Friday, May 25, 2007
I've had a fascination for anything hillbilly ever since I first dived, head-first, into a Coca-Cola cooler and pulled out a cold glass bottle of Mountain Dew with the outhouse, pig, and gun-toting mountain man logo. Even in the 1980s, bottling companies were still reusing them. My grandmother used to work as a cashier at a gas station/general store out in Woodlawn, Virginia. Oftentimes I would stay with her at the store, walking around the aisles or sitting on the front porch with a bottle of Mountain Dew and a candy bar. Down the mountain from where we lived, in Cana, Virginia, was a produce stand and tourist stop called Mountain Man. Its sign had the same bearded man with a frayed hat. I haven't been there in years, so I don't know if it's still there, but they used to have regular bluegrass music performances from a flatbed trailer.
I later learned that back in the 1960s there was a trend for anything country or hillbilly -- usually for comic effect. This trend gave birth to the Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and the Dukes of Hazzard. Advertisers also jumped on the bandwagon, and many businesses in the Appalachian region touted "hillbilly" in their names. I know of several, some I've been to and some I've only seen in postcard pictures. My new favorite is Hill-Billy Village in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In the midst of the fancy laser tag, bungee jumping, go-cart racing, there is a little oasis of yesteryear. It was the first tourist stop on the whole strip, before anything else was there. Sure, it's run down today, but if you want a coonskin cap, Indian moccasins, or a rebel flag T-shirt this is the place to go. And if you follow the signs to the very back (sorry, no photographs please) you end up on their back lot where they keep a replica of an old cabin and moonshine still. It is oooold, but has a kitschy quality to it. If you are in the area and like kitschy, then you have to go to Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as well. The whole miniature golf course is built on the side of a hill. You even have to ride a trolly to the top, it's so steep. My wife is rolling her eyes right now. Some people just don't appreciate good hillbilly culture.
(Note: This blog entry is not intended in any way to stereotype, degrade, or trivialize mountain life in the Appalachians or Ozarks. There are many folks that believe the Appalachian American is the last ethnicity that is still safe to make fun of without reprecussion from the politically-correct minded. I feel that if there is to be any fun made of mountain folks, it should be done by mountain folks themselves. This is why Jeff Foxworthy can tell Redneck jokes, because he is one, and why I feel justified in doing the same. And if you come to my house, I'll show you my shotgun to prove it.)