More to Mingo County
I’ve been thinking about Mingo County a lot lately. Admittedly, it’s not hard with prosecuting attorneys, sheriffs, and judges being indicted left and right. The unbelievable abuses of power are mind-boggling and unconscionable. This type of a small town tyranny is destructive. It angers me. It angers the citizens of Mingo County. The decisions and actions of a few people have tarnished this community—a community that has been working so very hard to overcome a legacy of challenges. And that’s what upsets me the most—that all of the good things that hardworking and honest people and businesses are doing are overshadowed by the wrongdoing of others. We need to remind ourselves that there’s more to Mingo County than corruption.
This past summer, I visited Williamson. I walked into the iconic Coal House that serves as a visitors center. The first thing I saw was WV Living Magazine displayed prominently among other West Virginia-made products. I was greeted with a bright smile and a hearty welcome—and it was one of the nicest Chambers of Commerce I’ve visited in the state. I walked out with a T-shirt, a cookbook, and a couple of toys for my children—all made locally. I was given a wealth of information on the county and surrounding sites, a few recommendations of restaurants for lunch, and a couple of options for an overnight stay. I met a descendent of Devil Anse Hatfield (and, much to his chagrin, even took his picture). And that was all in 10 minutes. Once I saw the vibrantly painted pigs lining the sidewalk, I was smitten.
As I walked the streets, I could tell this Blueprint Community was on the move in the right direction. I was impressed with their efforts at economic diversification. I ate lunch at a hip coffee shop called The Righteous Brew and then cozied up to the counter at Hurley’s Old Fashioned Drug Store. I walked into the Mountaineer Hotel, not quite sure what to expect, and my mouth hit the floor. This boutique hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and the lobby is incredible—a hidden gem, to be sure. (I’ve not stayed in the rooms, but I plan on doing so on my next trip south.)
Everywhere I went in Mingo County—from Delbarton to Gilbert to Matewan—people were friendly and engaging. I left thinking this was a place I wanted to return. Are there problems? Yes. But name one community in this country that doesn’t have issues that need to be addressed.
Every time I pick up the paper or watch the news and Mingo County is mentioned, I say a little prayer for all those I met this summer. Hold your head high. Don’t give up. Keep building. Keep working to improve your schools. Don’t let the actions of a few bring you down. And when all the dust settles, you’ll have an even clearer vision of who you are and who you want to be as a community. I’m reminded of a quote by Confucius: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”