“If you want to stay in West Virginia, then I believe you’re doing something right," Colt Brogan told West Virginia Public Broadcasting for The Struggle to Stay series. "I mean, cause it’s hard to want to stay here in my opinion. Cause it is so rough.”
Colt is determined to make a home for himself, and maybe eventually have a family farm where teenagers are welcome to work and stay. But for now, that’s a far-off dream. For the past year and half he’s been working for a farmer training program called Refresh Appalachia. In addition to working in a small greenhouse, he also gets paid for the time he spends going to college.
But the program is demanding, and he doesn’t have a lot of time off. Since we last heard from Colt, things haven’t been easy.
August 2016, things suddenly spun out of control.
“My cousin called me, and I answered the phone. It’s like 7 in the morning, and she told me that my mom’s house burned down. She’s like, ‘it’s gone, it burned down, it’s gone.’ Didn’t really say much else.”
This was the house along the Coal River where Colt spent a lot of his childhood.
This was the house along the Coal River where Colt spent a lot of his childhood. Colt’s mom escaped with no serious injuries, which was surprising because the blaze started right by her bed while she was asleep- from a candle she’d left burning. She did have a big burn mark on her forehead.
The fire department took a while to respond to the 9-1-1 call because Colt’s mom lives in Alum Creek, right on the county line. So the dispatchers couldn’t agree on which county was responsible for her home. This is the call between emergency dispatchers at Kanawha County and Lincoln County 911.
One of the only things that made it out of the fire was a ceramic box Colt had given his mom years ago, when he was about four years old.
“It was like a jewelry box. It was shaped like a heart. It said ‘Mom’ on top. I thought that was kind of amazing.”
We’ll hear the conclusion to Colt’s Struggle to Stay story next week. But the Struggle to Stay series continues. Over the next few months we’ll meet five young people as they struggle with the decision, do I stay or do I go?
We want to hear from you. Did you struggle to stay? What do you love about living in Appalachia? What do you wish could be better? You can send us a tweet to @InAppalachia or send us an email to Feedback@wvpublic.org.