From an airliner West Virginia appears to be one vast mountainous forest broken by an occasional cleared valley and with a vista marred only by whiffs of smoke from distant power plants. From an auto West Virginia is again the forest of beech, yellow poplar, sugar maple, oak, and hemlock, either sparkling with dogwood and redbud blossoms in the spring or daubed with gilded maple leaves in the autumn. The forest has made a glorious recovery from the early decades of this century when timber companies and farmers reduced it to a burned stubble.1 Today, West Virginia is the third most heavily forested state in the nation.2 Driving through this forest demands skill and care, for the narrow, twisting roads laid out in hollow bottoms and over gnarled ridges confront the driver with the dangers of the road and the danger from a frequent companion on the road--the triaxle coal truck. Moreover, the driver is likely to be distracted from the beauty of the forest by the abandoned refuse of industrial civilization--piles of coal tailings or "gob" and the strewn remnants of rusted metal around former glassmaking, mining, and refining facilities that once processed the coal, sand, limestone, natural gas, and oil abundant in the state.
The people encountered are exceedingly friendly, helpful, and eager to invite our traveler to a local ramps supper.3 Most of them love West Virginia and are proud to call themselves Mountaineers. However, they are realists. They know that historically the state's economy has been one of the weakest in the nation, that incomes are relatively low, and that their children will most likely have to leave the state to find good-paying jobs.4 Often, they blame out-of-state business interests for the state's economic woes and complain that their elected officials do little to curb the influence of out-of-state coal, timber, and natural gas firms. Also, in the past they have experienced
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Publication information: Book title: West Virginia Politics and Government. Contributors: Richard A. Brisbin Jr. - Author, Robert Jay Dilger - Author, Allan S. Hammock - Author, Christopher Z. Mooney - Author. Publisher: University of Nebraska Press. Place of publication: Lincoln, NE. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 1.