CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "Great things are done when men and mountains meet," mystical English poet William Blake wrote.
Today, after months of buildup, the Mountain State marks the 150th anniversary of its creation.
West Virginia is unique -- the only state born from a regional breakup in the Civil War. That dramatic history peaked on June 20, 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln authorized the new state loyal to the Union, composed of rugged western counties that wouldn't follow slaveholding tidewater Virginia into the Confederacy.
Accounts of West Virginia's birth are being told and retold during this sesquicentennial celebration -- as they should be. However, we want to focus on a different aspect: the special charm of life in these beloved hills, and the wistful attachment West Virginians feel for their jumbled region.
Napoleon said, "Mountaineers always love their country." Most West Virginians know what he meant.
Wild mountain sectors are hardest to develop, and usually lag behind urban flatlands. But they have an allure of their own. Amid the upended topography, nature is close. Residents are never far from shady ravines, woodsy trails, gurgling creeks and other outdoor joys. Deer, raccoons, rabbits, turkeys, even chipmunks are companions. Green privacy soothes the soul.
While the rest of America relentlessly turns into a congested sardine can, bursting with expensive urban overpopulation, strained by crime and noise, the Mountain State retains its gentle, safe lifestyle. It's an ideal vacation getaway for the crowded East Coast. From skiers to whitewater rafters to multitudes of Boy Scouts at their new wilderness retreat, West Virginia's hills have magnetic appeal.
For this 150th birthday, we want to reprint some touching comments:
"Rippling mountain streams that glisten in my dreams / Peaceful valleys that I used to roam / When the dusk is falling, I hear the bob-white calling / in my West Virginia home. / Green hills in the spring, a bluejay on the wing / rhododendrom blooming everywhere / Gentle folks who greet you like old friends when they meet you / There's no place that can compare." -- from West Virginia's Home to Me, a song by former Daily Mail Publisher Lyell Clay
"I am the hills. I will sing your song. ... There is a permanence about my people, and strength. For hands that tamed a wilderness cannot die. ..." -- from Sing, Appalachia by West Virginia poet Muriel Dressler
"In the dead of the night / In the still and the quiet / I slip away like a bird in flight / back to those hills. ..." -- from West Virginia, O My Home, a song by Hazel Dickens, a Mercer County native.
"Oh the green rolling hills of West Virginia / are the nearest thing to heaven that I know. / Tho' the times are sad and drear, and I cannot linger here / They will keep me and never let me go." -- from The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia, a song by Utah Phillips