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After describing himself as a "lapsed quasi hillbilly" with expensive eyeglasses, McFee states his preference to laugh off such insults with self depreciating humor and asks, "Isn't that another Toddler Pink Adidas High Tops

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"He writes about these people going to Maggie Valley who buy an old gas station. They're selling 'antiques' from out of the barn, and not many customers are stopping by. One day, one of the women finds an old bonnet and puts it on as a joke. Urban shoppers impressed with her apparent authenticity start purchasing their wares, so the men began wearing bib overalls and smoking corncob pipes, and business improves dramatically."

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The show brings together a collection of photography, poetry and actual artifacts designed to navigate through the myths and realities around the subjects of religion, music, arts and crafts, moonshine and isolation in the mountains.

Gruber said a photograph from the 1930s of a mountain man standing next to his mailbox reading the New York World newspaper quickly dispels the notion that all mountain people were uneducated, and living in complete isolation.

"He wrote some big hits like 'Jackson' and 'Coward of the County' that was made into a movie but he is also a poet," Pierce Eqt Boost Adidas said. "He wrote some wonderful pieces that really get to the whole issue of complexity, seeing the value, talent, intelligence and creativity in people that others would discount as rednecks and hicks."

´╗┐Asheville History Center knows

"I think that says a lot about how people in the region have dealt with it," Pierce said. "They're insulted to a certain extent, but people have been pretty creative about taking that hillbilly image, using it to their own benefit, and selling it back to people that harbor those stereotypes."

The "we" is Pierce and the Asheville History Center at the Smith McDowell House on Victoria Road, which is hosting a provocative new exhibit titled "Hillbilly Land," of which Pierce is the curator.

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One of Pierce's favorite pieces comes from "Requiem by Fire," a novel by Asheville's Wayne Caldwell.

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One panel in the exhibit includes an excerpt from "Southern Cultures" by Michael McFee, who wrote about how the word "hillbilly" can be a fighting word, depending upon how it is used.

In putting together the exhibition, Pierce said he encountered a surprise. Even though I have expertise in Appalachian history and culture, I was not aware of the deep, rich treasure trove of poetry from Jane Hicks, Michael McFee and Kay Byer," he said.

History center executive director Sharon Gruber said the presentation examines the perception of the word "hillbilly" as it is generically applied to describe mountain people, very often from a negative point of view.

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Pierce, chair of the history department at UNC Asheville. "It's amazing how many references are made to mountain folks, and their ignorance, violence, overt religiosity and being inbred. We wanted to gently address that."

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"When others talk about Southern Appalachian people, and you're trying to discern whether they know what they're talking about, you might ask about religion. What makes mountaineers different from someone else?" Gruber said. "'Well, they worship with snakes!' they might answer. That's a perfect example of an outside world perception of mountain Nmd Human Race Family And Friends

(Photo: Robert Bradley,

Executive director of the Smith McDowell House Sharon Gruber, right, gives a tour of a new exhibit titled "Hillbilly Land" with Richard Graham, Western North Carolina Historical Association president, and his wife, Janet. Here they discuss an old moonshine still on display.

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