I will never forget walking down the street in Dublin, Ireland. I found myself in The Oliver St. John’s Gogarty Pub, in the Temple Bar District. The pub was packed and rough looking man in his 60s immediately recognized that my friends and I were no locals. He paused his tune and asked where we were from.
“West Virginia,” we said sheepishly.
The seafaring looking singer smiled and immediately began to mumble the words, “Almost heaven, West Virginia…”
Together we belted out the rest of the lyrics to John Denver’s anthem like we were singing them for the first time. That was it. A bond had been eternally created with little more than a song.
Today the state of West Virginia turns 154 years old. Yes, 154 years ago the state of West Virginia chose to separate from Virginia. I happen to call this Virginia home and I am more than thankful Jean-Luc does as well. Though the mountains of the Midwest are vast, beautiful, and challenging, there is just no place quite like West Virginia, especially to own a horse it. Take a look at the incredible terrain from my friend Liz’s most recent ride at place known as Dolly Sods. It’s hard to believe a horse can tackle such terrain, but they can.
I said it often when searching for a horse. "I just want something I can sit back on and enjoy the view as it passes by." I'm so thankful that Jean-Luc helps bring me closer to that view. As the years go by, I find my home among the hills more and more unique. Words fail me every time I try to describe what makes West Virginia so, but I believe it has to do with the resilient brother/sisterhood that comes with being a West Virginian. And trust me, this is not an exclusive club. Born, or transplanted, once you’re in, you are in for life.
West Virginian’s are funny people. If you are a West Virginian (or say you are) and you happen upon another one anywhere outside of West Virginia, they’re immediately your family. Period. Any barriers of discomfort are immediately removed. The experience I had in Dublin, though amazing, was not unique. I have repeated nearly that exact same scenario in Manila, Buenos Ares, Lima, Delphi, and several other countries throughout the world.
I have thought about this phenomenon for years, and I believe it has to do with a few shared experiences nearly every West Virginian has in common. The first - at some point someone has inevitably asked you, “Western Virginia? How far do you live from Richmond? Are you near Blacksburg?” (If that doesn’t make sense to you please review any map of the United States newer than 1863).
The second shared experience is a bit deeper, though likely all the same. As a West Virginian, at some point, you have both been looked down upon for being from West Virginia. Sad as it may sound, this experience is a shared one for many from the Mountain State. At some point, someone that is unlikely to know your name has considered you “less-than,” thanks to stereotypes, accents, or some other identifying moniker. Please don’t misunderstand though, this isn’t something people from our state see as a reason to be pitied – it is just a fact of life that comes with living in a state that ranks pretty low on most things people give rank to.
Regardless, I’ve personally had the opportunity to leave this place many times, never to return. I passed them all up. Not because I am scared or afraid of what the world may hold out there. I do not consider myself a martyr for staying. I love visiting other places. However, I passed up the opportunities because of something that may make me sound insane but I truly have no other way to describe it. There is magic in these hills. I live here for the unexplained, breathtaking beauty. I believe people long for West Virginia because it offers an experience that is not found elsewhere.
I live here because it is almost heaven.
My name is Chelsey.
Generator's Cuevo Gold, or as he's known around this barn, "Jean-Luc Ponycard", was foaled in 2004 from Generator's Hurricane & Cheyenne's Little Bit.