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How the Country Has Changed During my Lifetime
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The Spectator
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 by Frank Shortt
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I assume that when the ‘Country’ is mentioned the United States of America is implied. Yet, there is another ‘Country’ that I am familiar with. It lies in Southwest Virginia around the vicinity of Buchanan, Dickenson, and Tazewell County.

I was born in 1942 in Shortt Gap, Virginia, in Buchanan County, just across the line from Tazewell County. At the time I was born, Shortt Gap consisted of Coal miner cabins as that was the main industry there. Folks lived in these cabins up until I was a teenager, then most of them rotted down, except for the one that some cows got up under the porch causing it to fall down upon them, killing at least two cows. Some of the people lived on the Tazewell side and some lived on the Buchanan side. The coal industry at Shortt Gap had petered out and most of the residents had fled to greener pastures by the time I joined the Air Force in 1960. I must say that the area I grew up in was mostly poverty stricken. When the children went to Grimsleyville Elementary school we did not think of any one of us having a better life as we were mostly all pretty poor and in the same boat. There were a couple of exceptions namely the Wades, their father owned the little grocery story in Grimsleyville and they also had the post-office in one end of the building. Then there were the Davises who always seemed to have plenty of everything.

The area around Shortt Gap has changed considerably since I left there. The men my age or younger began working for the large coal corporations and making good union wages. They bought better housing, better automobiles, and provided a better living for their families. Some of my brothers made a pretty good living in the Union mines. Since the coal boom of the 60’s and 70’s, Buchanan County has fallen once again on hard times. The only hope for most High School graduates is either joining the military or heading to some more prosperous parts of the State of Virginia, or to the north where there is still some industry. Dope dealing and misuse is rampant in Southwest Virginia, causing those in authority to scratch their heads to try and come up with a solution to the abuse of methamphetamines! Poverty and lack of work takes away young people’s desires to work and make a better living. Then, they turn to the alternative! This is not to say that there are not still some great people living in that area.

Having lived through at least a half dozen wars, several police actions, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the changes caused by all the destruction and havoc, has altered the United States considerably. War seems to do two things, it causes the faithful to draw closer to their form of religion, or loosens their morals to do things that they would not do under normal circumstances. A lot of men who have had to go to foreign battlefields, being wounded, maimed, or otherwise affected by PTSD have turned to drugs for relief, by the droves. Our Veteran’s Administration is hard put to handle all the new cases. I am thankful that I was able to go through a total of six years of military duty without the traumatic experience of being wounded or otherwise affected mentally or physically.

The greatest change that I have seen that our Country has faced is the influx of immigrants from other countries. These immigrants have faced intimidation for their forms of dress, their accents, their skin tone, and their ways of eating. It is too bad that some Americans cannot tolerate having a person of a different mode of life living next to them. It is very difficult to be in a strange land among strangers! I could only imagine what it would be like being in China or Russia not knowing the language, their customs, and their way of doing things. Of course, the latest pandemic has forced us to stop and take a long look at our surroundings. I never dreamed, even having gone through the Polio Epidemic in the 1950’s, that I would ever see the likes of the devastation of this Covid-19! Immigrants living in our complex have been the ones who have shown more compassion than even the ones who have lived here all their life. This could be because they faced a lot of hardship and tribulation in their perspective countries before coming to the United States.

Yes, I have seen a lot of change in our Country and probably will see more before I go on to the Great Beyond. But there is one thing for sure, if the United States degenerates in the future as fast as they have in the last eight or ten years, she is surely a goner!