Monday, January 30, 2012

Don't get above your raisin'

There are few principles in the southern Appalachians that are held more dearly and none that are less understood by outsiders. It is not a defense of the status quo, nor is it an argument against ambition and self-improvement. Rather, it is a reminder to always remember where you came from, to not be overly impressed by your own achievements, and to treat home and neighbors with respect. Don't "get the big head," or "be stuck-up." Politicians know the principle well; at least the successful ones do.

Henry D. Hatfield was the nephew of William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield, leader of the Hatfield side in the infamous feud. He also was a physician, West Virginia Governor (1913-1917), and the first physician to serve in the United States Senate (1929-1935). To my grandmother, her second cousin was sometimes Drury, but more often just "Ol' Doc Hatfield." He didn't get above his raisin'.

Robert C. Byrd belonged to the next generation of West Virginia politicians. As the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate (1959-2010) and longest-serving member of the U.S. Congress (1953-2010), Byrd garnered great power in government. He served as Senate Majority Leader for six years, and as President pro tempore of the Senate anytime the Democratic Party was in the majority from 1989 until 2010. The latter position placed him third in the line of succession to the office of President of the United States. His position as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations for twelve years allowed him to channel large sums of money into West Virginia for infrastructure and social programs. Even surrounding states benefited from these projects. And he never got above his raisin', playing his fiddle at campaign stops and other public events.

This video is a little dated, but it gets the point across (and entertains).


  1. And hence the expression, "just a good old boy".

  2. Oh, yes -- I've heard that. And when someone says, 'Why, she's just as common....' -- it's a compliment, akin to being 'just folks.'

  3. I agree, we would all do better if we didn't 'put on airs.'