In doomer fiction the western states get the big sort-of-army irregulars, usually coordinating their military derring-do with loyal units of the regular armed forces, who together defeat the evil invaders on page 360. It’s a rule. See the 1984 movie Red Dawn, or David Aikman’s 1993 novel When The Almond Tree Blossoms for instance, or more currently, Max Velocity’s Patriot Dawn, all of which assume a Resistance defending large areas and counterattacking in set piece battles. But they posit another place, an active partisan region well east, behind enemy lines on all sides, namely, Appalachia. There’s a reason.
Intrusion into the affairs of Appalachia has been contested since the Whiskey Rebellion. This was no one-day street theatre like we have today, it went on for three years. Although it’s portrayed as being confined to western Pennsylvania—”Frontier America” at the time, opposition to the whiskey tax involved the western counties of every other state in Appalachia . The whiskey tax was widely seen as an illegitimate federal power grab by design of a traitorous Hamilton, although Washington personally led the punative expidition—the first and last president at the head of his troops. In the end, the insurrection was put down by show of force, with the loss of only four or five lives on all sides. Jefferson’s anti-Federalist Republican party later repealed the tax. It was probably unconstitutional, certainly unpopular and only the big distillers were paying it.
The official Appalachian Region is big, in the same class as the entire , but opinions vary as to where the “real” Appalachia might be. For the inmates of the Boston-New York-Philadelphia- axis, it’s any place west of the Hudson and the Fall Line that isn’t Chicago or Los Angeles. For sociologists it’s a matter of cultural affinity, which runs north-south, as do most. To the east is the Atlantic coastal region, the other side is where the Midwest begins, or near enough. For politicians the boundary is a matter of qualifying for ‘developmental’ funds. For the rest of us it’s perfectly obvious without recourse to sociologists or politicians, or geographers and geologists.
There was a recurring story among social workers who fanned out into Appalachia in the 1930s to Do Good—they first had to tell folks they were living in poverty and a Depression was going on. When hill folk agreed “times is hard,” they didn’t necessarily mean for themselves, especially. They’d heard stories. But they listened politely to the government experts who told them what they should and shouldn’t eat, how to raise their kids and so forth, all the while wondering how the experts would feel if hill folk came into their house and presumed to tell them how to live their lives. In the event, the federals were seen as stalkers with a license. In later years they realized they’d been treated like any other outsider, courteously and open handedly, but they were being politely waited out for the most part, and so it was they gained their truest insight. Appalachia just wants to be left alone. Nothing personal.
If the diet of Appalachia was unacceptable to them in the ’30s, it’s close to a felony today. How odd. Generation after generation grew to robust adulthood on this diet, entire nations aspired to it and billions were spent on foreign aid to help them get there. Now food requires Designerto be acceptable, with a full compliment of artificial hormones and antibiotics, or pesticides—the basis for weaponized chemical agents since Zyklon B, be “processed” for uniformity, mostly for eye appeal, then documented and hermetically wrapped, otherwise it’s not food but some near equivalent to plutonium or medical waste. Think not? Some day we’ll see teams raiding sellers of unprocessed whole milk. Oh wait.
The Official Expert Advice seems to be “just say no to real food” or we’re in the fast lane to destruction of our own personal self and everything decent and good. These schemes are more ‘feel good’ than ‘eat good’, they conflate appetite with hunger. Some experience with the latter would sort out their priorities quickly enough. When questioned, they seem to have no explanation how people’s nutritional needs changed so quickly. HFE—High Frequency Evolution perhaps, but we have our suspicions. We’re assured the current food pyramid, renamed “MyPlate” in 2011 by Michelle Obama, rests on the solid bedrock of her unfalsifiable certainty. Good enough for anyone, save unreconstructed hillbillies partial to red eye gravy and the like.
Things haven’t improved image-wise for Appalachia since the ’30s. Insofar as it’s mentioned at all, Appalachia is presented as something to be transformed or overcome. They urge its more talented inhabitants to escape—not leave mind you, escape. The whole point of The Waltons was John Boy’s reminiscence of the quaint but backward Appalachia he left for a normal life among normal people, where we suppose he did important normal things. We can infer a deeper level of subversion when we learn Will Geer, “Grandpa Zeb”, was a Communist Party organizer and Man/Boy Love supporter.
Since then Hollywood’s portrayal of hill folk has gotten downright ugly, presumed revenge for their failure to lead the People’s Revolution after so much sincere effort by their betters. “Acting against their own interest out of stubborn ignorance” is how they put it. Appalachia is still known to their would-be rescuers as willful and intractable, but since the professional left’s all but total capture of a more malleable and excitable constituency in the 1960s, the former Oppressed But Noble Yeomen of Appalachia are freely lampooned as malevolent, homicidal, perverted, inbred, ignorant, ineducable meth monsters. No libel is too extreme, no opportunity overlooked. Spurned lovers are like that.
Appalachia is all but invisible to the rest of America, and that’s how they like it.
Appalachia’s quantifiable attributes most easily lead inquiry away from understanding, toward misunderstanding in fact. It’s a case of finding what you want to find. Wealth can be measured in many ways, not all of them obvious. Life is tightly organized around family and friends and neighbors, one reason the towns are small and run down, they aren’t the centers of anything except themselves. Hill folk take care to be on good terms with each other, even tertiary relationships are valued and well maintained. Communities are stable over long periods of time because, while there’s more personal latitude than elsewhere, there’s also an understanding of orderliness that isn’t violated without consequence.
Appalachians don’t have the exaggerated need to avoid failure so typical of their observers, they live their lives first hand as it were and learn from their missteps, after all, success without failure can only end in delusion and disaster. The larger sense of Appalachian self reliance means to live from within oneself. It’s assumed a person ought to form his own opinions and rely on his own judgments. Failure to do so marks a person as mushy and untrustworthy. Self reliance is self-correcting, responsibility for failure and credit for success is personal and directly attributable. Those who choose a life directed by others will never know success because success belongs to their masters. How could it be otherwise? The Pelosis and Obamas of this country don’t come from Appalachia. But let’s get back to Appalachia’s place as guerilla territory in doomer fiction.
Thoughts about a fictional conflict – Operate in vehicle unfriendly areas such as forest, swamps and mountains. Do not operate in ‘tank country’. The Regime will ultimately need the rural areas for food and resources. This is where you are. This is where the guerrilla campaign is waged. Hit and run. The federalized forces will be vehicle based and flailing around in the boonies—although never underestimate them, if they get some good units together that will be very effective. Hit them on the main supply routes if they come to raid into your territory.
The Appalachian Mountains aren’t in the same class as the western mountains, not nearly. They’re high ridges of no great elevation, 3,000 feet mostly, some over 6,000 feet, arranged as nearly parallel uplifts or deeply carved plateaus, generally with little flatland between them, often not enough for a road, particularly in middle Appalachia where large differences in elevation—1,800 feet or so—in only part of a mile is the rule. Not only isn’t it “tank country”, it isn’t vehicle country. The downside is: pretty much every flat spot in the valleys has a building on it and a river in it. The upside for irregulars is: there are counties where many, sometimes most of those buildings are abandoned .
In fact, there are towns with populations in the hundreds a few decades ago which now list only five or ten residents, particularly in coal country. Amusingly, the population densities for these near ghost towns are listed as fifty or sixty per square mile, nonsense extrapolations only demographers could embrace. This is typical of outsiders, misinformation seems more useful than no information. Here’s the Census Bureau entry for one such “town”, Thurmond West Virginia, better known than others due to niche tourism:
As of the census of 2010, there were 5 people, 4 households, and 0 families residing in the town. The population density was 55.6 inhabitants per square mile. There were 12 housing units at an average density of 133.3 per square mile. The racial makeup of the town was 100.0% White. There were 4 households of which 100.0% were non-families. 75.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.25 and the average family size was 0.00.
Also unlike the western mountains, the Appalachians are damp, have a continuous canopy of hardwoods, and they’re lacey with creeks and dotted with springs. In the summer there’s a general haze. It’s how the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky Mountains got their name—incidentally, the various parts of the Appalachians go by local names, the Cumberland Plateau and Alleghenys and so forth. They’re full of odd nooks and outcroppings and side ravines, with the occasional cave or white water rapids. Its forests are the most biologically diverse in North America, likely to have been the primary reseeding source for the present interglacial period.
Game is plentiful and the fishing is excellent. But the heat and humidity and bugs in the summer, the rain or snow and cold in winter, the aggressive feral hogs, and the coyotes and bears and snakes, and the sheer ruggedness of the Appalachians are something to prepare for seriously and thoroughly. The so-called Appalachian Redoubt is probably a fiction, on the other hand, nobody’s up in “them thar hills” accidently. A cautious person can enter in one place, travel without much risk of detection for hundreds of miles north or south, and come out another place altogether. Doomer writers get it right, as a homeland for an insurgency—fictional of course—or for bugging out and getting lost on purpose, it doesn’t get much better.