FIRST/PERSON: Why I Have Four Names

The West Virginia hills, where Joseph “Billy” Corduroy earned all of his names.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of you wrote to say how much you enjoyed last month’s FIRST/PERSON piece by Joseph “Billy” Corduroy, “A Turtle Rescue Out on Pluto Road.” We’re glad to reprint another tale from his site, joebillyjohnbob.com detailing the curious story of how he came to be christened with four names.


By Joseph “Billy” Corduroy | Reprinted from joebillyjohnbob.com | August 10, 2022


So, about the name. It’s a ‘pen’ name, although it’s kind of close to my real one. I am writing with a pen name because my neighbors (well, a good part of some of them) are crazy. We don’t see eye-to-eye, which leads us sometimes to go nose-to-nose. I mean that physically, too. Yes, it can get political, but what doesn’t get political these days? But it’s other stuff, too. Real personal stuff. More on that later. Maybe.

So, ‘Corduroy’ is NOT my last name. That’s the ‘pen’ name part. If I were to use my real name, I might not be able to talk about all the things I feel a need to be talking about. If not right now, later.

But the thing is this. West Virginia is not really a state. It’s a bunch of villages strung all together. And it’s amazing how something that happens in one of its unincorporated villages, towns or its handful of real cities gets known in another one over on the other side of your mountain — or many mountains away — very quickly.

I doubt the neighbors I have tangled with (or the ones I have no urge to tangle with) might find my journal on the Internet, if I was to use my real name. But you never know. Plus, a few of them are armed to the teeth and very grumpy people. I just don’t wish the hassle if I get a little brave and talk about everything and not just the easier things. And maybe them, too.


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I have wanted to be able to be a ‘writer’ for forever, free to write my mind for a long time. I tried first publishing some op-eds in the local newspapers and community rags. (I learned from one newspaper editor that ‘op-ed’ means ‘opposite editorial,’ meaning the comments of us average nobodies went on the page that faced the high-and-mighty editorial writings of the newspaper).

But my early tries to publish op-eds in some local papers where I’ve lived — and even one shopper’s rag — did not go well, especially if I said something the town fathers did not like. Which I did.

Actually, the town mothers were just as bad, if not even more so. I might call them the town ‘motherdot-dot-dots‘ (if you know what I mean). But my Grandma Katy, god rest her beautiful soul, might whack me upside my forehead, coming down from heaven or wherever she is now or sending a spirit or haint to haunt me if ever I used language like that in public.

But the ‘Joseph Billy’ part is true enough. But it’s not the whole story of my given Christian names. So, this is how it went down growing up.

He was a two-sports star in high school (football and track) and she was “the prettiest cheerleader in the county.”

The Way Back When

I was the first son of a couple of people who probably should never have had sons, much less chickens or goats. They fought all of my growing up like cats and dogs or scorpions in a bowl (to be honest, I never witnessed an actual scorpion, though might like to).

They must once have been a happy couple. He was a two-sports star in high school (football and track) and she was “the prettiest cheerleader in the county,” as Grandma Katy liked to say, when she told stories about the way back when, which was a lot.

By the time I came along — the first boy of three boys — they “couldn’t agree on the exact hour of the day or whether it was rainy or sunshiney outside,” said Grandma K, who I suspect often told me things she told no one else.

As for me, their fighting began right out of the box, so to speak. Over what to name me. The following is what Grandma K informed me happened. 

Daddy wanted to call me ‘Joseph William,’ plus my last name, which I am not going to tell you because see my crazy neighbors. My Mom, on the other hand, wished for ‘John Robert.’

“They each had their reasons,” I remember Grandma K saying. 

‘John’ and ‘Robert’ were two names with important connections to my Mom. The first referenced my Mom’s own father and Grandma K’s late and lamented husband — John Jacob. And the other name was from my mother’s younger brother — Robert or ‘Bob. He, unfortunately, died in a terrible car accident while my Mom was still “the prettiest cheerleader in the county.” No one ever talked about that crash much growing up.

So, who knows why my Dad — who, as cousin Andy once put it, was “the King of Swinging Dicks” — would not honor my Mom’s choices. 

“He just insisted you be named ‘Joseph William,’” said Grandma K. 

His reasons were that ‘Joe’ represented his great-grandfather, who came to America from Sicily in the way back when. And that ‘William’ was his own middle name and he wished to pass that down the line.


ALSO BY JOSEPH ‘BILLY’ CORDUROY

FIRST/PERSON: A Turtle Rescue Out on Pluto Road: July 1, 2022: “The first time I tried to save a turtle on the move it peed — or pooped, I’m not sure which — in my truck. I had stopped when I saw a box turtle in the middle of Pluto Road one afternoon maybe ten years ago. I hit my brakes right there in traffic ….


The Scandal & The Box

The fighting over the name “got into a little scandal,” Grandma K told me. (I got all these quotes down in my Family Dollar notebook when she said stuff worth noting because it’s my personal history and our family’s history, too, even if my brothers won’t give it the time of day).

“Your mother found love letters in a basement box from a woman named ‘Jo,” said Grandma K.

This Jo apparently had been a big love of Dad’s before he met my Mom. The fight that broke out after the discovery of ‘The Box’ was “a doozy,” said K (which is how I’d had taken to calling my Grandma Kay once she began confiding in me and I listened back. She didn’t seem to mind.)

“I remember that first big fight night over The Box because it was at Sunday dinner at our house,” said K. “Your mother cried at your father ‘You’re not wanting to just name your first-born son after your Dago granddad, but after your old girlfriend!’”

And she apparently flung that shoe box full of saved letters onto the dinner table, where some of the letters spilled over and out and into a plate of country chicken in gravy and green beans, soaking the paper.

“Well, your father, he grabbed for the letters and then raised his hand into a fist at the word ‘dago.’ And your mother grabbed a butter knife from the kitchen table and backed him up a foot or two. 

“That ain’t true at all!’ he cried. “She was just a best friend …”



But he looked “suspicious like,” said Grandma K, who I don’t think ever quite took to Dad. There was a lot not to like. For his part, he never did hit Mom. Then or ever, I don’t think. But it was scary more than a few times growing up and I have no desires to be that child I was.

The thing was they were both the most cussed, stubborn people you’d ever meet, my Dad and Mom, when they come together over something that stood them apart. And when their cussedness hit and collided it was like cars crashing head on out on the interstate. Which created an even bigger, fierier mess than if they were on fire apart.

“Both would not give up their position on the proper naming of you,” said K. “So, they agreed to disagree. And gave you all four names.”

So, that is why growing up my daddy called me ‘Joe Billy.’ Or ‘Joseph William,’ when I was in trouble about something bad. And my Mom called me ‘John Bob.’ Or ‘John Robert’ when she chased me with a spatula, raging about something I did. Or, more commonly, did not do.

Which, now you know, is why I call this journal ‘JoeBillyJohnBob’s Place.

A couple of my very closest friends — one of them was the Woman of the World who helped clean up the way I talk and enlarged my thinking — called me ‘JoeBillyJohnBob,’ as a sorta joke that took.

Call Me What You Call Me

You can tell different periods and ages in my life, plus my different stages of friends, by times when I was Joe, Joey and Joseph. Or ‘Joe Billy.’ And — lesser than those — ‘Johnny’ and ‘John Robert.’  Plus, there was a ‘JohnBob’ period my mom tried to lock in for several years. Which failed.

I kind of prefer just ‘Billy’ these days for casual use.

A couple of my very closest friends — one of them was the Woman of the World who helped clean up the way I talk and enlarged my thinking — called me ‘JoeBillyJohnBob,’ as a sorta joke that took. It was kind of like an ‘Open Sesame’ secret that no one else but the folks I loved most knew to call me. They used it when they wanted to talk to me down. Or love on me where maybe pillows were involved. Or we were trying to shut the rest of the damn crazy world out. And she’d/he’d lean in and say ‘Joebillyjohnbob, let’s get outa here ….”

More on that later. Maybe.

But the thing is, you just can’t be a writer with four names like ‘Joe Billy John Bob,’ unless you are, like, genius-level J.R.R. Tolkien or George R. R. Martin.

So, I got creative.

And that is how ‘Joseph ‘Billy’ Corduroy’ came to be. It’s a little bit of style, and a little bit of country. Which, if you were to ask me, is what I hope my writing gets across.

And now you know how I got my name(s).

Joseph “Billy” Corduroy is a West Virginia-based “wannabe writer” who prefers to describe “in general, my life, without getting into too many specifics because some of my neighbors are crazy.” What he writes, he says, “is mostly true.” See more of his writing here: joebillyjohnbob.com


STORY INDEX FOR AUGUST, 2022
WestVirginiaVille.com

1 | EDITORS/NOTE: From Legislators to Lost River, thistles to abortion bans: In the midst of all the normal chaos of American and West Virginian political life, some good news breaks out. Plus, some worthy tales from worthy lives around the state. An overview of WestVirginiaVille’s August 2022 edition.

2 | EDITOR/IAL: Score one — a big one — for Manchin: The Earth wins one (with some important caveats) as Joe Manchin finally steps up and does right by the Biden administration’s grand climate hopes. It’s not everything, but it is a serious something.

3 | FIRST/PERSON: Why I Have Four Names: “They were both the most cussed, stubborn people you’d ever meet, my Dad and Mom, when they come together over something that stood them apart. “Both would not give up their position on the proper naming of you,” said K. “So, they agreed to disagree. And gave you all four names.” | By Joseph “Billy” Corduroy, reprinted from joebillyjohnbob.com

4 | ‘KEEP THE DOOR CLOSED’: Inside the chaotic week when West Virginia Republicans’ efforts to ban abortion stalled: “I can’t hear,” Senate President Craig Blair repeated from his dais. The body had just passed a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in West Virginia. The remaining pro-abortion rights protesters had packed themselves into the hallway beside the chamber in their 10th straight hour of demonstrations. “No justice! No peace!” | By Ian Karbal, reprinted from Mountain State Spotlight



5 | FIRST/PERSON: ‘A Wild Woman Love Story’: Once upon a time, a round-faced girl with curly hair and identity issues was told by someone (that genuinely loved her) that she was not “model pretty” like her sister but that she could be “mother pretty” … | By Angelica Gilleran, reprinted from BLACK BY GOD: The West Virginian

6 | PICTURE/SHOW: A West Virginia Walkabout from Elkins to Lost River: If you could use a West Virginia roadtrip, here’s a vicarious one, traversing from Elkins to Lost River. You’ll cover lots of ground. From August Heritage Center jamming at Davis & Elkins College, to the soothing solitude of Kimsey Run Lake in Lost River. | A WestVirginiaVille.com original video

7 | ONE/PHOTO: What the thistle tells: ‘the ants quickly took to the milk thistle this year. her bloom doesn’t last long. maybe two days. they seem to be in sync with this knowing, almost as if there is a pulse they can feel when she begins her bloom.’ | By Water Light

8 | CHARACTERS | The One-Armed Bandit of No. 1 Holler, West Virginia: The story of the “The One-Armed Bandit” is the stuff of heroes and legends. You may not know Gary Mays’ tale, however, as the major league career the West Virginia native might have had may have been blocked by racism. Yet nothing ever kept Gary down for long. | By Douglas John Imbrogno, reprint of 2016 Charleston Gazette story

9 | VIDEO: “WATER/CLOUD/WIND/LEAF: A Hoeft Marsh Melody”: Hoeft Marsh in Greenbottom WV is where I go off to when I want to get off the timeline of the world’s news. Here’s a short, lyrical recent visit there. It’s a little fishy, too. | A WestVirginiaVille.com original video

10 | PASSINGS: Recalling the ironic, sardonic, compassionate writings of PJ Laska: “It would be impossible for me to do justice either to his writing or to his intellectual prowess. But I will say, as a man, he always sought to share what he knew and never once came across as anything other than a person who could learn from any and everyone …”


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INDEX: A guide to the August 2022 issue of WestVirginiaVille.com: Here’s a linked guide to all the articles, essays, videos, and photographs in the August 2022 edition of WestVirginiaVille.com


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