At 77, Zell Miller has settled into retired life in his native mountains. But while Miller admits he’s changed a bit, the ways of the mountains have changed more dramatically.
Miller, the former governor and U.S. Senator, was in Gainesville on Tuesday to autograph copies of his new book, "Purt Nigh Gone, The Old Mountain Ways."
He said the response to the book has been mostly favorable.
"One fellow told me that I had too many big words in the first chapter," Miller said in his familiar mountain twang. "Another fellow told me that he had all my books about the mountains and ‘this is the third time you’ve told us in detail how to butcher a hog.’"
Miller covers a variety of topics in his 171-page book. He talks about everything from making moonshine to making music.
Cecil Martin of Gainesville asked Miller if he thought his values harkened to a different time.
"I don’t even belong in this century," Miller said. "I think I’m a man of the 1940s and ’50s."
Miller’s book laments that the influence of pop culture and media, once foreign to the mountains, have all but erased the attributes that were so identified with the region.
"The cruel and shallow parodies like the comic strip ‘Snuffy Smith,’ the overdrawn stereotypes patterned for ridicule like the television program ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and the false portrayal of mountain people as depraved and amoral cretins by writers like James Dickey in his popular novel ‘Deliverance,’ have done lasting harm in how the mountaineer is portrayed," Miller writes in his book.
Miller closes the book with his personal list of 101 reasons he lives in Appalachia.
Among them — no gnats, dogs ride in the front seat of your pickup and adult males do not wear their caps backwards or sideways.
Miller uses a broad brush to describe Appalachia and counts as its natives Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln.
He lists as among his favorite places the Natural Bridge near Lexington, Va., and includes Jefferson’s Monticello and the Biltmore estate as examples of some of its greatest architecture.
Closer to home, he takes pride in living less than an hour from places like Hanging Dog, Bug Snort, Shake Rag, Granny Squirrel Gap, Chunky Gal Mountain, Raw Dough, War Woman, Bad Creek and Worse Creek.