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Brains and Brawn… A Heritage of Strength

BY CHAD SALYER

My grandfather, George Grindstaff, was born in Carter County in 1900. If something needed fixing, he fixed it. If work needed to be done, he did it. If a thing needed to be said, he said it.

He was not interested in modern conveniences and preferred tried and true methods that relied on his strength and skill. As a consequence, he was strong.

In fact, I remember watching him do a dozen pull-ups on an apple tree in his front yard. He was in his 80’s at the time. He ran a good-sized farm and simultaneously worked full-time at the Bemberg plant for most of his long life.

I wonder now, looking back if most of the men and women of his time in our area were like this. I think they must have been.

I believe the people of Appalachia have always been strong and hearty mountain folk. Our ancestors who settled this land carved a life out for themselves from nothing.

In many cases, they chose to leave comfort behind in exchange for the adventure and freedom our area offered.

Fewer and fewer jobs have the same physical demands that they did in generations past. We can do almost everything in life from the comfort of our computer chair now.

We pay bills, shop, and entertain ourselves online. However, for all the comforts and conveniences of our modern life, I think we may be leaving behind something essential to our Appalachian heritage – the strength of mind and body that comes from a lifetime of hard physical work.

My grandfather’s generation was strong because it had to be. Our part of the country has always experienced scarcity and hardship. So, they provided for themselves.

In doing so, they kept their bodies and minds in great shape. With the need for hard work waning, there must be a substitute if we are to continue in the vein of these strong men and women.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy has decreased in recent years for the first time in modern history. Even with advances in modern medicine and that “comfortable” life, we are not living as long as our grandparents did.

I suggest the reason for this is that we are missing that key element of physical labor.

Although a few people still live the lifestyle of my grandfather’s generation, most of us do not, and it would be very hard to simulate life on the farm and a full-time physically demanding job today.

We have better medicines, more food, much more ease and comfort, but still are missing something.

One way you can get closer to the life that served our grandparents so well is to challenge yourself physically through resistance and fitness training.

I imagine my grandfather would have been amused at the notion of work for work’s sake, but it is a necessary part of a full and healthy life in our new reality.