Dear Frontline; As I sit and watched the three parts, It took me back in time to my childhood. I grew up in a small town in Ohio. These 2 young men, with the struggles of life and growing up before there time. I understand how life seems so unfair and tragedy at every turn. I truely feel that both these you men will accomplish great things. Their faith is strong and the will to survive is great. As we say in the US Army, God Bless, Gods speed til we meet again.
What a compelling and compassionate film David Sutherland created. Many of us are so focused on foriegn news we forget the needs of others in our own back yard and what it means to be an American. I grew up in a struggling upstate New York town and felt Cody and Chris's shame, lack of opportunity, and hopelessness. This film went straight to my heart. I hope Cody and Chris know their stories will last forever.
My father grew up in nearby McRoberts, Ky during the depression. In order to escape the area he joined the Marines just before WWII. During the war his parents followed the demographic movement to Cincinatti, and my father didn't return to the Cumberland for 40 years. He settled in Georgia, where I was raised. One weekend, after I was grown, he asked if I wanted to go with him to visit his hometown in Eastern Kentucky. I jumped at the chance. The entire way there he warned me about how poor and depressing it would be, but when we got there he was stunned. The mountains had "healed" from the damage from the mining, and they were beautiful. The roads were paved. The people weren't covered with coal dust. The houses were clean and well kept. But mostly the people were as friendly as they could be.
In McRoberts we found a monument with my father's name on it (with all the other hometown boys who had gone to war).
My father couldn't understand how the mountains had changed so much. As a boy he felt that the mountains were closing him in. The only jobs were in the mines. But he always said the mountains were filled with good people.
My father was extremely clean, honorable and hardworking. At his funeral they played "My Old Kentucky Home," and I felt as though I understood a little of what it meant for him.
The show brought impressions of my father flooding back to me.
My husband and I both were engrossed with this documentary. Thank you for showing this side of life in Eastern KY.
My husband was born and raised in Pike County,KY and we lived there the first nine years we were married and I can attest to the fact that life in that part of the U.S. is very much like what we saw on "Country Boys". We left there in 1989 because it was too hard for our family of 3 to subsist on the $4.25 an hour my husband was making. I,myself, had continually tried to find a job, but it's a little hard when there are no jobs available.It's hard to say who or what is to blame for why life goes on like this. A lot of these people don't have good role models in their lives in the first place, so they grow up doing and being just like they've seen people in the past. To Chris and Cody - please, don't give up. Keep on keeping on. Chris, you may have to do what we did, pack up all of your belongings and move on to where the jobs are. It's not easy by any means, but it can be done. If it were feasible at all, I would take you in so that you could attend college and make something of yourself moreso than you already have. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you ...
I watched your documentary, Mr. Sutherland, with an old feeling of nostalgia and familiarity. I grew up in West Virginia. My father was a coal miner for 40 years. I know these people as well as I know myself. I cannot help thinking, in light of the tragic deaths of the coal miners in West Virginia, how little social responsibility the coal companies (both small and corporate-owned) seem to feel for these people. It appears not a lot has changed in the way in which the people of the coal-bearing Appalachians are treated. They are used up like the coal they mine and left behind to live in the gaping holes left in their land --left to deal with poverty, alcoholism, black lung, and few new opportunities.I am so glad to see the flowers growing between the rocks--these beautiful kids carry on the true spirit of the Appalachian people. I have nothing but optimism for these two boys. I hope the mountains are filled with more just like them. My hopes and prayers are with them.
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.
This documentary was absolutely fascinating, heart-wrenching, and neccessary. My parents were from poor rural Kentucky families.I grew up hearing the stories of abject povery,alcoholism and hardship,but because my parents were such successful adults, my sister and I could never relate to them. Sitting in a warm spacious home, eating ice-cream and watching television in my room, I could never grasp the pain and humiliation my parents suffered as children .We grew up in the Northeast in an upper middleclass family and rarely wanted for anything. We went to college and became professionals and lead productive lives.
As children, we went to Kentucky every summer and to us it was like a foreign land - everyone and everthing was very different from our little perspective of the world. We caught glimpses of our parents childhoods, but that was all.
The story of Cody and Chris opened my eyes. Christopher's circumstances were similar to my mother's and the pain and humiliation he suffered through his fathers alcoholism and his mother working herself into a premature old age was a familiar story to me. My mother and father survived all of that and became very successful people - financially and personally. Christopher can do that as well..he is so intelligent and articulate.
If I had the money to send him to college I would. I have been praying that a philanthropist watched this incredible video journey and will come forth with financial backing for this young man.I knew Cody would be fine because he has Liz and his girlfriend, her family, his bandmates and his pastor - his support system is fairly large and steady. Chris has a friend who is letting him live in his house - that's about it. Thank Goodness he had the David School Faculty to help him get his GED.I shudder to think where he would be if he never attended high school there!This was excellent television - informative, intelligent, and sensitively done. Thank-you to PBS and Frontline for providing the forum for this independent film maker.
Monica Lozaga Lozaga
What is compelling about something such as this film is that you do roll yourself up in it. Maybe too much to the point you begin to project your life into it. It makes me want to tell my own story to Chris, but I am sure he has had more well wishes and "good advice" than he could use in several lifetimes and that may not be a good thing.
I think mostly Chris succeeds by failing. Not really getting to where he could be, getting what he says he wants to have gets him people moving in close, comforting him and encouraging him. He gets parenting that he needed as a child.
I was raised in a similar manner to Chris, except he had a lot more stuff than me. My drunk dad just disappeared, so I did not have to go through having him around committing suicide by bottle and cigarette. (He, like Chris' Dad, was successful at it). I was born and raised in central Ohio. Both sides of my family came from the same area of Kentucky where this film was made. We were a part of the great migration north that occurred in the mid part of the last century. I think our stories are no different than any immigrant story. Hardship at first and though taking advantage of chances you find success.
My advice to Chris, (I am sure it about the 10,000th piece of advice he's been given), is get the depression under control and accept and expect more of himself. If you are working at Taco Bell learn every job there then become the manager. It is not that hard to do if you break it down into manageable pieces. Every success you get gives you something hang another one on. Don't sit there thinking about potential because one day you turn that corner and you go from "I am going to be..." to "I could have been..." . Going from future tense to past tense is a darned sobering transition.
I related to this documentary in my upbringing. I grew up in poverty with an alcoholic parent and a dysfunctional family. I failed high school multiple times and some thought I would never graduate. I finally came to live with my second family who supported me through high school and college graduation. I needed support to get beyond just getting by with minimum wage jobs and finally dedicating myself to finish college.
I am now in graduate school. I would not have gotten this far in my education without having a support system outside my biological family. It is difficult to believe in yourself when everything around you is negative and hopeless. It is the people we surround ourselves with, the family we create that get us through the difficulties in life.
I was touched deeply by the stories of Chris & Cody. Although I was raised under completely different circumstances, I also struggled in school. Similarly, I would not have graduated without the support of concerned educators. I just want to pass along words of encouragement to Chris about education. Keep Trying!
It took 11 years from high school graduation for me to get my associates degree. It helped so significantly in finding a better job that I feel compelled to say it's never too late to pursue an education. I cried when Chris felt he didn't have anyone to invite to his graduation. I didn't attend my college graduation because I didn't have anyone to invite. It isn't for anyone else but yourself Chris, I know you can do it! Keep Trying!
Glens Falls, N.Y.
Thank you for a great story. Like Chris and Cody, I grew up in the US with out much support from my family. I left Vietnam alone in 1979 with a group of strangers on a small fishing boat while I was 11 year old. I have to endure hardship but never loose my focus in school work.
Much like Chris, I held odd jobs to support myself. I can assure you that is not an easy task. I end up finishing high school and onto college. While we are worlds apart, I felt every bit of pain that Cody and Chris went through. There is great emptiness in life when you do not have mental and emotional support from the family. I did set out some goals and achieved them, even English is my secondary language. Good luck Cody and Chris, you do it. You have much to look forward to as long as you keep focus on your dreams.
Dear Frontline, As a person who grew up in the South, there were so many familiar resemblances between Cody and Chris's life and mine. This poverty stricken way of life not only exists in the Appalachian hills but also in small towns and places across the nation. Some people, like myself, often only really have a chance at a successful future if people help them out along the way. I specifically noticed the help of Liz with Cody and the kind people that offered Chris his own apartment. As a kid that had big dreams and hopes for success, I have been handed so much to help me along to reach those dreams. If there is something that one needs and another can offer it, it is a beautiful thing to see generosity passed to those in need. I grew up in similar surrounding conditions as Chris and Cody but I am now able to say I am the first in my immediate family to graduate college with pursuit of a masters degree and its a great feeling to know I am the person to help break the cycle I came from. I know Chris can be the person to break the cycle in his family also and create wonderful opportunities for his future.
Salt Lake City, Utah
I grew up in western Pennsylvania, in Bethel Park, on top of several coal mines. Your program really touched my heart in many ways. A lot of my friends in school were coal miner's children and they lived a very hard life in the little coal mining town within Bethel Park. I had opportunities many of them did not have, went on to college and moved away. That mine has been closed since I was in highschool but many others are still going strong. I have a close bond with these people and love them a lot. My prayer would be for Chris to find a philanthropist to help him get through college. He seems so bright but his family life was so emotionally empty and draining. Cody, on the other hand, had so much family support and there lies the difference between these two boys. He will succeed and I am not so sure about Chris. My prayers are with both but especially Chris. This program was so gut-wrenching,an amazingly intimate portrait of Appalachia. I know, I have lived there. Thank-you for doing this documentary.
I can certanly empathyze with Chris. My father was an alcholic. I did not have the problems with my mother,that chris did,but life was very diffacult. I could not invite friends to my house,out of fear that Daddy would embarrass me. I remember how scared,my baby sister and I would get when Daddy would drive drunk. If I could ask Chris something,it would be,WHY: Why didn't you go to Collage,and make something of yourself. I wanted so badly to go to Collage,and be a PE teacher,but I could not get a grant. Now I am 55 dissabled with Epelipsy,Clinical Depression,ulcar dissease,and migrane headachs. I do have some pleasant memories of my childhood,but they are mixed with (very bad ones): I won 1st place in the Oklahoma State High School Rodeo for the years 1963/1964/1965: In 1965,I also tied for first place in the barrel racing giving me the most points making me the all around cowgirl: I raised 3 sons practly all by myself: If Chris would like to e-mail me,I would be pleased to communicate with him. My oldest son is 34,a computer programmer/middle son is 32(dissabled Gulf war Vet.)youngest son is...,private security guard.
Fort Worth, Texas
I live in mid-Michigan. This area was once a farming community. For a while now, we've been home to the auto industry, though that is shutting down now as well. My parents were married in 1982 upon learning that my mother was pregnant with me.
My father dropped out of high school and my mother quit college only 18 credit hours short of her Associate's because my father kept walking out on her and she couldn't find child care for me and my little sister. We don't live in a region where everyone is poor. Many of the families around here are middle class, so my sister and I stuck out like sore thumbs at school.
When I was still in elementary school, I had excellent grades. My sister always struggled. My parents divorced right after my seventh birthday and by the time I reached adolescence, my frustration with the hand I'd been dealt in life finally surfaced. I began slacking off in school. I was constantly depressed. My mother was remarried to an alcholic and we moved to northwest Florida. It was relief to finally be off of welfare, though my family life hadn't improved much. It was sort of a trade-off: more money in the home for less love. It was all a downward spiral from there.
When I was in danger of not graduating in time, I moved back up to Michigan to stay with grandparents who tried to be supportive of me and encouraged me to do well, but it was all a little too late. I graduated by the skin of my teeth thanks to lower credit requirements than what I'd been held to in Florida.
Since then I got pregnant months after graduation. The father and I have had an on/off relationship for five years. I've worked in low-paying retail jobs on swing shifts, sometimes working until 3am and feeling guilty that I couldn't be there to put my children to bed. I've botched attempts at going to college three times because I couldn't juggle everything at once. I've moved back and forth from apartments to relatives' homes. Finally, I've gotten the father of my children to settle down and try to make a family with me. We just had a second child and we're engaged to be married this spring. We had help from his family in getting a mobile home and he's currently working while I stay home with the kids and prepare to make one more attempt at college this fall. It has to work this time. For me and for my family and for all of the people who've been there for me along the way. A lot of it, I think, will have to do with the stability of our household. He and I have disagreements, but we try to be loving and forgiving and we try to make a happy home.
I think a lot of times it starts when we're young - when our parents can't stay together and we don't have enough money to live a comfortable life - sometimes we do nothing but blame people and feel sorry for ourselves and it becomes an ugly and vicious cycle. Some people deal with it and come out of it shining, but I was not one of those people. I'm glad that I'm finally ready to break free and make something important of my life so that my children don't have to experience the same disadvantages that I did. I tell you what, too - I fought for my family. My fiancee was only 18 when we had our first child and I was 19 - a lot of responisibility was dumped on me and he wasn't faithful in our relationship for a long time. He just wasn't ready to grow up yet, let alone be a father. By the grace of God alone I've been able to forgive him for the trials he put me through and thank the Lord that he's finally grown into a responsible and loving man. Took him long enough.
I've been very inspired by the stories of Chris and Cody because in many ways I relate to them even though I live half-way across the country. It just goes to show you that they are people just like anyone else, no matter where they come from, and they deal with a lot of the same problems as everyone else. Thanks, PBS and David Sutherland, for bringing some reality to the screen. Thanks for something millions of us can relate to.
Thank you D. Sutherland. I am 66 years old and grew up in McDowell Cty, WV. My Dad was killed in a "mine bump" when I was 15 years old. His Father before him was killed in the mines in Matewan, WV. One of the letters stated, "he was born into hopelessness not poverty!" That is such a profound truth. Another writer believed the area shld be abandoned...God has not abandoned us...so we continue.