“Mmmmmm,” my palate trembles. Chocolate fudge oozes from the spoon. At Dee’s Drive-In overlooking the Tug Fork Big Sandy River here in Louisa, Lawrence County, Kentucky. Only a silver dollar’s throw across the River from Fort Gay, Wayne County, West Virginia. I’m so glad to be on the road, pleased to be right here, and delighted to have been a Fire Truck Salesman, if only for 15 minutes. That’s Andy Warhol type fame. It was this morning. A micro story of mistaken identity climaxed with a three mile truck chase. Beginning (Act 1) at the Turkey Creek water wagon. Finishing (Act 2) at Jarrell Community Church. Local cast: an on-stage volunteer fireman who, like many, chuckled at the idea that someone on vacation would with forethought leave home and drive to Turkey Creek, Kentucky, to take a picture of their fire truck; and, an off-stage supervisor who knew exactly what the dude with camera was hustling. Several minutes down the road, that dark thought brought pickup tires sliding to a stop beside me. For me, here was about the nice church yard. For him, here was a message delivered, “He say’s to tell you the truck is not for sale.”… There was a pregnant pause. He chuckled again, and casually began to tell me about the church. It was his after all.
5:30 pm. I’m glad to find Dove’s Store, a reassuring last shot from a long day looping thru ‘Highland’ counties in West Virginia: Pendleton, Hardy, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant, and back. Often featured here, ‘Highland’ counties encompass and sustain the South Branch of the Potomac River. And provide generously for those with an appetite for riding county roads. But, I’m still smarting, since morning. An acute smart lingering long after my public humiliation by a tail-thrashing, hoof-splashing, testosterone-charged juvenile Angus bully defending his indifferent heifers, they clearly more interested in a sip of creek water, against my apparent interest in the same. For the rest of the story, check here.
“The unveiling of the Indian monument at Mingo, in the southern end of the county, at the head of Tygart’s Valley River, took place in accordance with the program on Saturday, September 25, 1920. “The monument stands about 20 feet high and an Indian is represented standing listening, looking and ready for the “war path” upon short notice. “Some 1200 or 1500 people attended the meeting from Pocahontas and Randolph counties and a few from other sections, who are candidates for political honors. The dinner served was superb and praised by all who attended as being one of the biggest, best and freest dinners ever offered in the county.”
Captain William H. Cobb, National Historical Society:
“The Indian “village site” at Mingo has been regarded as the habitat of this tribe, but it is with no certainty that this is at all correct, but on the other hand it would appear that this village was the abode of some other tribe, for we have no account which would make this a Mingo home.”
Mr. Andrew Price, Editor Pocahontas Times:
“We must enter a vigorous protest against the historian’s conclusions. It all goes to show that the only way to preserve the history of your own people is to do it yourself and not depend on some person a thousand miles away to do you justice. Such men do not know and they do not care. To doubt that the Mingo Indians once had their tribal center at Mingo Flats is equivalent to what would be the case if some historian would arise… and deny that there were ever any catfish in the Greenbrier River.
Reference: Monument to, and History of the Mingo Indians Native American Collection, Cornell University Library, 1921
Emery Hoke coasted his pickup to an easy stop beside me. “When I saw you I knew exactly what you were doing,” he cheerfully asserted from the window, “I like to take pictures like that.“ Obviously, he knew the picture – a really cool weathered shed nestled against a November hillside. Puffy white clouds posing overhead. Regrettably, somebody recently stole Emery’s camera. So, I’m copying several photos from that morning to a disk which should appear in his stocking by Christmas.
The Civil War in Virginia is known mainly for catastrophic set piece battles – Fredericksburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor. Yet, the first land battle of the War was fought in the rugged mountains between Virginia and what would later become West Virginia. It was not for territory but for control of the Staunton-Parkersburg Pike and B&O Railroad both critical supply corridors for Federal and Confederate forces. The Army of Ohio under General McClellan easily defeated the Confederates at Philippi, Barbour County, in June 1861 and pushed them south to a July surrender at Beverly in Randolph County. A month later General Lee arrived at Valley Mountain to shore up insecure defenses and reverse these setbacks. Foul cold weather, disease, lack of tents, clothing, food, ammunition and essential support from the east eventually forced a Confederate withdrawal leaving the supply corridors under Union control. In subsequent years, because of intense split loyalties in West Virginia, few Confederate monuments were erected. This partisan sentinel, watching over a small patch of farmland near Mingo, speaks “TO THE MEMORY OF THE CONFEDERATE SOLDIERS OF RANDOLPH COUNTY AND VICINITY. THIS INCLUDES ALL SOLDIERS WHO DIED ON VALLEY MOUNTAIN IN 1861 WHILE GEN. LEE WAS ENCAMPED THERE”.
From the beginning of my backroad adventures in 1985, covering thousands of mountain miles, I’ve been keenly watchful for the perfect resting place when my journeys end. A heritage road, a country church with small graveyard, a sense of generations, a feeling of continuity and familiarity. Dozens of sites have spoken loudly. And, I wish there were better field notes. Then, however, it was only a distant prospect, a vague idea for serious consideration later. Two weeks ago an old friend and I were riding along Woodrow Road in Pocahontas County, a ride we’ve shared many times over the years, recalling this and that, and comparing retirement concerns. From habit, I pulled over at White’s Chapel, a favorite spot of mine, and paused for a photograph. We strolled thru the small graveyard with one hundred year old headstones and field stones without names. Without warning the distant prospect became immediate. The vague idea became real. The resting could be here. A sense of relief and calm swept over me. If my ashes were discretely sprinkled in this place, it would be a good thing.
A half dozen miles north of the old mill at Greenville waits the post office at Wayside. Quietly on Sunday morning, but come Monday this corner will awaken attracting the regulars, each bringing more and taking away more than can ever be counted at the till. The soul of this post office, known to generations, can best be appreciated by imagining the day when it might be replaced by an automatic stamp dispenser. Credit cards accepted.