that said, Call The Law. I enjoyed the film mainly because these are people of the world I live in. I'm familiar with them and I like them.