I have been on a quest since last year, searching high and low for everything that I can get my hands on about Raggie culture here in northwestern Connecticut. What’s a Raggie you ask? A Raggie is simply northwestern Connecticut slang for someone of a social downward spiral and backwoods isolation. That slang, however, is just that, slang. To understand Raggie culture, you have to go direct to the source, and I don’t mean a typical search online or even in your local library, I’m talking about going to thee source, a place way up high known as Mt. Riga in Salisbury. It is here where the definition of Raggie is not the slang word that we use it as today, in fact it is the complete opposite.
The word Raggie has been around for generations here in northern Litchfield County. In fact, you should take note that if you travel anywhere south of Litchfield and speak the word Raggie, people wont have a clue as to what you are even talking about! The word has become widely used in our part of the woods, but the word takes on many meanings. If one were to be in Torrington or Winsted, the “home of Raggie culture”, one would find that the word actually offends some folks who take it the wrong way, almost as a form of racism. If you were to use the word in Salisbury, where the word Raggie actually originated from, you would discover that many people would think of those mountain people who lived up on Mt. Riga during the iron ore days, who had little to nothing in modern convinces, which there are still those today up on Mt. Riga who enjoy the splendor of nature without the use of electricity or running water.
Last summer, I took a ride up to Mt. Riga, a short 30 minute drive northwest of Torrington, and discovered the place for myself. I was warned before heading up there, however, that I should mind my business and not get too involved in discovery as those that live there do not want to really be bothered, how true that is I still do not know. I didn’t run into a soul up there. The drive was daunting at most. A steep incline almost the whole way to the top, along a dirt road none the less which was packed with ledges that my car could fall off of as I drove with white knuckles, and once I reached the top, thinking that there would be some sort of bustling place to see, I discovered nothing but water, trees, a cemetery, and 3 houses. Honestly? I drove myself up this big ol’ mountain for this? What was I thinking! I knew what I was thinking, I was thinking I was a nutcase on a quest to find out about the word Raggie.
I’m no nutcase though. This quest actually brought some light onto the subject for me. I had to look past what was actually in front of me. I had to not judge the cover of this place. A closer look here revealed that there was a great deal of history here. You see, Mt. Riga was home to one of the most prominent iron ores in the region. A great furnace used to reside here, which was actually quite bustling as it supplied iron to the communities in the region. Today, you wouldn’t even be able to tell how popular this place was without a little background research before heading up, or talking to some of the locals at the coffee-house in Salisbury, which many can tell you stories that will keep you in suspense for hours on end.
Mt. Riga today is a very different place than it was. It’s a place that is now entirely in touch with nature as you drive along dirt roads and hike the backwoods trails, such as the Appalachian trail which runs through the summit. In fact, an AMC Hut is located on the summit as well, which is maintained year-round for those who want to escape the elements or catch a nap. Quite frankly, it’s a tranquil place filled with an overabundance of nature that will absolutely make your head spin, not to mention that there is not a soul out here to bother you.
So, the next time someone asks you what a Raggie is, you might want to ask them to clarify. The word has more meaning than you think, and if you think you can discover the meaning online, you would be greatly mistaken as a variety of websites out there lead you to believe in the incorrect meaning of the real Raggie culture, which you really have to discover for yourself. One place to start making that discovery, however, is at Torrington’s own Brazen Betties, located in the heart of Downtown Torrington. It is there will you find these great Raggie T-Shirts that are available to you so that you may show off your northwestern Connecticut pride. Who says Raggie’s aren’t stylish?