The Fields of Blue
It’s a small town; coal-dusted and cradled deep within the Appalachian Mountains. It is a shell of its once booming self. The powerful trains that once chugged and whistled as they carried coal to light America get plenty of rest nowadays. The opioid epidemic has hit this little pocket of the world particularly hard and many of us have left for more opportunities.
For years, I blamed my hometown for a good portion of the sizable heartache I had experienced. I avoided Bluefield and my secrets and shame that were nestled deep in its dusty hollers. However, as I got older I realized that the place where I grew up wasn’t to blame, it was simply the setting.
Over the last week, I have been reminded of the deep goodness of my hometown, of the bonds that were formed in those isolated hills and valleys. When one of Bluefield’s favorite daughters lost her husband suddenly, her childhood friends covered her in love and support. Meetings were cancelled, flights were booked, childcare was arranged all in an effort to remind Erin that she would not walk through her heartbreak alone.
The night before Erik’s service we gathered at the home that he shared with Erin and Rylee. We celebrated the man that we had all grown to love because he married and loved our dear friend. Many of us were in their wedding and we told stories of Erin’s meltdown when her bouquet started coming apart right before she was walking down the aisle, of the groom and his groomsmen tossing down Jack Daniels before the ceremony, while the bride threatened her maids within an inch of their lives if they even looked at a glass of champagne, and of legendary Bluefieldian, Eddie McQuail’s, dancing at the reception.
As the booze flowed, the nostalgia grew deeper. Our spouses buckled in as we reminded them that the best hot dogs in the known world are found at the Dairy Queen on Cumberland Road, and that this has never been and never will be up for debate. We espoused that the Beaver/Graham game is not merely a high school football game, but a combination of cultural event and religious experience.
The night stretched on past a sensible time; we knew what the morning brought. We hugged each other a little tighter and unabashedly expressed our love for one another.
However, as I picked up beer bottles and shot glasses that smelled of Erik’s bourbon of choice, I have never been more proud of being from a place where the fields are blue. Erik was not from Bluefield but the love of his life is and that made him one of us. My hope is that he can rest easy knowing that just as we did over the past week, we will always take care of his girls...and that he appreciated that we will use any excuse to throw a party.