Not everyone who lives in the mountains around Red Bird is poor. There are many very nice homes in the region, surprising first-time visitors by their unexpected appearance. Because county zoning and covenant restrictions are unknown in the hills (or not enforced), and because families build close together in hollers, it is quite common to find mobile and custom-built homes sitting side-by-side. One must remember that wages in the coal mines are good; combined with the wages of a teacher, nurse, or other professional spouse, and families own solid middle-class wealth. One local told me that it is common to see family wages approaching $100,000.
I got to know families that had spent their working years in other places but moved back to the mountains during retirement. Others worked for the state or federal government and were happy to commute from their mountain homes. Some families were able to enjoy higher standards of living by inheriting land or by renting property very cheaply from coal mine owners. I met several families who also owned cabins outside of the area, perhaps on a lake in the region or across the Tennessee line. With these generous wages, local families were able to enjoy a very good standard of living that included affordable housing, beautiful views, and recreation options enviable to others.