Dahmer West Virginia, about eight miles south of Franklin, is today only a placename on a map - all evidence of community erased years ago. When I left Franklin that overcast Friday morning I wasn't looking for Dahmer. And, until recently, I didn't even know I had found it. I wanted to run Thorn Creek Road, instead, to see if Dames Rocket had managed to return after being uprooted and swept away by some serious floods in recent years.
What do you call those inexplicable impulses, those moments of celestial spontaneity that say, "don't go straight, turn here." An impulse lead me away from Thorn Creek along Dry Run Road uphill toward some higher ground. Another beautiful road, as they all are in these parts. The shell of an old homestead or two. An overgrown church. Split rail fences that seem ageless. At 25 mph it's easy to scan fencelines, identify wildflowers on the move, hear a complete birdsong, and gaze hopefully down each farm lane.
This particular lane stopped me cold. I lingered awhile. And wondered. Who tended that farm with such care, during bitter cold and the stern test of hard times in these mountains. Which artist would have stopped here to paint. Mid 1800's for sure. Andrew Wyeth with strokes of watercolor, all earth tones. On impulse I glanced at the mailbox. Johnny Dahmer' duly noted in the road log.
While preparing this, I ran his name thru some search engine magic, again on impulse, and found this shot at the Gallery of West Virginia Folklife, Davis & Elkins College, Elkins WVa. My new friend Johnny mending his 'stake and rider' split rail fence. Right over there, brimming with recollections about a community called Dahmer. How cool is that!
Title: © Johnny Dahmer's Farm. r0986-31
Series: Farm Scenes
Location: Pendleton County, WVa.
Date: Friday 30 May 1997