Almost Heaven West Virginia 

If you were alive and in America in 1971, you probably heard John Denver sing “Take Me Home Country Roads.”

The lyrics start:

“Almost heaven, West Virginia…”

I had loved what seemed like the backwoods purity of the land when I drove through.  I loved Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia, as I drove from my parents’ home in Boston to my active duty at Fort Bragg.  I took a lot of detours, one into West Virginia.  Liked the native crafts.  Even bought myself a pair of dancing clogs. That image of West Virginia is now permanently ruined. I had at one time communicated with Patch Adams, the famous director of the Gesundheit institute in West Virginia.

I concur with this man that medicine is generally best served up with humor.  I remember he once rhapsodized on the use of simpler, older medicines as opposed to the latest new breakthrough.  They are cheaper, and in many cases, a truly excellent choice. But suing pharmaceutical companies for the West Virginia Addiction problem, of which I had heard some, but precious little? West Virginia now has the nation’s largest overdose death rate. I never like to reason in numbers with lots of millions and zeroes and dollar signs.  There are mainly frightening numbers in this article.  Feel free to pick your favorite.

I’m reading names of drug distributors who have been blocked from shipping opioids in other states.  I am reading they are not commenting on ongoing lawsuits, saying they are trying to avoid inappropriate distribution of their drug. I read between the lines mostly.  I am thinking of the country people I have loved in rural places where I have worked in this great nation.  North Dakota to North Carolina.  Kansas and Oklahoma.  Those salt-of-the-earth people who inevitably invited me (and my dear husband after I got married) to their churches to feast on jello molds and hang-out at ice cream socials. There have got to be a lot of the same kind of people in West Virginia. Maybe there are a lot of farmers in the financial crunches that hit some family farms dealing with tornadoes in Kansas.  Maybe folks who were dealing with pains from falling from a tractor, or other people with problems I didn’t know about that were always a little hard for a girl from Boston via France to understand.

It must be harder to live off the land in West Virginia.  Lots of mountains and rocks and such, but the people and circumstances must have been more similar than different. They deserved whatever relief from pain they got from their opioids.  There are plenty of other non-drug ways to treat pains of all sorts. Now I think of country folks dead or dying.  Like the scene of the hundreds wounded in Atlanta from “Gone With the Wind.” Too many precious human souls lost needlessly through drugs. I cannot think of the song that starts “Almost Heaven West Virginia” without fighting tears.

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