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Thursday, October 27, 2016
Settling the debate of who's a `come here' in Tidewater Virginia. (It's not easy ...)
When Cultures Combine
'Come Heres And From Heres'
April 19, 2004|BY MATT SABO firstname.lastname@example.org | (804) 642-1748
Natives and newcomers try to decide how long a person has to live here before shedding the 'outsider' label.
It is a vexing question, its answer fraught with rampant speculation and, of course, influenced by one's genealogical ties to the great commonwealth of Virginia. The state constitution is no help. Local ordinances do not address it. A Google search turned up no definitive answer.
Judy Schick bravely tries to answer it anyway.
"Mmmm, I'd say the only way you can be a 'been here' is if you've been born here," she says.
That's it then. All you "come heres" who are looking to shake loose your outsider status have something to shoot for. Birth a kid wherever it is you've landed, and your progeny won't be a "come here."
Or maybe not. Schick is waffling after thinking about this problem for a minute.
"Well," she says, "I don't know that there's an answer."
Schick was born in New Jersey and arrived in Mathews via Indianapolis after she and her husband took a liking to the Virginia shoreline. She concedes she's 100 percent "come here." She even started the "Newcomers Club" in Mathews, where "come heres" flock like mosquitoes to flesh. The club has 48 members.
But isn't there a way to change from a "come here" to a "been here?" How long would that take? A decade? Twenty years? Fifty years? Having a momma who's a native?
"Never," says 56-year-old Tommy Darden, who runs rustic Darden's Country Store in Isle of Wight County. Getting to Darden's would be hard for most "come heres." It involves taking a left, two rights, a left, a right and then another left (or was it a right?) - all while negotiating narrow back roads and dodging locals wandering out to the mailbox across the road.
"To me, personally, when you're a 'from here' is when you know the back roads from here to there," says Mark Rowe as he cradles a midday beer at Harpoon Larry's off Mercury Boulevard in Hampton.
Rowe is a 38-year-old Floridian just two months into his Peninsula residency. He says people shouldn't fret about the labels because it all depends on the individual. Rowe claims to know the back roads -- at least to Harpoon Larry's -- and considers himself a "from here."
Darden actually agrees after he warms to the subject. "It's really hard to say. Some people seem to fit in and some people don't fit in," he says.
Some "come heres" move to the Virginia countryside and want streetlights, garbage pickup and curbs. They're "come heres" through and through, Darden says. Others fit right in. They stop by the store to chat and haul their garbage to the dump in the back of a pickup, or SUV probably. They're OK.
About this time Dean Stallings joins the fray. The 46-year-old, sixth-generation Isle of Wight farmer stopped by Darden's for a ham sandwich, iced tea and pack of Marlboro Lights.
"Come heres" drive ATVs through his cotton and corn fields and think it's their back yard, he says. They're not OK. A "come here" will "be on that list forever," Stallings says.
Of course, there are exceptions. Bonnie Lewis is checking out art in Mo Stuff in Bena, in the heart of Gloucester's Guinea. She was born in Wicomico in Gloucester County, moved away for 30 years, then came back. Doesn't that make her a "come here" with an asterisk? Or is it a "from here" with an asterisk?
Neither, she says. "I'm grandfathered."
Perhaps there's some scholarly research that can lay to rest this issue. Wouldn't you know it, the University of Virginia has a "come heres" specialist.
Daphne Spain, chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning at the university's School of Architecture, wrote "Been-heres Versus Come-heres: Negotiating Conflicting Community Identities" in 1993. It's a study comparing Kilmarnock in Lancaster County to Philadelphia's Queen Village. In sum, rich folks moved into both places and changed the communities. They probably demanded garbage pickup.
Spain could see a change in status, though. Folks who arrived after Kilmarnock was "discovered" were "come heres." Those who had arrived before weren't. Others in the small, historically tightknit communities who had lived there for generations traced "come heres" back to two generations.
"No matter how long the family stayed," Spain says, "if their family wasn't from there it wouldn't matter."
The last word is left to Urbanna, on the watery fringes of Middlesex County. At Catman Cats, a boatbuilding outfit down on the water, Felix Herrin claims a person can be moved off the "come heres" list into "been heres" status by the authority of an authentic "from here."
He said this happened to him when his friend Larry Burch told Herrin he's not a "come here" anymore because Herrin has been in Virginia since 1977.
"It has to be bestowed by a `from here,'" Herrin says.
His wife, Tricia Herrin, is standing nearby. She is a real-life "born here" and is caught off guard.
"So he took you from a 'come here' to a 'been here?'" she asks incredulously.