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Redneck?

You might be a redneck if your last name is Shick. Actually, that's pretty much a certainty. I'm a redneck. By blood. My father's family is from western Pennsylvania. His father before him was a dairy farmer, but we had many redneck coal miners in our family tree. Redneck? Is that a deraugatory term? An insult? Perhaps to some.


My fathers family name (Shick) showed up in western PA in the early 19th century before the American Civil War. They were Ashkenazic Jews that immigrated from Germany. One of my highlights from a trip I made to Washington DC was to find my ancestor that died in the Civil War.



Nice name bro. Not a coincidence. He died in 1864 during the second siege of Petersburg. I wonder if he was one of the PA miners that helped to dig the tunnels that ended up being the "crater". It's a bizarre story worth investigating.


Okay. Redneck? Where does the term come from? The term was used in the late 19th century to describe rural farmers that spent long hours in the fields. However, it was also used by coal miners from Pennsylvania and West Virginia that wore red bandannas around their necks to show solidarity in the early 20th century. They were trying to unionize and improve salary and working conditions in Appalachia. That's my ancestors. Sweet. I'm a redneck. Well, my ancestors were rednecks. Their battles with mine owners were often violent. Lots of workers died during the coal wars.


I've got family back in Appalachia. I think of them often and have really enjoyed visiting them the last couple of years. I'm not going to make it back there this summer, but it's going to be on the top of my list in summer 2024. Going to the races and golfing there have been great times. Thinking of you often and fondly Marie, Dale, John, Randa, and Dad. Miss you bunches.


Appalachia has had it rough this past generation. This was the house I grew up in.



Seeing it now was a bit of a shock. Did it look like that when I was a kid? Honestly, I don't remember. When I think of my childhood I think of a gang of kids running around together outside playing. It was Norman Rockwellesque. No cell phones. Only five channels on the TV. This was the yard I played in as a kid.



Weird. When I was a lot smaller it looked a lot bigger. We broke windows on the Hawks' house on the left and put tons of balls into the Awls' garden next to this old garage across the street. Mr. Awl was always cranky when it came to us being in his garden retrieving a basketball or a baseball.



Fond redneck memories. The last two times I walked through my old hometown it had a defeated vibe. Lots of empty houses and I didn't see a single kid anywhere. The opoid epidemic that we all hear about has hit this part of the country much harder than other areas. FU Sacklers. These families have all seen the impact first hand. Lots of addiction and overdoses. It hits home when it's someone you know personally that lived down the street from you.


It's not news that some folks from this area have struggled. My brother and I had to make a run to a grocery store in the neighboring town of Clymer last time I was there. These are row houses that we're once owned by a mining corporation in Clymer. Families had to pay rent to the company to live here.



These were working families that were sometimes stuck in indentured servitude. Tennessee Ernie Ford was talking about these families when he sang "Sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in dept." My reality is that this was never my life, but I grew up around others that had this childhood. My personal mining experience was twofold. First, when I was in elementary school we were taken to an old tunnel mine to get a historical tour. I don't remember where it was, but I remember being there with my classmates. We went down into the mine and got to see the that life first hand. I remember being terrified. The thing that scared me most was seeing an "escape" tunnel that connected two shafts in case of a cave in. It wasn't just small. It was a tiny hole that I couldn't imagine a full sized man squeezing into. Secondly, my hometown (Marion Center, PA) had a tipple. A tipple was a dumping station for coal next to a rail line where coal was loaded into coal cars.


My dad was fortunate to have a job in a natural gas pump station. His hearing would disagree, but it wasn't work in a mine. Imagine a monster V-8 car engine that's bigger than some rooms in your house. That's what energy companies used to push natural gas from place to place. Those suckers are LOUD. This building on the left is the pump station. It's hard to see clearly, but the historic Kintersburg covered bridge is on the right just past the the pump station.



Redneck to me isn't an insult. It's a part of my father's family story. It's a story of salt-of-the-earth people working hard just to survive. How can someone not take a small bit of pride in that? Final redneck thought of the day...What yinz doin later?

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4 comentários


Mike Durkee
Mike Durkee
27 de abr. de 2023

Great stuff right there! If we forget where we have come from and what we have gone thru then we forget part of ourselves. You sir have come lightyears!

Curtir

sunxuesong235
sunxuesong235
27 de abr. de 2023

Your description makes my mind emerging the scenes like a movie, thanks for sharing.

Curtir

tonyshockey1
tonyshockey1
23 de abr. de 2023

Great stuff, brings back memories over a couple of trips we took in the last several years! DC, awesome, cant wait to go back. Western PA, yeah, not much there for the average person but home to you. thanks for sharing that. i do look forward to another trip out to central PA for some big tracks, need to plan for that one! From one redneck to another, thanks for sharing!

Curtir

Fascinating stuff, thanks for sharing it.

Curtir
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