Subject: Use to live in Mendota (dogtown)
Date: Friday, April 04, 2003 6:18 PM
I Lived in Mendota and Why I Left
Used by permission.
I lived in Mendota, Virginia from about December 1989 till September 1995. I
had moved there from southern New Jersey. I now live in northern New Jersey.
In Mendota, my taxes and insurance were about one-tenth what they are in New Jersey. Household poverty-level income here is about $39,000 a year with the median house price about $315,000.
I paid $18,000 for my land and $40,000 to build the house. When the Westinghouse plant closed, we workers were making a fantastic Bristol wage of $28,000 a year.
Up here, I make $58,000 a year. Although, up here a union carpenter makes about $100,000 a year. Almost every family has both husband and wife working. Of course, consumer goods cost the same everywhere.
So what I learned was that if you want to live like an actual hillbilly in
southwest Virginia, everything is in place to foster that. On the other
hand, it first took me nine months to get a job.
My qualifications meant nothing, and the only reason I had little cultural problems is because I quickly picked up the accent (hits a mite airish, ain't got nary boggan?), dressed and acted more "rebel" than most of the 'ol boys (long beard and "overhauls"), and didn't oppose any of the oppressively "plumb ig'nornt" stuff people said.
When the Westinghouse plant was scheduled to close, I had a new job in Manhattan lined up three weeks before they shut the doors. In southwest Virginia, people act and speak very gently as they screw you to death. In New Jersey, everybody screams, but they let you live your own life.
I had 103 acres up the side of the Clinch ridge along the Holston (Mendota)
river. It was achingly beautiful. I met more interesting people in my time
there than in the rest of my life. On the other hand, I listened to my bud'
talk of the 130 degree temperatures he worked in for $7.68 an hour.
I saw the pollution destroying people's lives in the Westinghouse plant. I couldn't ask an afro-american to visit me at my home place to fish. He told me he knew for a fact he would be shot on sight, or hunted down and shot.
There were more drug killings down there than there are up here in New
Jersey. I met more drunks, perverts, nuts, and dopeheads there than in the
It was interesting to see that the porkbarrel boys are still pushing for their trail, an issue I went to meetings myself about and spoke against the pseudo-rich white trash interests.
The "boss-hawg" politics stories have provided much amusement up here, particularly the tire-dump/superfund pay-for-crime scheme. The rand battery factory deals (and water lead) are good fodder, too.
To paraphrase the boys from Saltville, "What's the best thing that ever did come out from Bristol?....Number 81!"
May the God who doesn't hate, bless you in this big world,
Note: The writer is referring to a massive tire dump in the county and lead-acid battery waste dumped in a local lake.
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