Every time I pooh-pooh the idea that amazing coincidences happen, they seem to happen.
So it was the other day, beginning in the shower. As I hunted for the shampoo, I also searched my memory for a song to sing while sudsing. For no reason at all, I fastened on "Country Roads," the catchy number that made singer John Denver and the state of West Virginia famous, in approximately equal degree.
"Almost heaven/West Virginia-a-a," I bellowed. "Blue Ridge Mountains/Shenandoah Ri-i-i-ver."
About an hour later I was at work. Coincidence: So was Tom Rall's letter.
Tom is a former newspaper reporter who recently moved to Mount Jackson, Va., a small town that lies directly beside the north fork of the Shenandoah and the western edge of the Blue Ridge. His new home is the reason Tom knew whereof he typed. And what he typed should have been obvious to me, and other fans of the famous song, long ago:
The Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River lie almost entirely in Virginia, not West Virginia.
Great Leaping Luray Caverns! The most famous song ever written about West Virginia doesn't conform to the map?
This clearly called for a check with Sheri O'Dell, director of communications for West Virginia's Department of Economic and Community Development.
"You know," she said, "I've been here ever since the song was written and I don't think we've ever had a complaint. Most people come to West Virginia for the mountains, and they don't care if they're called the Blue Ridge or not.
"Besides, the Shenandoah does run through a little piece of West Virginia, over by Harpers Ferry, so that makes us legitimate, if you will."
"Country Roads" is not the official state song, Sheri pointed out. "But it sure as heck is the unofficial state song. Denver's been here in Charleston to sing it many times, and the people just love it. They identify with it as if it was official and everything else. In a lot of ways it did put us on the map."
Why hasn't Virginia done something about the poetic license that Denver took, and that West Virginia condoned? "I guess they figure we're a lost cause," Sheri said. "We seceded from Virginia 118 years ago. "