Dear West Virginia

One Man's Dream

“One Man’s Dream” by Cheryl Tarrant. Used with permission.

This post is for anyone who has left home. I don’t mean to go to the grocery store or even for vacation. This is for folks who have packed their possessions, hugged their mammas and daddies, and pulled away from the curb with their cheeks wet and their eyes on the road because if they glance in the rearview mirror, they might not go.?It’s for those who bookmark their hometown newspapers and like their native accents. It’s for the homesick, the diehards, people who would charter a plane or ride a mule, whatever it takes to go home at the holidays.?This post is a love letter like no other. It comes from Jason Headley, today’s guest blogger.


Dear West Virginia,

I suppose this has been a long time coming. Looking back, it must have seemed abrupt. Twenty-two years we spent together, then I up and left with no real explanation. I probably owed you more than that. So I’ll try my best to explain it to you now.

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. You could have killed me a dozen times, at least. I seemed to be asking for it. I was rough on you, but you gave as good as you got. My blood in your soil, your splinters and gravel under my skin. This is how we did it, becoming more and more of one another every single day.

I drew your initials in my notebooks in the sharp angles of the university logo. They weren’t just letters. They were you. I wore blue and gold, but those weren’t your only colors. You were green and white, too. Just like my Paden City Wildcats. You were orange and yellow and red, your hillsides alight with fire every autumn. You were the purple of the Ohio River, the sun’s last rays drawn deep. You were black, a night sky as endless as my imagination.

You were everything to me. My mom and my dad. My brother and my grandparents. My home and my school. All of my very first firsts. It was perfect while it lasted.

I wish I could tell you when things changed. That I could point to one moment. Maybe the first time I saw the ocean, standing there with my pant legs hiked to my knees, staring at the end of the earth. Maybe it was something I saw on television: a bionic man, a talking car, a chimpanzee sidekick, a girl in her underwear. Maybe it was the books, one of the stories that seemed so wild and strange and far beyond anything I could ever imagine happening while surrounded by the steadfastness of you.

That might be part of it. I knew, as sure as I knew anything, that you were never going to change. You’d spent lifetimes building mountains from flat, solid ground. You’d grown forests, had them taken from you, and grown them again. You were strong, stalwart, and set in the ways that worked for you. But I slowly began to realize they wouldn’t work for me.

I can’t actually think of a time beyond boyhood when I thought I was going to stay. It’s strange. Ungrateful, I suppose. 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.

The question is, did I begin to stand out because I knew I was going to leave? Or did I know I was going to leave because I was beginning to stand out? I fished your streams, but with little frequency and even less success. Friends and family stalked your forests for hours in the hope of bringing home deer, quail, squirrel. The interest never took with me. But there were bigger things. Ideals I didn’t recognize, some old-fashioned, some simply old. Disagreement with common-held beliefs. Those I saw as wrong-headed, and those I knew were just plain wrong. All of that combined to leave me somewhere in between. There, but not.

I know your state bird, your state flower, your state tree, your state animal. I know your state fish, for crying out loud. Every fiber of my being was forged, formed, and intricately woven by the experience of growing up with you: my basic values, my ingrained suspicions, my belief that good things can always happen to you, but don’t hold your breath.

You see, I’ve never had a problem being from West Virginia. I just had some difficulty being?in?West Virginia.

Still, now, the places we knew together are like songs to me. Just the names bring a flood of memories: Dolly Sods, Canaan Valley, Oil Ridge, Buck Run, Bickles Knob. And then the places that had no real title: the rope swing on the north end of town, the outfield of the far baseball diamond, the attic of my best friend’s house, and, of course, the few square feet of my bedroom. I papered those walls with dreams. That town. I sought your best places and poured endless meaning into some of your most ordinary corners. I did all of this, day after day, for over eight thousand days. And then, one day, it was time to go.

You probably didn’t see it, because my back was to you as I drove, but I cried when I left. And not just because I was in Kentucky. I cried because I missed you already. I cried because I’d never been away from you for longer than two weeks. I cried because I was afraid. Because if I wasn’t a West Virginian, then what was I?

I had a tape recorder on the front seat to capture thoughts as I drove, alone, toward a new life. This is what I said as I left you behind: “If California is half as good to me as West Virginia has been, I’m going to be in pretty good shape.”

And I was right. But a dozen years here has taught me just how wrong I was about something else. I never stopped being a West Virginian. There are some things that can’t be undone. Not by all the gods in all the heavens. Geography be damned.

The other day someone wrote to me and said, “I’ll be coming to your state next week.” And I thought, “I wonder why he’s going to West Virginia?” He wasn’t. He was coming to California. But I still, in my marrow, think of you as “my state.” I only hope you still think of me as your son.

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.

Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe all these words can never explain away what I did. Maybe abandonment is too great a sin to be absolved. Maybe. But I like to think not.

I like to think all your countless years have given you unbridled understanding, the likes of which I’ll never understand. That on a cold autumn night when the air smells like burning leaves and small town football, you miss me a little, too. I like to think that when I come home, you’re as happy to see me as I am you. And that the few days we get to spend together each year are like a gift, a time machine. Proof that old friends never fade.

That’s what I like to think.

Forever yours,

Jason Headley tells stories.

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  • Dan Light

    I left in 1976 and never looked back. I don’t regret leaving and I never intend to return.

  • Beth Clarkson Moore

    What a wonderful, heartfelt story of Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia. A facebook friend forwarded it to be because she said the photo looked exactly like our “home place” in Grafton, WV. My Great Grandfather was from Payden City, until he went to medical school at John Hopkins University. On his way home, he heard Newburg, WV, needed a doctor and started his practice there until moving to Grafton. He delivered most babies in 3 counties riding horseback. I was born at Grafton City Hospital in 1959 and moved to Ravenswood at one year of age when my father found employment at Kaiser Aluminum. I had the perfect childhood, growing up in a booming town along the Ohio River and visiting family back in Taylor and Preston Counties in the Hills. In 1987, my husband was transferred to Columbus, OH, with USAirways and because I had such a great job at Kaiser, we lived apart for almost two years. Finally I made the physical move, but my heart was always “back home”. When my father passed away in 1993, my Mom started thinking about moving back to “the hills” and remodeling of her family farm commenced. By 1996, she was living there full time and loving life! She too felt like she was finally back “home”. The flat land of Ravenswood and the small ranch house never “fit her”. She enjoyed the last 15 years of life in her childhood home. All the family soon were coming back for visits and holidays and it just felt right. Now that Mom is going and a coal company has long wall mined under our 90 acres and destroyed the land and natural spring waters, it feels less like home. This year was the first time we haven’t went for the holidays since 1997. There are people who love WV for it’s wild nature and some who exploit it for the love/greed of money. I hope someday soon, the people of WV vote for politicians who will protect our beautiful lands instead of exploiting. Almost Heaven WV…..let’s get it back!!!

  • Sherrie

    I am from Kentucky but have lived in Michigan for 33 years. I’ve raised my family and am longing to move back home. It seems the older I get the more homesick I get. I miss those mountains and the kindness of their people. I agree that you can take the girl out of the mountains but you can’t take the mountains out of the girl.

  • Jonni Woods

    It looks like you received a great education in West Virginia. I love your writing style, but more than that, I love the excellent use of grammar and spelling. When I get on Facebook (or even reading the paper), I am sometimes appalled at the poor use of the English language. I also grew up in West Virginia and received an excellent education in small schools in Wyoming County. I left in 1967, but still call it “home”. Thank you for sharing your love for her.

  • Janice Birt

    Wonderful days spent in Mallory, West Virginia. I am 67 years old and have so many precious memories. Going out with friends on Halloween night. Not to be evil just having a wonderful time with my older sister who was sent to take care of the small ones. Walking to the bus stop to get on the school bus with my friends and smiling all the way. Walking to and from the Post Office to get the mail and not be afraid that someone would hurt me. Waiting every Friday for Mom and Dad to get back from the store. We always knew those bags were full of wonderful food that Mom would be fixing for the next week. Every Monday coming home from school and see the laundry blowing in the breeze and knowing when I laid my head down on that pillow tonight there would be such a sweet smell of spring. Getting out in the evenings when the dishes were done and playing ball with all the kids in the neighborhood. So many more precious memories of my Home Sweet Home, West Virginia.
    Thank you beautiful West Virginia for all the wonderful times that you gave to me when I was growing up. For a daddy who never stayed out of work even when he had a broken foot. A precious mother who made home a wonderful place to grow up and then come back to when we lefty
    Yes, West Virginia has left me with wonderful memories on my childhood. That is where I met my sweet husband and married to for 45 years.
    GREAT is the state of, West Virginia. You will always be loved.

  • Judy Smith Aldrich

    I never lived in WV but feel it is in my soul. Our family spent many years traveling to WV for holidays. As the years passed there were fewer and fewer trips. Maybe it is the time I spend on my family tree that brings me to that WV home feeling.

  • Eddie James

    It’s so true that you can take the person out of WV, but not take WV out of the person. I was gone 28 years before moving back. I stayed 6 1/2 years before moving back South. While I have no plans to permanently return to those hills, I will never forget my roots and will forever hold West Virginia close to my heart. It will always be “home”.

  • Geraldine Harrison Terry

    I’ve been away from wv.for over fifty years ,everybody is correct ,it’s a bloodline that never goes away.ive lived in Ohio all that time ,I still have four brothers that live there ,we are all in our golden ages..I still go visit a couple times a year.Go visit graveyards of family members gone,but not forgotten.ive resently moved to Tennessee,because I have two children that moved here.But I always thought I would retire and move back home.(West Virginia) .love it there Borned there in Putnam county.left when I was in my teens.

  • Susie Rock

    When I was a teenager living in West Virginia I saw a TV program about a beatnik couple who lived in Greenwich Village (which is a part of New York City.) I decided then and there that was where I wanted to live because they said something about when they finished dinner sometimes they didn’t wash the dishes until the next day. I hated washing dishes and my dad insisted they be done immediately after dinner was over. A beatnik was just the perfect thing to be and the nearest place to find them was NYC!

    I graduated from high school and college in West Virginia. I was somewhat afraid to actually move to New York City but I had a college friend who lived in Baltimore, Maryland so I moved and found a job there. I wasn’t very far away from West Virginia so I would go back most every weekend. I found friends who were cavers and some of the best caves in the world are in West Virginia. We came back for those. Back then just like today many young folks left to find jobs as there weren’t any in West Virginia. I was a medical technologist and I knew I could find a job anywhere I wanted to live so one day I took a lunch break and walked across the street to a travel agency and bought a ticket to Europe. I really wanted to travel so I did for over 8 months–4 in Europe and then 4 months driving all over this country including a cross country tour. I saw a lot and wanted to see more.

    My plan was to move back to West Virginia and get a job and save enough money to travel around the world then move back and live in West Virginia the rest of my life. I never made it that far. I ended up putting my money into a house, getting married and managed to live in Monroe County for 12 years before economics caught up with me. My parents had moved to Florida in the meantime so my husband and I went there. I had tried to find a job in West Virginia for 6 months and I ended up getting one there in 6 days but I didn’t even try the first 3. I lived there for 20 years but I kept my place back home.

    It was 2007 and Colorado called to me in the form of a man and I moved there. I loved the state but the man not so much. After a year I decided to move back home. It’s nice to be here!

  • Ken Bryant Jr.

    Born in Richwood, WV, raised in Canvas, WV in Nicholas County. I never ever wanted to leave the county. But as time went on, I had to ge an education. So off to Morgantown, WV to be a Mountaineer and go to engineering school. By the time I was ready to graduate, I was married and had my first child. Coal industry was in its down turn and my dream of coming home and working and contributing to the community that made me feel so comfortable was shattered. I ended up in the Washington DC area, mainly becaause I needed to feed my family. Dont get me wrong, I loved my job there, but it did not take me long to realize that this ole country boy did not belong there, but I had to stay. I was miserable for 12 years there. All I could think of was coming home. Then some life changing things happened, moved to Clarksburg, WV area and went to work. It was better there, but not home. My wife that time, was from the Clarksburg area but hated being there and for lots of different reasons we parted ways. My father was ill and I needed to come home and help out. I was fortunate to get a job with a small engineering firm right there in Summersville and worked there for six years. Dad got better, things were good, I remarried a woman who is not only the love of my life, but my best friend. Though not a Nicholas County native, but a Calhoun County native, she has no desire to move back to her home land and she loves it here as much as I do. We have our struggles, mostly finanacially, because it is West Virginia. I know I could make a lot more money and be better off financially if I left. But I also know that I would not be happy. See, in my beliefe, a true West Virginian can’t be bought. They will take their pains and problems in stride and they will survive. A close friend of mine, who lives here now, but is originally from Pennslyvania told me once that he had never seen people as tough, with as much pride, resilience, and moral character as West Virginians and that is why he stayed here cause he wanted his children to be just that. I am proud to be a West Virginian and even prouder to know I have been back in my home town now since 1995. It was the best thing that ever happened to me for I finally achieved the dream I had in college. Working and contributing to the community I grew up in and with people that I grew up with. There is no feeling like it in my opinion. And that is better than any dollar bill will be to me.

  • Kia Moore

    My fiancé is from Arizona and he hates it here. But I was born and raised in West Virginia. We recently had a daughter and I am determined to raise her here. There’s no place like home. West Virginia is home. It’s where I belong. And it really is Almost Heaven.

  • Lisa McCue

    That first paragraph introducing this essay might have been written specifically for my family and me. We packed up and drove away in July 2006. We didn’t want to leave and after ten years, we still ache with homesickness. I hear that things are even worse economically now than when we left and that breaks my heart. We want to come home, but we have to be able to make a living and see that our kids have what they need to be successful adults. Right now, it doesn’t sound as if that’s possible in WV. When will things begin to look up, so we can finally come home?

  • Antonio M Licata

    I was born in Morgantown and raised in Weirton. I never really thought I would stay, but I always knew my heart would not leave. I love my life in Ohio. The people in the suburban neighborhoods we have made life long friends with are people that I know and love. The schools and safe cities were a great place for my children to grow up. My job here let me do thugs professionally that allowed me to grow and explore my limits. It also let me afford things that even I never dreamed I would be able to do. With all of that being said, after 30 years, I have to force myself to say that I’m from Ohio when someone asks. I will never truly root for an Ohio team. I can be happy for my friends when they win, be proud for my community, but if and when that team plays a team from West Virginia…I’ll be rooting for the team from my original home state. My real home state. My only home state.

  • Connie Barron Washburn

    Everyone that knows me , knows where my heart is…WV..we had a speaker at our church yesterday morning…wearing a shirt with WEST VIRGINIA in big letters on it. got my day off to a great start..we left over 30 years ago by my heart is still a WV reminder and all my friends know it..those beautiful hills, the 4-H program, my hometown friends..I have great friends here, mind you..but I have never left my hometown friends or those from throughout the state that I made..Do have a WV music teacher where I worked and now sub…he is from Wheeling..NC..has its benefits…always root for the WV teams..go WVU and Shepherd..both made me proud this year..I have grown to like it…like, mind you, here..but still love Shepherdstown and the rest of the state..

  • Joe Snyder

    I left West Virginia in 1975 to pursue my dreams. These words are just about exactly as I would write if I was as articulate. Half to say I got misty eyed reading it. Since retiring I often think about leaving California & returning home to WV. I often wonder if I deprived my kids & grandkids by not having them grow up in WV as I did. But now they are here and here I’ll stay. West Virginia always on my mind.

  • Bethany

    This touched my heart. Im stationed in Kentucky, but nothing will ever compare to WV. I sing Country Roads, Take Me Home on a daily basis just to get through the stressful times I have. I think about the memories I made, my family, and friends. I proud to say I’m a West Virginian and will always have pride.

  • Anonymous

    I recently moved to fla from WV I loved it there but there is no way to make a living in WV. I love WV and always will have great childhood memories but everyone has past away that I care about.

  • Mary Walters

    I was born in Tyler county raised in Webster Springs and then Lumberport, in the 70’s I moved to Wyoming. I come back “HOME” every year the hills , the trees , green mountains call me home. I miss and love the state of West Virginia I have been gone 40 years and still cry when I leave and get homesick for the good mountain people. Just to hear a wiper will a Bob white or the frogs and the crickets sing. To smell the grass and the mountain flowers, West Virginia will always be HOME.


    This story hit close to home in my wanderings to the same state of California. Though I still love my home state, depression was my fate to look elsewhere for happiness. Why California? As it turned out my wife always wanted to come here due to an Uncle who lived out here and exclaimed it merits. Sure enough, arriving to the bustling area of LA and Santa Monica work opportunities were abound. My abilities gathered from military and college were in demand so fate was cast. Though my home state is California today, I did have the opportunity to live in Alaska, Washington state, and Ontario, Canada for while. Which also gave me the opportunity to see other parts of the U.S. The WV hills are still the best. In view of the wonderful life I have had outside the state, it doesn’t mean I ever forgot my wonderful years growing up, and our visits with family and friends over the years. As he said you never forget you’re a West Virginian, no matter where you end up. The roots are deep.

  • Betty Richards

    Left Logan, WVa in 1957. It is still home to me and always will be. I feel just like the folks who wrote their stories here.
    We still have family there.
    Almost Heaven!

  • Wilma M. Hamilton Lell

    Yes i’m proud to be from Matewan Wva. Yes i did make the bigest mistake leaving from there. But I’m returning back home at home your neighbors will help you when you need help and don’t take them for ganted for they are special people.Don’t take avanges of them. Just thank God that the people in look out for one another.Wilma M.Hamilton Lell

  • Mike Monahan

    Thank you for these words. I was born in Wheeling and raised just down the Ohio River in McMechen. I left in 1989. West Virginia will always be home.

  • John Anderson

    I grew up in Huntington, graduated from WVU in 1984 and within a week loaded my car and moved first to South Carolina and then to Atlanta. If you travel on I-77 around the holidays, you see so many cars with southern license plates and a WV sticker on the window. We were all heading ‘home’ to West Virginia, if only for a few days. This summer, my parents moved to NC to be closer to my sister. So at Thanksgiving, for the first time we did not make the I-77 trek. I felt very sad, because for the first time, I wasn’t going ‘home’.

  • David

    I left Charleston West Virginia in February of 1971. There was work to support my family in North Carolina, but nothing in West Virginia. I have looked for a way to return countless times over the years, have moved to both Carolinas. Pennsylvania, and even Georgia, but I’ve never been able to find work in my home state.

  • Fred B.

    My wife and I left wild, wonderful West Virginia in May 2015 with two teenage boys having lived within a ten mile radius of their grandparents. Both of my boys went to the same elementary school that my brother and I went to and our mom worked as a crossing guard. I loved that my sons and my wife grew up and lived in my hometown of Nitro. My father and mother watched my boys walk up the street to their house from the bus stop throughout their middle school years. We moved to northern Virginia, in a beautiful area 36 miles from Washington, DC for our jobs. We spent twenty plus years in the same agency in WV and decided to move for promotions. The only regret we have is that our family and friends couldn’t be where we are now. Going to Wal-Mart, I still catch myself looking for my friends and remember where I am…My brother has lived here in VA since he graduated high school and left home for the Air Force in 1992. We moved to be closer to him and our three little ones and enjoy visits from our parents, but they aren’t down the street anymore. I enjoy where we live now, minus the traffic, crowds, and such, but I still look at the house as a temporary home. Unfortunately, our house hasn’t sold in WV due to the economic situation in WV, but it does allow us to go back and stay in our old home. WV will always hold a special place in my heart, but I have been ready to leave because of the work atmosphere…We love WV, but also knew we couldn’t stay due to our work situation. I love the state, but I sure do hate to see the condition of the economy and dwindling population. It’s a shame that the political environment has held the state hostage and killed the economy of the state as it succumbs to “big coal” and very little else. Clarksburg, Morgantown, the northern and eastern panhandle have continued to thrive while Charleston, Beckley, Huntington, and south have become impoverished relying on natural resources. Had Charleston politicians pushed for a regional airport in the Teays Valley area, the economy could have become what the northern Virginia area from Dulles airport to Leesburg and beyond have enjoyed for the last twenty years. Unfortunately, these politicians can’t see beyond the tax dollars and their next election cycle…great article and I thank you for allowing me to comment!

  • Jeannette Gore

    You brought tears to my eyes. You captured the heart and soul of West Virginians who may have moved on but consider West Virginia home. My father left WV to join the USAF 1957 just two weeks after graduating high school . After a twenty year air Force career he retired in Gilbert AZ. When visiting WV he would seem to get lighter and giddy. He was always happy going back to those hills. I have never forgetten the love he had for all things West Virginian. One that he passed onto this daughter and she in turn passed onto her daughter’s. My youngest even attended WVWC. She was the one who came back.

  • Jeana Lama

    I never lived in west Virginia but my moms side of the family is from there. A couple of years ago there was a family reunion held there that we went to and I found myself not wanting to leave! And I have lived in Michigan my whole life. Its just so amazing, and loving, and kind, I wish I would go back for a while.

  • Barbara Riley

    I am originally from Logan County. I left home when I was 19 and moved to the Washington D.C. area. That was in 1971. I eventually became a military wife and have lived in countless states, including beautiful Hawaii. Tears were rolling down my cheeks while reading this because it is so very true. I miss WV so much at times that it hurts. I still have family and friends that live there so I try to go back as often as I can. I have always said that you can take the girl out of WV but you can’t take the WV out of the girl. It doesn’t matter where I live physically because I am and always will be a West Virginia girl and proud of it. Thank you for your beautiful story!!!! Thank you God for giving me the privilege of growing up in the beautiful hills of West Virginia. I am blessed!

  • Johnny Pendley

    I’m from Greenville Ky. I left and moved to Nashville TN in 1984 at the age of 24 not because I wanted to but for work. I always thought that I would move back to the small town I was from but it wasn’t in the cards. I found a good job then bought a house kids came along now 33yrs later I’m still home sick. My parents are gone now I have family there sill and my best friend since 2nd grade . even now when I visit and I pull out on the road to head back to Nashville I get that same empty feeling I did the first time when I left. I know that I will never get to move back to much water has ran under the bridge. But some day when my life is over I’ll go home to ky to never leave again

  • John Conolley

    This made me cry, but I’ll never go back. I miss my mountains with all my heart, but there are too many bad memories.

  • Pat Rye

    I love your beautiful story. I have left and returned to WV several times over the past 60 years. It will always be home to me, no matter how far I roam.

  • Jayne Harper Hill

    Growing up in West Virginia was great. Wonderful change of seasons, friendly neighbors, small towns, and catching lightning bugs. I happily attend public school, college, and graduate school there. However, I had an awful time staying well. Bronchitis and allergies plagued me I had bad tonsils and adenoids that had to come out and fell apart with disease. We lived in the kanawha Valley, only a few miles from the Institute Union Carbide Plant. The smells were less than inviting at times. Once or twice they had explosions that cracked our basement windows. We worried about the chemicals in the Kanawha Valley and were once evacuated when chlorine gas escaped. I left in 1983, as the economy was plummeting and my husband was a builder. I was a teacher and could work anywhere. We moved to Raleigh, NC, and stayed in NC for over 30 years. Most of my allergies improved or disappeared. We even lived at the beach there for almost 10 years. My health improved even more. We are retired now and live on the Gulf Coat of Florida. I take very few medications any longer and am healthier than I have been in years. I will always love West Virginia and am a rabid WVU football fan, but will never go back. My last trip was so depressing. My little town was dingy and parts of it were slums. The house I grew up in was in horrible shape, and no one remained in the old neighborhood. You really can’t go home again.

  • Shirley Townsend

    I left in 74′ and know WV is still home. My family is gone. I have one 1st cousin left there. But friends have said the inflection is different when I say home and mean WV or when I say it and mean where I live. Yes, they are both home but I still feel safer when I’m held by those hills. I’m on my way there this coming week. My high school 55th reunion is where I will visit with old friends and catch up. Some of us went to kindergarten together. My hometown, Nitro will celebrate it’s 100th Birthday while I’m there but part of my time will be spent at two different state parks. There I really get in touch with the heart and soul of the place.

  • Amy Young

    This brought me to tears. It was never my dream to leave, but the man I fell in love with had joined the Air Force. I have been gone for 12 years and although there are things that make me happy I am not there (the state is falling apart with drugs). It is and always will be home. All my family is there, and ironically my husband’s grandfather was born and raised there as well (husband is from Ohio). I will always use every excuse to go home. Country Roads brings a warmth to me that can’t be explained. West Virginians are a different breed of people, we were raised strong and independent, to always help our neighbors and love one another. Those mountains and Rivers are like no other in the world. And although I would love to go back with all of my heart, I fear that unless the drug problems change, it will never be a safe place for my girls to grow. We have 7 years left in the Air Force, just praying for changes byh then.

  • Maeda Krizmencic

    I moved away from WV in 1983, after getting married. Growing up, I always though my community was lame, uninviting, boring, etc. I though my life would be much more exciting and fulfilling living near NYC. Boy, what a rude awakening! I was so homesick, and I refused to leave our house for the first 6 weeks we lived there. Through my husband’s employment, we have had to relocate several times. We now reside in Amish Country, in PA. I would love to move back home, but it will never be the same, “back home”. Crime and drug use/abuse is at an all time high. There is no work, and people are barely making it. I will always love and miss my beautiful West Virginia, and still love to visit as often as possible.

  • Janice Brewer

    We left Jenny’s creek when I was 12 over 40years I still call it home I wish my grandkids could have the experience I had I love you West Virginia

  • Nancy Wickert Smilie

    I married a man from Illinois. He was a nomad. I’ve lived in many places and liked them all, but my love will always be in WV. I always feel the tears run down my cheeks when I get within sight of my forever home from any direction. It is correctly spelled with a W and a V but just four letters….home….do it for me.

  • Nancy Wickert Smilie

    Ok. I thought my comment was already shared in what I sent. What more do you need? Nancy Wickert Smilie

  • Mark Watson

    Growing up LGBT and a college graduate there was never a possibility of being able to stay.After a good friend was murdered in a brutal hate crime I packed up for Atlanta and never looked back.

  • Anonymous

    I was born in Kanawah county in 1982. Lived in East Bank for 8 yrs. Parents moved me and sissy to SC Myrtle Beach and we stayed until we were grown. We traveled back there many times during out growing up.. and dad moved back there when I was about 23. I got myself on a bad bad path. Left everything behind and ran with everything I could fit in my car back to West Virginia in 2011. I loved it. I missed it. Dad in the garden. The cats outside. The fishing the swimming in the river driving up random hollers and eating at all the local spots. Dad was a mayor so I was fortunate enough to be able to take that couple years and recover and heal and grow again . I got my health and my strength back. But I so saw a side I never knew. The pain pill epidemic. It caught me by surprise and it took me straight to hell. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and I sure as hell needed to get out. I saw alot of poverty. Depression. Drug addiction. Small town shady political stuff. Corrupt government offices. I also saw small churches with 50plus year long followers. Ten members or 100 the devotion was alive every Sunday rain sleet snow sunshine no matter if you were a regular or not everywhere I went people embraced me. No matter financial condition or job title or social standing. Dad retired from office and in 2013 we moved to Alabama to be with his dying brother and closer to his sister. It was a smaller house there was no town there wasn’t the same sense of community. No open gym three nights a week where he tried to keep kids off the street and let them co.e play basketball and just be kids a few hours. Alabama might have been warmer weather wise but it was cold in every other capacity. West Virginia will always always be home. I’m in Myrtle Beach SC again and have been since 2013 I’d give anything to go back to wva even just to say thank you and leave some tears in the soil.

  • Anonymous

    It’s wonderful to hear the grand memories that people have of yesteryears of WV. I to was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia with fond memories 30 to 40 years ago. I moved from West Virginia when I was 18 to Charlotte NC, and just saying you were from wv would land you a job on a construction site and when that job topped out you could walk across the street to the next site and start working again by saying I’m a west Virginian. I spent 8 years living in NC and Florida then a tragedy struck and I moved back to wv to help my family through this awful time. I have lived here for 25 years since then and have seen WV deteriorate in those years; drugs, economy, attitudes,etc. My wife has worked with the state assisted single parent families as a daycare provider three of those mothers pregnant of which one was a non dependent baby, that’s right one out of three. Me and my wife have worked our tails off to make a good life here. I worked two 40 hr a week jobs for the first 10 years and her job is around the clock pretty much. The economy is bad. I feel sorry for the young kids trying to make a life here, it’s not impossible, but a hard road will be inevitable. To make my point ,not trying to bash WV, keep the memories you have of this place and don’t move back, the West Virginia you and I were raised up in doesn’t exist anymore. I live on the outskirts of town, and my neighbors are the greatest, but in the last 8 years I have had my property stolen broken into all my neighbors have been broken into as well. I had to resort to ADT and install 12 cameras to watch and record every corner of my property, and its everywhere. What once was a great place to be raised is no more its horrible because WV is a beautiful state with the grand mountains and beautiful rivers and lakes, no other state could come close, visit this beautiful state to rehash your memories but don’t destroy it all by moving back.

  • Suzanne wagner

    Hi there. im not sure how this works. i love that photo on the top of the page. can you srnd me a copy? preferably a hard copy. I would like to paint it.

  • Suzanne wagner

    i was born in Morgantown, West Virginia. Then we moved and traveled all over: CA, Utah, Charleston, WV, Stamford, CT, Geneva, Switzerland, then Illnois. My grandparents and other family were still in WV so I went to WV for all my school breaks. i love West Virginia.

  • Michael Cook

    I was drafted in 1969, left WV in 1970 and returned from Vietnam in August of 1971 and while in the military there were 8 soldiers in my company within 75 miles of each other so WV pride was amazing in our unit.Left WV for 16 years returned 1n 1990 and we have an opiate epidemic and we seem to be told our economy is terrible but on Sundsys our churches are full, our pastor is from Kentucky but he professes his love for WV and says WV people are the most giving people he has ever met even when times are hard they still commit to their God and help others.

  • emily kelly

    Dear “West” Virginia,

    Give up the ghost and come on back. I forgive you this childish rift.


  • Trish Fata

    I got so sad reading Jason Headley’s story it was like I had written this-Why is it that most that Left always long to go back-Is it the child-hood memories before we had obligations,stress and always carefree? I left in 1966-to Michigan-My husband had gotten a job at General motors-.My parents are gone now”Back home” ,but still have siblings there..I so envy the people that stayed there..I miss the hills and go back when I can-I will eventually-go back-home because I plan on being buried there- some day

  • Anonymous

    I love your story Jason! Congratulations on all your achievements in life! ??????

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