buck mountain

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

What a wonderful start to the New Year. I decided to make a spontaneous trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They sure do live up to their name. The 10+ hour drive was so worth it. I’ll be staying here for two more days so I’ll be shooting a ton more! 

Photographed by: Paolo Nacpil

Older dude

Wise and honorable

Northerner accent

Blue-eyed brunette (This is like a severe weakness of mine)

Built like a brick outhouse

Why so perfect, Blackwall?

It’s not even close to finished, but I thought I might plug an in-progress shot for Blackwall Appreciation Day :D

via 500px / Someones There!! by Buck Shreck

As I was traveling through Alberta and B.C. Canada, I found myself sneaking up on this Mountain Goat that I spotted as I got out to stretch from a long drive. At first, in this image, this goat had no Idea I was there till I started clicking away with the camera. Then the goat got to looking around frantically, trying to find the noise the camera was making till he found me. What a great time for me.

Appalachian History Lesson - The Eugenics Movement

"Idiots shouldn’t be allowed to breed."

How many times have you heard that? Or maybe even said it? It’s a common statement upon encountering someone that embodies an ideology that we don’t agree with, or someone whose life choices are less than admirable. But did you know that in our own American history, we liked that idea so much that we actually tried to make it happen? It’s true. It happened under the Eugenics Movement, the brainchild of Francis Galton (cousin to Charles Darwin who took his cousin’s discoveries and spiraled a bit out of control). If you’ve never heard of this movement (and the great likelihood is that you haven’t, since we tend to like to keep it hush hush), it would do you a great deal of good to research it.

In Appalachia, this movement was detrimental. The basic idea was that, since genes are inherited from parent to child, traits could also be inherited. In that case, humans could be bred for certain traits. We could encourage those with positive traits (intelligence, primarily) to breed with like, thus creating a super race of humans. This was called positive Eugenics. The other side of this was that we could prevent people with negative traits from breeding at all, and thus exterminate “undesirables.” This was negative Eugenics.

The masses were breeding at high rates, and with poverty gripping a great percentage of the population, more and more children were likely to fall to the same fates as their parents. Poverty was a “trait” that could be “inherited,” which only made sense considering poor parents begat poor children. Poverty came with overpopulation. Some of the family studies completed by eugenicists reported an average of 4.2 children per mother in certain Appalachian areas. After the immigrant boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the eugenicists were ready to take necessary measures. The first target was the population with mental deficiencies – those unfortunate enough to be deemed “feebleminded” - the paupers, criminals, mentally insane, homosexuals, promiscuous women, and the mentally retarded. The method? Sterilization. This became well known and popular after the Virginia (and Supreme Court) case Buck v Bell (1927), in which it was determined that because Carrie Buck was “feeble-minded” due to her lack of education and her mother’s feeble-mindedness, she should be sterilized. Carrie had been raped and had a child of this rape that, though only an infant, was determined feeble-minded by appearance. Thus Carrie was sterilized against her will, unable to ever have children again.

This law legitimized use of sterilization when a person was deemed a “genetic threat.” As you may believe, due to the lack of education and material wealth in Appalachia, we were a target. Appalachians were viewed as “poor white trash” and the “tainted white” and were discriminated against heavily throughout the rest of America (these ideas remain with those who group all Appalachians into the categories of hillbilly, redneck, or even white trash). Women were often sterilized against their will in hopes that the Appalachian population would die off without being able to reproduce, and could then be replaced by a more civilized and intelligent group of Americans.

The movement finally started to die when none other than Adolf Hitler grasped the idea and started using it to exterminate the Jews. I believe that was America’s wake up call, and by the 60s most of the sterilization laws were completely revoked. Hitler’s use of Eugenic policies has made America ashamed of its trying to eliminate its poor and uneducated, and trying to eliminate Appalachia. Yet here we remain — as strong and stoic as the mountains that protect us.