Friday, February 27, 2009

Country Roads

This article was supposed to be about West Virginia's effort to refurbish it's image as an Appalachian backwater, but goes horribly awry:

Born and raised in central Appalachia, Shawn Grim is a walking hillbilly cliché. His mother has no teeth, none of his relatives graduated from high school and there's a gun rack on the wall of his family's ramshackle trailer. But he was still shocked last year when his brother, "Little Man," was caught in flagrante with his half-sister. "That is really disgusting in my book," said his mother of the incident, apparently not a one-off.


Decades later, the state is still battling some of the core problems underlying those stereotypes. More than 40 percent of the state’s older adults are toothless—the highest rate in the nation, according to the CDC. Nearly a third of all adults have lost six or more teeth. And because the state's Medicaid and Medicare programs do not generally reimburse for dentures or routine care for adults, and rates of dental insurance are low, West Virginians often end up living without teeth or with painful decay that looks all too much like the plastic "hillbilly teeth" still sold for Halloween.


There's also a certain lack of cohesion between officials and locals when it comes to promoting the state's big makeover. While the governor is pushing a forward-thinking "New West Virginia" campaign, tourist-conscious businesses in some parts of the state are proudly serving up less refined fare. The annual Road Kill Cook-Off in Pocahontas, for instance, features dishes you're unlikely to see at your local restaurant, including intestine-challenging "flat cat," "bumper bruised bear" and "deer schmear fajitas." The mere mention of it puts a hard edge in the governor's voice. "Are they still running that s––– down south?" he asks an aide in disbelief, before adding: "Well, I tell you what, if you see [the organizer], kill the son of a bitch."
Um, PR fail?

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