Jimmy Vanover

Interviewed by: Sydney Johnson
Date: April 3, 2007

Sydney Johnson reports:

"Jimmy Vanover is a long-term resident of Wise, Virginia. Born and raised in Pound, Virginia on April 13, 1937, Jimmy is no stranger to small-town, rural life. He worked in the mines and construction basically since he was old enough to pass under the child labor law radar. Now, he is retired and enjoys spending time on his vast farm in Wise, Virginia and spending his "golden years" close to his family and friends. Relating stories and laughing until his sides ached with pain, Jimmy reflects on his childhood and transition into the life he knows now as his own."

Interviewer: What is your name?

Vanover: Jimmy Ralph Vanover.

Interviewer: How old are you?

Vanover: 68.

Interviewer: Where exactly in the Appalachian region did you grow up?

Vanover: Pound.

Interviewer: Could you describe what the area looked like where you lived?

Vanover: Where I lived? All mountains, there weren't any strip mines at that time. It was way back in the holler in a plank house. I'll never forget it.

Interviewer: So would you say you lived in a very rustic neighborhood?

Vanover: Yes.

Interviewer: Can you recollect some childhood memory that relates to the Appalachian region that you used to do, like butter churning, shoe-making, wood carving anything like that? Maybe you or your parents used to do it.

Vanover: My recollection is of molasses making and my dad; he cut those old shingles, wood shingles to cover houses with. Those are the two best things. Everything we done was by horse and mule, no cars.

Interviewer: What did you and your friends do for fun when you were little?

Vanover: What did we do? Mostly wrestle and play and [laughs] in the sawdust pile.

Interviewer: Did you make up any games?

Vanover: Marbles little toys were little thread spools on a stick matches with each other on the floor who's would travel the farthest each time and so on [laughs]. That was our entertainment.

Interviewer: When you were growing up, were the roads paved, gravel, or dirt?

Vanover: Gravel.

Interviewer: How did you used to get to school?

Vanover: Walked. The first I can remember the roads in Mullins Creek where I was raised had gravel roads and the state grated it with a great big ole grater and a guy stood on the back with two wheels and pulled it with a tractor, it wasn't like anything we got now. He had two big wheels to adjust his blade and it took 'em all day to make one trip up Mullins Creek and back to the school house.

Interviewer: What was your first job in this region?

Vanover: Working in the mines in Millstone, Kentucky. Five big dollars a day.

Interviewer: Five dollars a day?

Vanover: Five dollars a day; breaking mules to work.

Interviewer: Did you enjoy your job?

Vanover: Well, I enjoyed the money out of it. [laughs] But yeah, the job was good.

Interviewer: Did most of your co-workers grow up around here as well?

Vanover: Yeah.

Interviewer: Okay, I know that you moved to New Mexico at one point in your life. When exactly did the move take place?

Vanover: December of '65.

Interviewer: Why did you move?

Vanover: To get a better job and more money.

Interviewer: What do you remember about living out there?

Vanover: What do I remember about living in New Mexico? It was a great change from what I did here working in the mines, went there to the pot ash mines. The desert was all together a different living. Much better than living here at that time.

Interviewer: So, was it cheaper to live out there or out here?

Vanover: The living expense was pretty much the same.

Interviewer: Which place did you like better?

Vanover: I like here. I like Wise County.

Interviewer: What were some of the things you missed when you were living out there?

Vanover: Family. I guess family is one thing, just out there is just desert you either work, and when you work that's all you do is work and go home and sleep you know 'cause it's so hot. I missed my family and my friends, missed the ole hills.

Interviewer: Okay, I know you own a lot of land out here. How much do you own exactly?

Vanover: Oh god, I can't put it down in acres, but it's somewhere around 125 I think.

Interviewer: Do you own land in different counties other than Wise County?

Vanover: No.

Interviewer: When did you buy the land that you have now?

Vanover: '60, no.. '70. 1970.

Interviewer: Have you ever ran a business off your farm?

Vanover: Done what now?

Interviewer: Ran a business. Like sale meat that you slaughtered or hay that you cut or anything to that nature?

Vanover: Just cattle is all.

Interviewer: Have you enjoyed living here basically your whole life? Do you like it here?

Vanover: Definitely, I do.

Interviewer: What's your favorite thing about living out here?

Vanover: Peace, quiet, and comfort.

Interviewer: If you could sum up Appalachia in one word based on your life experience of living here, what would it be?

Vanover: There's really no other place in the world I'd rather be than in the Appalachian Mountains. They're beautiful, and a nice place to be. I don't see any other place that I want to be. In all of the traveling that I've done, I still prefer these mountains in Wise County. When you get out working out here it's "God's country" is what I like to think of it as. 'Cause you got peace of mind and no disturbance and no aggravation. And our neighbors are real nice, you gotta love them too. Like I say, I can't see no place else I'd like to be. In all of my traveling, you know, still wanna come back here. [laughs]