The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

Baker, Davidson, Egerton, & Wright 13

“There are political consequences to remembering things that never happened and forgetting things that did.” It would be nice if, once in a while, a New York show set in Appalachia would at least make passing reference to the actual people who live and work here. DB: Questions? Well, I have one that I was struck with, and it hit me very hard when Derek connected tourism and colonialism. Will you expound a little on that? DD: I think an aspect of tourism in one sense could be seen as reiterating the tropes and patterns of colonization. [To KE] I think your paper reinforced that idea that tourists do this, not consciously and certainly not in a mean-spirited way. I don’t think the writers of The Burnt Part Boys were consciously desiring to offend anyone of the Appalachian region. But there’s an irresponsibility of the tourist that is hard to bridge. But yeah, you go and you get what you want and then you resurface. Or you take what you need—the artistic artifact—from your California desk or your New York desk and use the place as a sounding board for your other agenda. Does that make sense? KE: I would agree with that. There’s a lovely passage in Ron Rash’s novel Saints at the River where there’s a quite minor character in the book that we learn is well-off and well-educated but has decided that it’s an awful lot of fun to run this roadside gas station up in the mountains of South Carolina, wearing a big bushy beard and overalls, in order “to fleece tourists.” He says, “if he could find a cross-eyed boy who play banjo, he’d stick the kid on the porch and increase his business 25 percent” (Rash 21). He’s, sort of, opting into that tourist impulse, and it’s this reversal of that. People have come and taken what we have. If you’re going to come looking for these stereotypes, mining these stereotypes for your entertainment, we want as much of your money as you can give up. That is an industry and a reversal of power in that kind of industry. DB: I guess my question was are you referring to the tourists as colonists or the tourist miners as colonists? DD: No, the act of tourism generally. And I could speak about that more as a monolithic idea too. Certainly, there are striking tourists. There are tourists who come and stay. There are tourists who go to learn the stories of the people who live there and create something, craft something that’s actually responsible and ethically connected to the real. But it’s those who already use, I guess in a conscious sense, the residents as a means to some other end rather than as ends in and of themselves.

JW: I’d like to try to give a concrete example or two. I think in the work of Billy Edd Wheeler, having grown up in West Virginia and gone to school first in North Carolina then at Berea and then on to Yale Drama School. One of the first plays that he wrote was The Hatfields and McCoys , and he almost turned it down because he was afraid that the people in Beckley wanted, you know, corn cob pipes and chewing tobacco and that sort of hillbilly stereotype that he didn’t want to have anything to do with. But I do think that we are in debt to people who come to the region and collect things that we would otherwise know nothing about. And I’ll give you an example. John Fox, Jr.—he made the region known through his books. And that did us a favor. He’s been looked down upon and criticized in many Appalachian study venues, but what he gave was something for those local people in Big Stone Gap to hold onto and present for fifty-one years: the story that they think is about their town. And without Trail of the Lonesome Pine , that wouldn’t exist. Now for a young boy like me, straight out of Vietnam, I go and get a part in that play, and I play one of the bad guys. And the bad guy that I play is Cousin Dave, who’s in love with June, the young woman that ends up with the outsider that comes in. Part of my speech in that play—it doesn’t appear in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908) book—was written by Earl Hobson Smith in that crummy, crummy script. Yet it had its strong points: “There’s machinery in your mountains. And there’s foreigners digging your coal.” I was like a bad guy, and I was saying that, trying to stir up trouble, and the star of the show was in part the people who were bringing the machinery into the mountains and taking the coal out. I learned something from that. And so, I think the same with Richard Chase. Richard came into the region and collected all these stories in North Carolina. He came to Wise County, where Don and I are from, and collected up on Big Laurel. And so some of those Jack Tales and Grandfather Tales were ours; but when I was growing up, I never heard them. And Don got onto them and then introduced them to me, and then we did a play that we toured the county with about Wicked John and the Devil . That was a great play. Don starred in that. A great, great role for him. DD: Which character was he? JW: He was Wicked John. You should have seen the chase. He chased the Devil off in the end. But what I’m saying is, these people come and collect, and then later we find it out. Look at all that Alan Lomax did. He’s shown us so much about our own culture that we didn’t know to

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