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Running on Red Dog Road and other perils of an Appalachian childhood


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I know I've said this before, but the Dallas Morning News book reviews have been spot on for me for quite some time.  This was my latest read based upon their raves and it was excellent.


The book is the memoir in the form of vignettes of a woman who was born in the late 1930s (I think) in a coal mining camp in West Virginia.  Her father was killed in the mines and so her mother was paid $1,000 and kicked out of the mining camp house so the new miner hired in his place would have a home.  She used the money to buy a house in "town," so I guess the thousand dollars was something.  Her parents lived there with her and when WWII started, she moved north to take a Rosie the Riveter job in the northeast and left her children in the care of her parents in this very poor area of Appalachia.


If you aren't familiar with Appalachia, it is the poorest area of the United States, lagging way behind the rest of the country in virtually all economic indicators.  Except perhaps for meth production, at which they excel.  The movie, "Winter's Bone" was set in Appalachia, as was "Deliverance."  District 12 in the "Hunger Games" (where Katniss is from) is stated to have been in an area that used to be called Appalachia.   The "la" is pronounced "lay," in case you were wondering.


So you would expect this to be a story of great deprivation, but it's not.  Derma seems to have had a very happy life, due in large part to the loving care of her grandparents.  They belonged to a Christian fundamentalist group called "Pentacostal Holiness," which included speaking in tongues.  But yet, they seem so normal.  And they are put off by snake handling, with her grandmother opining, "[t]he Bible says if you have enough faith, you can pick up serpents and not be harmed, but I don't think God's going to be offended if I don't take Him up on it."   The story of how her Grandfather handled the gypsy boys who stole from his garden is phenomenally touching, in part because it turns your expectations of how a fundamentalist would act on its head.  Although since it's Grandpa, you aren't surprised.


I had not previously known what "red dog" was, but she describes in beautifully and once you get the explanation, you know why you shouldn't go running on it (it would cut your feet to shreds).  


Highly recommend.  It's a window into a life that I sort of knew existed, but now feel like I understand much better.



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