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Cody Perkins and Chris Johnson.

join the discussion: What are your reactions and thoughts after viewing Country Boys?  What most struck you about the struggles of Chris Johnson and Cody Perkins --  two boys  coming of age in eastern Kentucky's Appalachian hills?

Dear FRONTLINE,

My husband and I would like to thank Frontline, Chris and Cody for bringing us such a moving and enlightning story. Unlike many Frontline specials, we couldn't understand why a story like this would interest us and opted not to watch at first.

After tuning in one night, we were hooked and had to get the full story (thank goodness for on demand -- and the Internet). Our hearts went out to both boys. Chris's story stood out so much for us that it seemed we could feel at least some of his pain. Chris appeared to be a bright young man held down by family circumstances which seemed completely unfair. Well, we know life isn't fair but this kid/young man deserves more. I hope he sees that and does make that painful effort to overcome his situation.

Growing up in California with a single mom, I thought things were tough on me and making it through college was a miracle, but my struggle was nothing in comparison.

If you read these postings Chris, please know there's a better life out there and with your smarts you can be part of it. Sure, it's a struggle but the benefits are worth it!

Kimberly Jensen-Columbia
Wrentham, Massachusetts

Dear FRONTLINE,

The story of Chris and Cody has facinated me. After watching all three episodes and reading everything on the website, I came to these two conclusions: Faith and Family defnitely make the difference. Both Cody and Chris had lousy family situations but the difference for Cody came when he became born again, and started living with Liz. Chris just never quite makes it over the edge, before he is pulled back into his hopelessness (except for getting his GED, thank goodness!)

I don't know if the guys read these messages, but I would hope and pray for Chris to talk to Cody, and tap into his faith and with that faith, whole new vistas will open to him. Thank you Mr. Sutherland for your facinating series. I also loved the Farmers Wife and was equally moved by it.

Suzan Van Keulen
Simi Valley, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

A week after viewing Country Boys, I still think about lessons graciously shared by Chris and Cody. As a high school teacher, I found The David School fascinating; however, the truth so evident from inside any classroom unfolded over the three nights. The David School nurtures its students with a familial care and a small school's attention to the daily details of a student's life. Yet even with such extraordinary care, a school can only be part of continually growing support system. At Cody's graduation it became clear that his layered support would continue to offer a net beneath him.

Our high school librarian just ordered the Country Boys DVD; I know the compelling stories of Cody and Chris will educate some and validate the struggles and joys of others. Thank you.

Pam Atkins

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was very inspired and moved by this film. I won't reiterate what others have said so eloquently, and simply want to add that Liz McGuire gets my vote for woman of the century. Even if you don't publish this, I hope you'll let her know what a privilege it was to see someone serve another so selflessly.

Martine Anderson
Jamaica Plain, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Country Boys" touched me in a deep, visceral way in that it reminds me of the many young and poor in this country who have dreams of a better life. I grew up on the Navajo reservation in Northern Arizona and this story may have well been my story.The broken down trailers with broken down dreams was my story. If it weren't for the caring adults like those at David School or many others like them I probably would have raised another generation of the down and out living on the dole on the reservation. Without a formal education and without the prospects of a decent living what is left for many but alcohol and a heart full of anger and shame. I was extremely lucky to escape the poverty and shame so many of my people had on the reservation. I actually made a vow to myself that no matter what I was going to get an education. I actually joined a Christian church as I saw the positive ways they helped the Indian people. I adopted the ways of the American white people because I knew that that was the only way I would make it and that was the mark of success.Although, it tore at my heart and I felt like a hypocrite I still vowed I wouldn't stop until I graduated from college. In 1978 I graduated from the University of Arizona in a school population that was twice as large as the small town we went to buy groceries in. I did have my share of problems with alcohol and drugs along the way and it almost did me in but now I've been clean and sober now for 17 years. It had a lot to do with survivor's guilt, anger and shame. Even with all my success I still had alot of anger and shame so I had to work on my emotional baggage. It's been a struggle but at 54 years old I am finally making peace with myself and others. I was able to help my mom before she passed away and I know she was happy and proud of me. In the final analysis I would do it all the same way again without a doubt. You are lost without an education and without something you can be proud of. We need to feel we are important too... that our lives are worth something. I for one would like to contribute financially to Chris's education...that is if Chris still wants to go to school. I'll never forget the story about the crabs in the bucket...whenever a crab would get to the top of the bucket the others would grab him and pull him back down to the others. I was a crab who got out and I'm lucky I did. Thank you Frontline for these heartfelt stories and wish all the Chris's and Cody's of this country well.

Geri Keams
pasadena, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I came from the tip of the Appalachia. I was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. I have walked many a mile in the Appalachians and have traveled just a few miles over into West Virgina.

I moved to Indiana in March of 2003. To this very day, I get the inbred jokes of being from the Appalachia territory. Virginia gets associated with the 70's depiction of West Virginia of inbred families. It's frustrating and I make light of the jokes on the outside, though deep inside it enrages me that us country folks are so much judged by our origins and covers. To look at me, you'd never know I was from there, until you get to know me and then the judgements fly.

I grew up with similar strifes as Chris has and continue to struggle with my inner feelings of my past life. I finally went to college and got my diploma and I just turned 29. I had to grow up fast and remember cooking when I was 6 years old. My Dad is a recovering alcoholic and my Mom ran off on my Dad just as Chris's did. It was almost watching parts of my life relive itself through Chris.

I loved the program and as a country Appalachia girl myself, I thank you for drawing some much needed attention to that area.

Yvonne
Indianapolis, Indiana

Dear FRONTLINE,

... a comment on a posted response from another viewer. That individual brought up the issue of Chris's weight, thereby showing extraordinary shallowness in light of the major problems that Chris has to deal with in his life. This type of reaction is not surprising in light of the values of most people today.

Dale Jeffers
Wagoner, OK

Dear FRONTLINE,

This is, without a doubt, one of the most mesmerizing documentaries I have ever seen. It is not only ethnographically interesting in its documentation of contemporary life in Appalachia; it is also a universal epic account of growing up.

This is an amazing tale of trasition, both of individuals and of a community. The tensions between Cody's faith and his love of sub-culture tell the story of so many of us, as do Chris's waverings between ambitious goals and the practical neccesities of daily life. Beautiful photography, slow and quiet pacing, and the long duration of both the film itself and the period it captures add to the effect. This is one of the finest films I have seen.

Wesley Joyner
Columbia, SC

Dear FRONTLINE,

I came upon this show one night and almost passed it by before deciding to see what it was about. 3 nights later I found myself in front of the same television crying as i watched Chris give his graduation speech.

I wish I could put into words how profoundly this documentary has affected me and my thinking. I want to applaud the David School and the efforts it's made in trying to give the children of Appalachia a different way of life.

Marybeth Castle
Portland, Maine

Dear FRONTLINE,

Who is the artist that sings the title song, "Country Boy"?

nancy andresen
philadelphia, pa

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Ray Riddle. Many of the songs in the soundtrack of this film are his. Explore more about Riddle and his music in the CODY STORY section of this Web site.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I never finished school and would like to give Chris and Cody some encouragement of never give up.Even though I did not finish school and worked many odd jobs over the 39 years. I now am a manager of $10 million dollar program for a major automaker.So there is light at the end of the dark tunnel we walk.Good luck Chris and Cody.

Phil Akers

Dear FRONTLINE,

Country Boys was one of the best quality and moving documentaries I have seen. With the networks filled with alot of worthless reality shows....PBS has has fulfilled a great need. I learned so much from these boys, the area, the people and the hardships. We take so many things for granted and it really put things back into perspective. Many young people should have had to watch this to see what disappointment really is.

Chris, having to face too many adult situations at a young age, was amazing. His calm demeanor and quiet voice was something to admire...he didn't 'lose it'.....like I would have in many of those situations.

Cody was admireable to have overcome such painful losses in his life and to be strong enough to voice his religious beliefs. I hope the world treats them better in the future and they have love, support and favorable relationships.

A Dolan
Fargo, ND

Dear FRONTLINE,

Dear Frontline,

Where is the update on Chris? I have been watching this site just waiting for info.... as I am sure everyone else has. Please give your viewers some feedback.

Thanks! Rick

Rick Timmerman
Houston, TX

FRONTLINE's editors respond:

Go to CHRIS'S STORY on this Web Site and click on "Frequently Asked Questions" for information about what Chris is doing now.

Dear FRONTLINE,

Kudos for a provocative, sensitive documentary about the lives of two young men in an impoverished, forgotten corner of the country. I was impressed with the courage and dignity of both boys in their day to day struggles.

I, like many of your viewers, am college educated and live an affluent suburban lifestyle. I am the mother of a 17 year old son who is currently choosing from several colleges and universities that he has been accepted to. To him, suceeding in high school and obtaining a good SAT score is as natural to him as breathing. He has absolutely no idea how difficult life is for many young people, such as Chris and Cody, where high expectations and a college education aren't the norm.

Again, many thanks for an outstanding eye opener about life on the proverbial "other side of the tracks".

Susan Handwerker
Amherst, NH

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was mesmorized for 3 nights and as an educated urbane womanfell madly in love with Chris. I believe he will go very far in life. I saw him more as a man than a teen age boy. I wish I can follow his path - did he get into College - if so, what ishis major. If I had a business, I'd hire him in a New YOrk minute. He is a beautiful, beautiful boy with much wisdom andtalent - and so much more inherent talen to be unfolded.PBS Thank you for an incredible documentary. I wish Cody andhis gal much luck - did they marry?Thank you for the wonderful appalachian slice of life! I willnever forget the 3 nights.

Ellen Mann
new york, new york

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posted jan. 9, 2006

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