The year was 1984, and there on a cold wintry morning I took my first breath of Harlan county USA air, thick with coal dust as it was. You see, I come from that place they portray on the TV show Justified. It’s really real.
I had an odd childhood, not unlike many kids of my generation I suppose. I really “came” from two places. I have two “homes”. One was mom’s house where I did most of my living. The other was dad’s – Harlan.
The funny thing about Harlan is, as much as I loathed the place growing up, it holds my go-to memories of childhood. Why is that? From the time I was 3 until I left for college at 18, I mostly lived with mom. Harlan to me was every other weekend and half the summer. There’s just something about Harlan that is hard to shake.
The town of Harlan is a small place, population 2,000, nestled in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. It is very much cut off from the world. It’s at least an hour, if not a little more, away from the nearest interstate.
I honestly don’t know what it is about the place that holds me so deeply. I think back to my memories of growing up in Harlan probably 5 times for every 1 time I think about growing up at my mom’s – which in all fairness is where I did most of my growing up. Maybe it’s not the town itself that holds me so, but the powerful memories of my grandparents. I think about those two daily, and dream about them almost as often. I know everyone loves their grandparents, but those two were definitely special to me in ways that no one else ever will be. I can still hear my Granny say “Hey girl” as she did every time I called or walked through her door…and it kills me inside to know I’ll never hear her say that again.
I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent about my grandparents, this post began as a look at that odd, quirky, drug-laden, poor little community that almost holds an odd mystery to it for both people there and on the outside.
Maybe I’d be more willing to make a trek back to my homeland, if Timothy Olyphant were actually the US Marshall there…a girl can dream!
And no…. I never heard of anyone firing off rocket launchers…but I wouldn’t be surprised!