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Why I don't Mind beig called a Hillbilly

CountryBoy

Michigan Farmer
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As a born and bred Michigan Farmer (AKA Hillbilly) This pretty much sums up what I have lived and love about Soutwestern Michigan.:cool:


A New Stereotype for Hillbillies

By Christina Stein
Opinion | January 13, 2010

GREAT BEND, Kan. - I have come to the realization that I come from a long line of hillbillies, rednecks, hicks, whatever you want to call them. That is a fact I cannot ignore, and wouldn't want to if I could. Often, when people think of Michigan, they conjure up an image of Detroit. The big city.
Granted, Michigan is a much more urban place than Kansas, but there are still quiet tucked back areas in the unruly shadow of the cities. The town where I come from has grown exponentially in the last thirty years. My mother's family lived in the area for generations, before the timber boom. Back when Kalkaska (the town I am from) had dirt roads running through Main Street.
My grandmother's family populates the majority of a town known as Fife Lake. We have a lot to learn, and live up to from that generation of hillbillies, the generation of my grandparents, and great grandparents.

Today's image of a hillbilly is an uneducated, monster truck driving, beer drinking (while hunting), buffoon. That image couldn't be farther from the truth of what they were. Hillbillies were no doubt poor in that area, but they were crafty. My grandfather could use his fantastic hunting skills to trap any animal in the area. He could out craft the best of them, foxes, beaver, I even seen him catch a raccoon by HAND (I don't recommend this for anyone out there)! He lived off the land. But the land was something he took pride in, the land took care of him, and he took care of it.
Although not formally educated, my grandfather took pride in staying up to date in politics, and had an eclectic array of non-fiction books. He was a smart man, and took pride in his self-taught education. He would always amaze me out in the woods, knowing every direction, animal track, and animal call, while at the same time knowing every government conspiracy theory known to man.
Hillbillies of that era would not be caught dead driving a huge truck now, simply because they were cheap. They would never pay for the gas it took to drive an SUV! That side of the family rarely spent money on things that weren't necessity. A ten mile trip into town in the 1980's was a special treat for my great grandparents. They would dress up in their best clothes, and if they had enough money left over, splurge for a cheeseburger at McDonalds.
Because they were so cheap, they saved everything. Every newspaper that came in, every American flag that someone wanted to get rid of, simply because they might find a use for it in later years. And often they would find a use! My grandfather had to build an extra storage barn just for his findings. Grandma would let us use old pans to catch frogs and tadpoles; and old scrap paper was used for coloring or drawing on. I can remember my grandfather making an old hunting shack, that wasn't much good to anyone else into a playhouse for us grandkids. On top of things for us, Grandpa would reuse Grandma's purses as "fishing gear" carrying his caught fish and fishing equipment around in them! My great-grandparents would wash paper plates. Why you might ask? I'm not really sure, but I suppose it was because everything was reused. They couldn't imagine just throwing something away after one use! It was good for the environment, and their pocket book
As far as drinking, my grandfather could drink his fair share. I remember him telling my sister and I he could cartwheel off the porch, and he did, the results were not impressive but that's not the point. Although he did drink on occasion he was quite responsible with his gun. He didn't get tanked, and shoot a bunch of moving things in the woods, like the stereotype that is breathed today.
My grandparents took pride in themselves. Never sugar coating anything for anyone. Neither were afraid to offend anyone, and they could often give you a good chuckle, saying the things others were afraid of saying.
Grandma, who was as hillbilly as it gets, found it important to volunteer and give back to the community. She donated 30 years to the American Red Cross. She rarely took a paid job, with four kids at home that was a job in itself. Especially if you knew my Mom (I'm kidding of course Mom!). She took care of everyone, including herself. No one walked over her. Especially Grandpa!
History, and knowledge of ancestors was a very important aspect of their lives. We often discussed traditions, and family stories. Grandma always seemed to amaze me at being able to trace a 29th cousin, back to one family member. That is something that I see falling to the wayside today. A sense of family, and family pride, many kids today have no knowledge of where they come from let alone who. Thinking about it today, Grandma was not just a stay at home Mother, she was an integral part of the community helping her siblings, children, and most definitely grandchildren whenever they needed it, spiritually or financially. I spent a lot of time with my grandmother and she would always be baking food for someone who was sick, cleaning the apartment of an elderly aunt, or taking in a relative who could no longer live alone. Maybe that is why so few community services were needed at that time. Family took care of one another. The hillbilly women I seen in my area, and my family at that time were not "put down" for staying home, instead they used that as an opportunity to selflessly help wherever they could. That was beyond a full time job.
Grandpa was a union worker for years. He was very proud of his local, parading his hat or belt buckle around for all to see. My grandfather was able to get my father into his local. Thanks to the unionm my farther was able to retire this past year at age 50 (his hardwork had a large part to do with it to). Say what you will about the unions, but many Michigan hillbillies fought to become a part of them. They fought some massive fights. The benefits of the unions trickled down, to those of us who are not even in unions. Fighting for a forty hour work week, benefits, vacation, sick days, the works! Sadly, many people of today take these things for granted; not knowing the history behind the struggle.
Of course there are certain stereotypes that are fitting. Square dancing, my sister and I accompanied my grandfather to many-a-square dance. What fun it was, clapping our hands and stomping our feet! Grandpa would often put records (yes records) on at home, and we would dance. Music seemed to be an integral part of the hillbilly lifestyle, cheap means of fun! Country music, not the new "pop country" of today, but real Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Tom T. Hall. That was cutting edge music, until the day that they died.
It seems this generation's stereotype of the "hillbilly" fails to recognize the humble roots of where these people derived. I might even say getting the entire stereotype wrong, but then again, how often are stereotypes proven right?
So the next time the stereotype of a hillbilly pops into your head, I hope it includes the following; giving back to those who need us, taking care of our Earth, taking pride in our families and communities, educating ourselves, and staying up to date on the world around us.
The stereotype that we like to laugh about today is certainly unlike any hillbilly that I had the good fortune to know growing up. Sure I enjoy a good hillbilly joke from time to time, but I am proud to call myself a hillbilly, I cannot deny it, and I certainly wouldn't want to!
 

Irish

Plant Whisperer...
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now your talking irish's backyard... welcome to mp countryboy...:cool:
 

ziggyross

ziggyross
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I grew up in Millington Mich. I try to get back up there as often as I can. I love going to my brothers cabin on lost lake.
 

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