Larry and Will are two large guys with white beards living in the hills of West Virginia.
They are reserved, perhaps even stoic. They are direct. They are the men who, by hand, built this landscaped complex of mountain home, cozy guest cabin, garages, and hillside patios.
They are gay.
And whereas some day their sexual orientation may be just another fact of their story, today their relationship stands in significance for breaking stereotypes and breaking ground in this conservative region. Plus, how the heck did these two fellas find each other anyway–before the internet?
My trip to the South in the summer of 2016 was a series of lessons in stereotype confirmation or disruption. This process continued as I entered Appalachia.
Last time, we observed a sad confirmation of the poverty and drug addiction draining this region when I interviewed a woman down on her luck. This week, we disrupt some stereotypes.
Larry had initially reached out to me on the travelers network Couchsurfing.com. On this rainy afternoon of August 3rd, I followed the directions he had given in his email. The freeway out of Charleston led to a roadway, which led to a country road, which led to a dirt road. The foliage alongside the route gradually tunneled me in as the rain water flows became a prominent feature on the dirt road.
Driving cautiously on the rocky road, I wondered if I went too far–past the .9 miles I was instructed to go since the last turn. Worried I might be lost, I told myself I’d go another mile before turning around.
That’s right when I saw a mailbox with their numbers on it.
I found it.
But then came the climb. A driveway that seemed another mile up and around, winding through the forested hillside until I reached the top. I parked in front of one of a few buildings. Out came Larry in his white t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Soon we sat down, and these two men told me their story:
We’re wrapping my journey through the US South and Appalachia. But not before a story about perhaps the biggest controversy from the South: the Confederate Flag. Stay tuned for a story about the multiple perspectives revealed in the South on this topic–and some insight of how we can best address the controversy as a county.
If you’d like to share a story on The Periphery, please email me at Brandon@ThePeriphery.com. We’d love to hear all about your thoughts and adventures.