The Kentucky Mountaineer -- By: A. S. Elliott
BSac 63:251 (July 1906) p. 487
The Kentucky Mountaineer
From most that has been written about the Kentucky mountaineer, in newspaper and novel, people have gained a misconception of him. When they come into actual contact with him, they find that a great deal of high light has been cast upon his virtues, the romantic side of his life, and upon his faults. The desire to make a good story has so contorted facts as to make it impossible to call them falsehoods, and yet they are presented in such a manner as to mislead the reader in his understanding of the mountain man as he is, the result of inheritance and environment. In many States of our Union one can hit upon certain rural districts, describe a few of the extraordinary characters and their mode of living, and people will wonder that such a state of things exists in this day and age. It is the purpose of this study to present the mountaineer as I know him after six years of association, showing that he is but the natural result of his inheritance and environment, and that any class of people subjected to the same influences for the same length of time would become much the same as he.
When one travels over a portion of the mountain country, noting the difficulty of travel, the lack of fertility, the little promise of future development and prosperity (remembering that there was and is practically little knowledge of natural resources), he wonders how a people could have been satisfied to stay there. People migrating there in a body would never
BSac 63:251 (July 1906) p. 488
have chosen the mountain country for a home when it became known that there were fertile plains beyond for the taking. When we consider the process of westward migration, we can easily understand that a hunter, finding game scarce about his locality, and discovering that it was plentiful in the mountains, would naturally build a cabin, clear enough land to raise corn, and bring his family to abide with him. Thus it may be said that the mountain people are the descendants, in most cases, of those who preferred a roving life, and close contact with nature, to the restraint and conformity of life in a community. Such people would readily find means of existence as long as game lasted, then substitute domestic animals when it disappeared. One might think that they would have migrated when game became scarce, and either have sought another locality where it was plentiful, or have entered upon a more extensive agricultural career in a more productive region. Probably many acted according to the above supposition; yet it must be remembered that game disappeared less rapidly in the mountain country than elsewhere, and that it takes but a few generations of environment to make people think that there is no other than their own. When a man is sec...
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