The stress that permeated his family was unbearable. There were no jobs. No way to make a living. He was thinking of leaving the small town in the Appalachian Mountains to find work elsewhere. He would try to come home on the weekends. So many in generations before him had done the same. Others had moved their families to cities, to other towns, where they could find work. Their families weren’t usually happy. The people of Appalachia were clannish. They loved their mountain life existence, their extended families, their neighbors. They didn’t want to go to a strange place. He was thinking of going it alone, sending money home, coming home when he could.
He walked before dawn at the foot of the mountains. Thinking. Pondering. It was so beautiful here. The sun was about to rise and he stopped to watch. He had seen this sunrise many times and each time it was more beautiful as it rose over the mountains. No wonder the family didn’t want to leave. People from the outside didn’t understand. They thought them lazy. That they were people who wanted to be on the government dole. That wasn’t it at all. Their culture was different from that on the outside. They knew they wouldn’t fit in out there. Their families and their lifestyle was important to them.
The coal mining jobs had gone away due to the movement toward clean energy. Farming had gone away because tobacco was no longer a cash crop and the corn and other crops had been usurped by the big corporate farms. Because they were geographically isolated, industry did not want to locate there. What were they supposed to do? Abandon the life that they had known for generations?
He had been a specialized machinist in the mines. He could get a job on the outside and had even interviewed with other companies. As the sun rose over the mountains, he knew he had to leave to support his family. He had to send his children to college. There was no place for his wife to work and both their parents depended on him. As the sun rose higher in the sky, he made his decision and started walking home to tell his family. He would not lose them or his connection to this beautiful place. He would drive home on weekends. He would give them the gift of keeping their lives intact.