NOTE: This article was originally published elsewhere, but my copyright obligation there has been fulfilled and since it is one of my favorite articles – I’ve posted it here. If it looks familiar to some of you; you may have seen it before.
Hillbillies in Popular Fiction
When people encounter the term “Hillbilly” they often think of characters such as Snuffy Smith. Hillbillies are often characterized as shiftless, lazy, shine-running, hicks who live in such isolation they’re out of step with the world. A lot of this impression comes from popular cartoon strips.
Although the Appalachian mountain people had been living in these mountains since the 1700’s, it wasn’t until the early-to-mid 1930s that they become popular in American entertainment. In comic strips, Joe Palooka did an extended sequence about a mountain man named Big Leviticus in 1933; and in ’34 the author of that sequence, Al Capp, started his most famous work, Li’l Abner. And Billy DeBeck was heavily researching Appalachian culture in preparation of introducing a new character to his Barney Google strip – and a major change in the direction of his work: Snuffy Smith.
The origins of the term “hillbilly” are obscure. According to Anthony Harkins in Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon , the term first appeared in print in a 1900 New York Journal article, with the definition: “a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.” Continue reading “The Real History of Hill Folk and the Hillbilly Image”
He sat staring at the small semi-automatic pistol laying on the kitchen table. He had been staring at it for a long time. Thinking. Deciding. He knew what needed to be done. The pain had to stop. Her pain had to stop. He hated what was happening to her, but he was powerless to prevent it.
He picked it up, a shiver ran up his arm and a small voice nagged at him in the back of his mind, “Wrong.” it said, “This is wrong.” Normally, he would agree. But life had taken a turn. She was suffering. He had to stop the suffering. He loved her, he had to help her.
“I wonder if this will hurt her.” He whispered as he fingered the gun, getting accustomed to the hard, coldness of it. “Not for long, then she will be better. No more pain. This is kindness.”
He pushed the tears and the uncertainty aside, stood up and walked out the front door. He marched up the forest path to her favorite place. She liked the serenity of the clearing in the deep woods and the tall, straight poplars, the birdsong. His feet crunched in the dry leaves, doubt welled, he pushed it back and marched on. It had to be done.
He rounded a bend and saw the lounge chair she liked to sit in and think.
The doors slid aside and Doctor Forrester followed Colonel Stryker off the lift.
“I am truly impressed, Colonel, with your base. It is absolutely amazing what can be done with enough tax payer dollars!”
The stern faced Colonel just nodded.
“I understand now why you were so adamant that we keep our distance when we set up our own base here on the moon. And I must say,” he smiled, “that I’m rather surprised that you not only took us in, but have been so open and forthcoming. I have truly enjoyed this tour.”
Stryker, a head taller than Forrester, trim with a military crew cut and steel gray eyes said, without emotion, “Leaving you there to die when your base was damaged, didn’t seem to be the thing to do, Doctor Forrester.”
“No, I would hope not. Although, frankly, I would not have been surprised if you had. But I did expect the lot of us to be squirreled away in some storage room. This tour was so unexpected!”
“Hmmm…” Nodded Styker.
“Especially since you are obviously not happy about having my team and I here. But I assure you Colonel, your secrets are safe with me. I shall never speak of them with anyone.”