By Mack Samples

February is the month when folks think about love. But I have a question for you. Was love a hard word to say among the previous generations of central West Virginia? It was a term that I rarely heard when I was growing up.

I used to think it was just in the genetic structure of my people, but I don't believe that any more. My wife, who grew up in Braxton and Webster Counties tells me she does not recall any of her people using the word very much. I have come to believe that the old Appalachians were not comfortable with saying "I love you" out loud.

My paternal grandfather lived within three hundred yards of me. I spent a lot of time with him during my formative years. He and his wife lived happily together for over 70 years, but I never heard him tell her he loved her. Sometimes when we were working together he would say "I think a lot of your grandmother."

That was his expression of endearment, I suppose. I never heard grandma use the word either but she "thought a lot of him." I could see it in her eyes as she watched him enjoy the supper she prepared for him each and every day.

My maternal grandfather (Kennedy) was exactly the same way. I never heard him tell anyone that he loved them. He and his wife also lived together for over 60 years and appeared to me to be very happy. I sometimes watched her get on his lap when he came "off the hill" at noon to get his dinner.

When he sat down under his big box elder tree to cool off she would sit on his lap and wipe the sweat away. She obviously thought the world of him. Yet I never heard her utter the word love to him or anyone else.

Grandpa Kennedy was a very devoutly religious man who got on his knees and prayed every night before he went to bed. He would thank the Lord for lending him the land for his garden, or thank him for blessing his holler with rain. But I never once heard him say that he "loved Jesus." I am sure that he did. He just didn't say it out loud.

My parents lived together for sixty plus years but I never heard either of them say they loved anybody, including me.

Yet they took good care of us kids and provided everything we needed. I always remember that the lunch my mother prepared for me when I went to the old rural school was far superior to all the lunches around me. I was the only one who ever brought hot chocolate in a thermos bottle. I don't think she prepared that lunch because she hated me!

After my father died, I found a valentine that he had sent my mother during the time of their courtship. It was a very mushy card decorated elaborately with white lace. But he used no term of endearment when he signed it. He just signed his name.

I could be wrong but I have concluded that the old Scotch-Irish settlers who populated the Appalachian hill country were just not comfortable using the word love. Yet they seemed to get along quite well without it. As a descendant of those old Scotch-Irish, I think if you love someone, they know it. You do not have to repeat it every five minutes.

On the other hand, I don't see any harm in buying the one you love a box of chocolates when Valentines Day rolls around.


Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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