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Out and about...

The places I call Americana...or Hometown USA...are something my kids will never really know. My grandchildren could possibly in time only read about them, probably online because those local newspapers are dying by the day.

This is why I'm adding a feature to my blog called Out and About. It's about places I have found and made a point to enjoy. It's places I invite anyone who reads about them to visit...and for a brief moment, visit yesteryear.

Caldwell, Ohio, and the Archwood Restaurant

Favorite Pasttime

Favorite Pasttime
One can't describe the feeling of catching a wild West Virginia Trout with a rod you built and a fly you tied.

My Favorite Blogs

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©Copyright 2008-2014.

All written text and photography are copyrighted. Please enjoy but do not use without permission of the author, David Akers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's get cool in the hollow of the evening...or...the magic of cantaloupes

The recent heat wave that has moved across the Ohio Valley just won't let go. It seems there is no place one can go to escape it. I got up at 5:00 yesterday morning to finish the roof on my new storage building before the heat set in for the didn't work. By 7:30, I was soaked and had changed in to my third t-shirt. I lost count of how much water I drank before I finished up around 10:30. 

Sunday evening I walked out to sit on the stoop just after the sun went down. I wanted a breath of fresh air and, hopefully, give my back and heat cramped muscles a break. I was wrong.  It was still so hot and humid, I came back inside.  I got to thinking about living in Beaver as a young lad and, in the evenings after supper, my parents and I would migrate to the front porch. My dad was in the swing, my mother in the rocker and I always sat on the steps and leaned up against the house.  Once the sun dropped past the ridge, my mother would always say, "it gets cool here in the hollow in the evening".  I can still see her with the pale blue sweater draped over her shoulders and by the time the sun had kissed the moon hello, she would put it on.  It didn't matter then how hot it was during the day.  It was, in fact, cool in the hollow in the evening. I still laugh when I think about her saying to my dad, "I hope those people out there at Honey In The Rock brought jackets, it gets down right cool at night out there".  It could be a Dog Day summer's day and she'd still say that. My dad would lean over the railing, let go of his Pay Car chew and ask if there was any cantaloupe.  I knew then it was the signal for their bed time. One of my dad's favorite treats in summer was cantaloupe and ice cream right before turning in. It wasn't just any cantaloupe. It had to come from Chawback's Store. Better known to most in Beaver as Ransom's Market. I don't think it made any difference.  Probably something about boyhood friendship that made them that much sweeter and hold perhaps a wee bit more ice cream. When my father was in the VA Hospital after one of his many surgeries, he all but refused to eat. Nothing seemed good to him.  One day right before my mother was going to visit him, she told me to run up to Ransom's and get two cantaloupe.  I worked at a grocery store, but they had to come from there. She took them with her and my dad ate all of one and saved the second for his supper that night. I guess those cantaloupes were magical.

After my parents would head off to bed, I'd take my turn in the swing. Often on summer evenings, Buddy Setlif and his band would send the melody of Bluegrass up the hollow.  One of the reasons I love Blue Grass today. I can still hear a low harmony version of Fire On The Mountain...  Positioned just right in the swing just as night was setting in and all was quiet, the shooting stars would appear. There was no light pollution then and it's hard to tell where they were crossing the sky but, for hours, I'd lay there and watch them. By the time most radio stations were signing off the air, I'd pick up WWLS in Chicago. I can still hear the advertisements in my head today:  SUNDAY...SUNDAY...SUNDAY!  It's the battle of the sexes at 200mph...see Big Daddy Don Garletts vs  Shirley "Cha Cha" Muldowny at Downers Grove International Raceway...the Match Race of the Summer...SUNDAY...SUNDAY...SUNDAY!  

Then the chill set in and my mother was does get cool in the hollow in the evening.  I'd wonder if there was any cantaloupe left?
Monday, July 18, 2011

All things come to an end

Fourteen years ago, I discovered a small wood sided house on the Little Kanawha River for sale. The dwelling wasn't much at all.  But the place and the property had potential. I first visited the property in the fall and was hooked. The leaves were in full color and the property begged for someone to treat it right.  Over the years, I added to the dwelling. I tried to create a coastal New England feeling with the way it was all done. Maybe only to me, but that was my intention. I have known floods, especially the bad one in Sept of 2004. Most got discouraged and moved away. I cleaned and rebuilt and braced for whatever was in store for the future.


On a visit to Savannah, Georgia, I cut some sprigs of ivy from in front of the Mercer House where the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was filmed. I planted the sprigs at the base of one of my large Maples and watched it grow and form a beautiful blanket underneath. I planted hard-to-find Lillies. Some my pride and joy. Especially the one called Valentine's Kiss, a dark red beauty that tends to last and last. I've been snowed in and spent countless hours in front of the fireplace with a book I couldn't lay down.

Akers Landing has known joy and heartache. Some of the most important decisions of my life were made out on the deck in the late night hours or just after dawn with a cup of coffee. I had all my kids and grandkids here for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Standing back listening and watching and wondering all the while where time has gone. My workshop has put out some beautiful furniture that now graces someones home. I've fished and boated from early spring till late fall when the river is lined with every color of autumn. I sat on the deck one evening last fall and counted 23 deer grazing in the field in front of my driveway. I had a squirrel named Fatso that became a morning delight to watch.

But it's time for a change. Time for a new adventure somewhere else. I don't know where for sure. But it has to be a place I can put my heart,mind and talents to. For it will be my last.  I'll still have a love for the river.  For water anywhere for that matter.  This blog will continue with memories that flood my mind sometimes and I have a strong desire to share.  As I look around the rooms tonight at all the things packed and the furniture I've built over the past 14 years, I have to say it's been nice.  I've heard all the ridicule for living on the water such as I have.  Those that scorned didn't walk in my shoes, or share the mornings I've had on the deck in the fall and spring.  They haven't sat in front of the french doors with a fire roaring and warm, while snow built up on the pines. They haven't watched the marvel of Mother Nature at first hand as I have so many times. They didn't see the many smiles when I'd catch a hybrid bass on my fly rod in the spring. This house had heart and, at times, only I could see it.

I bought the property on the river for it's privacy and quiet.  I tend to steer from people at times. Yet while there, I met neighbors who didn't know the term selfish. A couple,Joe and Janis Decator, who opens their home to children of all ages and never passed without a greeting or a smile. Saying good bye to these wonderful neighbors will be with a lump in my throat. It's difficult starting over at my age. Yet the thought of a new adventure, new designs and building works as a damper on that fear.  As I looked around the near empty rooms, I thought of the times I walked the floors in the wee hours of the night screaming with headpain from the Clusters. Then as a flash video, I'd see other times of solitude, family and loved ones. I thought about the hanging scent of bread being baked and the smell of oak in the fireplace. I thought of waking at night hearing the ice break up in winter and watching a sight of nature few will ever see. I thought of my son yelling at me from the dock to get my camera as a large catfish was landed at night.  I thought of neighbors sitting in the front room which is something I was not used to.  I have no desire to replace Akers Landing...just cherish it. For I'm sure I will again have the comfort I built there. It will just take time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas 2010

For the past few years that I have lived on the river I make it a point on Christmas Eve to take a walk. Perhaps it's a walk of "reflection". Perhaps it's because it's such a special night. Tonight the ground is covered with snow and flurries have started. It truly will be a white Christmas for 2010. Not far into my walk in the woods I began to summons memories of Christmas past and wonder why they are so strong in my mind.
I watched a segment on the news this week about Christmas for the troops in the Middle East. They showed the turkey being shipped in and and the meals they had planned. There were decorations hung and activities planned. I thought to myself when I watched it that although these efforts are appreciated. They in no way make up for being away from home and family at Christmas. I still so vividly remember my Christmas in Viet Nam. We didn't have the turkey or the trimmings. We worked our shifts, flew our missions and tried not to be so homesick and missing it so. It was not possible. That was 41 years ago. Yet tonight , I can remember it like it was yesterday and the sadness I felt .

A short distance from my house I jumped a herd of deer. There were so many of them I couldn't count them. I leaned up against a tree and watched them for the longest time. It actually was like a West Virginia Christmas card. I thought as I walked about the phone call I would get every Christmas Eve from my uncle Luke. He'd disguise his voice and tell me it was Santa. As he related things that only Santa would know, I became more and more convinced the call was from the North Pole. My uncle Luke worked at the Coca-cola ice plant and always for Christmas a case of soft drinks were put on the front porch.

Deeper in the woods I got to thinking about a visit to an antique store I made a few weeks ago. I came across a box of Christmas decorations. They were the old foil wreaths and garland like my parents had. Each had a candle with a plastic halo over the bulb. Crumbled foil garland that was a different color on one side was in the bottom of the box along with a plastic nativity scene. It was as though that box was put there just for me.  Like a ghost of Christmas past I was standing in the road and seeing those hang in the windows of my parent's house in Beaver. When I came to the end of the woods along the river bank I stopped and looked at the frozen river and the  lights from the other side. I got to thinking about the traffic today and the attitudes of those I watched in the stores.  I wondered on my way home how many really know  or care why we celebrate this glorious day. I wondered how many parents tonight will sit down with their children like my father did and read the Christmas story from the Bible. My father did that up until the time I left home. More special each and every year no matter how old I was, or how many times I  heard it.  I have decided to re-post a post from two years ago tonight. It's time to stand guard at the window and watch for the streak of Reindeer as they make their way around Parkersburg.  I am a man of faith and hope. I do believe that some day we'll see the headlines in the paper say. "Christmas wish granted, there is peace on earth and all men have goodwill". 

I want to take the opportunity tonight to thank the very talented Dianne Campbell from My Southern Heart and My Southern Heart...The Stories for the three reborn dolls she made for my granddaughters. Thank you is simply not enough.

Two Journeys

This is suppose to be the most traveled weekend of the year. People will be traveling to the four corners of the States and other countries, to be with their loved ones this time of the year. I can remember tonight the first Christmas I was back in the states after my tour in South East Asia.
 I was stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming . I had saved up my leave and was going to take the last two weeks of December off and drive across country to be home for Christmas. My wife was looking forward to the trip and was so very excited to see her family again. I had just bought my first new car. It was a 1970 Dodge Challenger. The trip should be easy and enjoyable. I had offered to give a friend of mine from the photo squadron I was in a ride as far as Columbus, Ohio. He was heading to Baltimore. Any little bit helped as far as air fare was concerned. Plus, it would be nice to have the company. We headed out in a snow storm. Not what I had planned. But once I was in Nebraska, the stars were out, the land flat and the speed limit was up to me. You could plot your direction and progress by what radio stations you could pick up clear, or how near empty the thermos was. I think I wore out an Anne Murray Christmas tape on the way home. Before we knew it, the night had passed and we were well into the Midwest and closing fast on Ohio. My friend's flight was at 8 that evening and we'd make it in plenty of time. My wife was in the back and managed to sleep most of the trip.

Soon I could make out the outline of the West Virginia hills across the river and was so close to home. How wonderful that trip was. I had a purpose, I had comfort, I had conversation and friends. I could stop and rest or eat when ever I needed to. I could even close my eyes and nap while my wife drove. I managed to drive clear across the country from the Rocky Mountains to the Ohio Valley in just under 24 hours. I had a reason. After all, it was Christmas.

Yet long ago, there was another journey home. One far more important than mine. It's over 90 miles from Galilee to Bethlehem. It's a rough, difficult journey on any given day. Add to that, the lay of the land, the hardships along the way and the fact a young woman is about to give birth to her first child. Others traveled as well for the census and taxation. There was no room for rest or sleep. Much less to give birth. There was no way to sleep while someone else guided the donkey. There was little to no way to find comfort in her condition, and the worry and concern had to be so much a part of her journey. Yet she too had a reason. It was about to be the first Christmas. Those to come this special night were never forgotten. Especially the birth of our Savior. We complain about sitting in traffic and waiting in line at a crowed store. We travel, and we get antsy and irritable. How soon we forget the beginning of Christmas.

It's not that times have changed. It's that reasons have changed. I, for one, am glad another made that long hard trip to Bethlehem. After all, it was the beginning of such a wonderful celebration. It has always been my favorite I guess. As a youngster, I'd hike to the high ridge behind Raleigh #7 mine where the holly and mistletoe grew wild. I'd cut hemlock pine with it's thick boughs and cones for garland. When I got older, I started a tradition with a friend of mine. We'd drive to the ridge and both take old duffel bags and fill them full of Laurel and holly. We'd find ropes of ground pine and coil it up to bring back. We'd then go to her home and decorate . Year after year, till we both graduated from High School, we'd make our journey to the ridge...walk the old stone fence along the Richmond farm and fill our sacks full. Her home was so beautiful at Christmas. It often looked as though a artist has drawn it all. After almost 40 years of separation, we made contact a few years back. We kept in touch and caught up on news and trips back in time. She passed away shortly after we made contact. Yet as memories of Christmas past hold so strong with me, so do the memories of her.

I was once told I was a dreamer, that I tend to live in a Currier and Ives state of mind...perhaps with a little Norman Rockwell added in for good measure. Perhaps they were right. For I do tend to see Christmas through those lenses. I guess that's why I love Marietta so much this time of the year. The small College town has that air of dreams of the past and desires of the future. I wonder tonight as the fire cracks in my fireplace and I see the snow blow by the French doors, what Mary thought on that journey. What plans perhaps she had or what concerns Joesph had for his wife and son. I watch my grandchildren and their excitement this time of the year. I see others complain and become bitter over the holiday. I then wonder, if with each generation, do they grow one step farther from that Journey long, long ago? I hope not. I can not stop time or generations. Yet, I can remember the snow covered stone fences on the ridge. Our breath as fog and frost preceded us...the red holly berries accented in the snow and the Orange Firethorn. I can still smell the coal fires through out Beaver. I can remember part of my job at Henry's was boxing up treat boxes of oranges and apples and candies of all sorts. He was a kind and generous man. Just before Christmas of each year, I'd make my rounds delivering groceries along with the gift boxes. He knew which families had young ones and their needs. These things, along with a journey long ago, is what I think of at Christmas. I wish I could set this tradition once again with my own. Sad to say that power is not mine. It has to come from the heart, not a suggestion, or a dream set by artists long ago. There is, in fact, a true Christmas spirit, it's in one's heart, not the conception of an artist or a vision in one's mind......Merry Christmas, each and every reader.

For today, in the city of David, there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

The Magic of Wood

As long as I can remember I have always had a fascination with wood and woodworking. I'm sure a lot of that came from growing up across the road from my grandfather who was a well known cabinet craftsman in Southern West Virginia. The sign posted above the door to his shop read, "C. H. Akers Cabinet Shop and Saw Sharpening. Cabinets and Church Furniture". Some of the most beautiful communion tables came out of that shop. 

My grandfather was known for making his own woodworking tools. Most of his shapers and profile blades he made himself out of large saw mill blades that had been sharpened just one too many times. The loggers used to pull up in front of the shop, always greeted with a handshake from this older gentleman with the snow white hair. He had fabricated a track and pulley system to load the blades from the trucks and then move them inside to a big table. He would then rig them up on a hoist and swing it to his sharpening bench. He'd take a piece of chalk and mark the first set of teeth and then begin the mastered art of sharpening the rest. He'd file the edge, then position a tool behind the teeth he had built and tap it with a special hammer, then, skip a tooth and move on to the next. When the chalk mark came back around to the top he'd reverse the saw and do all again on the skipped teeth. He'd then spray it with oil and put in a rack with the owners name on it. I have spent hours sitting on the stool beside the door watching him. My grandfather and my dad were once carpenters for the large Ritter Lumber Company at Blue Jay. So much of the hardwoods were cut for building houses and the rest for mine timbers. I have an old photograph that once hung in my grandfather's living room. It showed the lumber company stretched from one end of town to the other, with the railroad running right through it.

I was recently given a treasured opportunity to tour a lumber yard that is run by a gentleman in Pennsboro, West Virginia. I know I must have been like a kid in a candy store. Mainly because I was. They were cutting West Virginia Red Oak for flooring the day he took me through the operation. I was amazed at the whole operation and the small amount of waste from his mill. The large logs were put on a de-barker and then kicked to a conveyor that took them to the first cuts. A man sat in a small control room and watched the whole operation on a computer and sized each cut just right. The lumber then went to the band saw and was sawed again to size and then to the sorting and stacking. The bark and unusable slabs were sent to a chipper that ground it up and sent it to be used as mulch. I was fascinated after seeing what my grandfather would do at the "auto" sharpening system for the chipper blades. Across the road was the mulching center. Here the waste was cut and ground into mulch for landscaping and other uses. The owner of the saw mill was also following a family tradition. He is proud of what he does and it shows in his operation.

After doing some research I decided to build a rocking chair using the same techniques as my grandfather. I had watched him as youngster and felt that now I have the time, I wanted to try it myself. I used true West Virginia Black Walnut , along with Red Oak and Ash for the runners and pins. There was to be no nails, all joints were to be cut and pegged. From the very beginning it was a challenge to bend the Walnut for the seat back, along with the curved arm rest. But I stayed at it, keeping to the promise I made myself not to lose the integrity of age old craftsman's methods.

Wood , especially Walnut, is very expensive and if it wasn't for a family in Caldwell, Ohio, along with the owner of the mill I toured, I couldn't do the projects I have recently done. Because of them, I had the privilege of building a large entertainment center out of Wormy Chestnut taken from a barn in Boone, North Carolina, many years ago. It can try one's patience, but the results in the end are more than worth it. To Jim Edmistin and his family I thank you, so very much.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

West Virginia, Almost Heaven

Good luck to the mountaineers in the final four...regardless of the outcome. This state is so very proud of you.

On a pleasant, short-sleeved afternoon in Morgantown, West Virginia, under a brilliant, almost cloudless sky, a shaggy-haired, bespectacled John Denver ambled toward the 50-yard line to, in effect, christen the new 50,000-seat Mountaineer Field, home of West Virginia University's football team.

It was September 6, 1980, and the university wanted to do something special to introduce both its new stadium and a young first-year WVU coach named Don Nehlen. So Denver was invited to sing one of his signature songs - Country Roads - during the pre-game festivities.

Denver, who died in 1997, accepted the invitation apparently under the impression that he would perform a quick novelty gig...hop off his helicopter, take an escorted ride into the stadium, sing 'Country Roads' and then bail out. But that's not exactly what happened.

Denver entered the stadium and found his microphone at the center of the field, amidst the 325-member Mountaineer Band, which around him had formed an outline of the state of West Virginia . Then as he crooned the opening lyrics - 'Almost heaven, West Virginia ' - Denver was joined by about 50,000 backup singers.

Those who were there say the crowd's collective voice swelled to a climax at the conclusion: Country roads, take me home, to a place where I belong, West Virginia, Mountain Momma. Take me home, country roads ...

Those attending also say that when Denver finished his song, he gazed in all directions - perhaps dumb-founded at the reaction. Some among the crowd wept. Most just cheered for a long time.

"I'm pretty sure he had no idea what that song means to this state," said Dan Miller, an executive with the West Virginia Coal Association and an unofficial Mountaineer football historian. "I was stationed in Germany in 1971 the first time I heard 'Country Roads,' and I'm not ashamed to say that while I was listening I started crying," Miller said. "It means a lot when you come from a place that most people don't appreciate or understand. And here's someone singing about its beauty."

West Virginians, you see, feel they're underdogs almost always fighting an uphill battle. Economists tell West Virginians it's tough for their state to prosper, because the mountains are so steep and rugged that land development is a challenge. Educators used to say it was tough for many West Virginia children to get ahead, because transportation to schools was difficult and winters are harsh.

In the sports realm, there annually aren't many young top-tier athletes in the state, in part because most schools are small and competition is not as daunting as in denser population areas.

There are, of course, exceptions -many of them. Native West Virginia athletes include:
Jerry West (basketball), John Kruk (baseball) and Mary Lou Retton (gymnastics) .
Author Pearl Buck was a West Virginian; so was Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington. Charles Yeager was one of the finest pilots ever.
Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Nash was from West Virginia .
So is country singer Brad Paisley. Actor Don Knotts was from the Mountain State, as is actress Jennifer Garner, who still speaks fondly of the 'hillers' and 'creekers' from her alma mater, George Washington High School in Charleston.
Most have spoken of both loving life, and overcoming tough times, in West Virginia as have a lot more well known/popular/famous West Virginians.

So, when Denver sang about Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River, it doesn't matter to most West Virginians that the Blue Ridge is primarily a Virginia-North Carolina strand and the Shenandoah runs only a few miles through their state's Eastern Panhandle. To people who have lived their lives fighting uphill battles, hearing someone tell them their home is 'almost heaven' was more than music to their ears.

"'Take Me Home, Country Roads:' Last but not least, what I consider to be the top tradition in the Big East. At every home game, the crowd sings this John Denver song. Denver helped dedicate Mountaineer Field in 1980, and the song has been a game-day staple since. When the song reaches the chorus and the entire place is silent except for the fans singing along -- and putting extra emphasis on the "West Virginia" part -- well, you'd almost have to not be human (or an opposing fan) to avoid getting goosebumps."

- Brian Bennett ESPN
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Out and about...

Once scattered across this wonderful country of ours, were those small hometowns that offered all anyone could want. Quite often these were centered around the county seat or areas that pulled from the outlying country side. So many movies and books have used them as the main character or in art work as the main theme. These gems of society were scattered up and down both coasts and through out the midwest. Most social and civic activities centered around these towns. Stores offered just about anything one would need in their daily lives. Churches often worked as an expoxy to hold them together and Sunday mornings were hearlded in with chimes and church bells. There was usually the hardware stores and post offices that served as a gathering spot for the locals to catch up on all the local news and happenings. One could walk down the sidewalks and be in a constant nod to those they knew or were met with a greeting and exchange of well wishes. The barber usually knew you by your first name as well as your children's. The butcher knew exactly how you wanted your meat cut and often pitched in a scrap bone for your pet without asking. The world had few problems that couldn't be solved while a plug of tobacco was shared, offered on the edge of a pocket knife blade.

I have always had a fasination with such places. Often in my travels when I pass such a place, I let my mind wander back to what it was at one time. I was trout fishing in a southern community in the southern part of West Virginia and stopped for a cup of coffee. I walked over to a wall that lined the sidewalk and began to take in the view of what was once a bustling home town to so many and a center point of the lives to hundreds of miners and their families.

The store fronts were boarded or the windows were painted over. Still remaining, was the evidence of where a sign had been. Signs for hardware or .5 and dimes. Signs of a closed out grocery with the shelves still holding the fort of once such an important place. It was as though the contrast from weathering on the walls was a memorial to these once thriving ventures.

There were also signs of the time and a gradual change that has robbed us of these treasured places. As a youngster, I'd walk by or in places like Rake's Hardware, Lilly Hardware, or the Keystone service station, and always find a group of men seeing who could top the other's story. Once the mail was up at the local post office, you'd always find someone there that could bring you up to speed on who was doing what, who was ill, who had passed or simply asking how your family was. The building of interstates and byways slowly put these places to rest and out of business.

Gone are the days of using a community as a social network instead of an internet site. The remains of these are often seen from a distance or an exit along a hurried life. Large shopping centers and malls replace those places that hold to my imagination so strongly. Local goverment is so often in large, cold and unfriendly glass buildings. Strangers that begged for your vote now have no clue who you are or your name. Often so many of these that were once dreams by a small business man are torn down for parking or to make way for cookie cutter homes and "super stores".

These places I call Americana, or Hometown USA, are something my kids will never really know. My grandchildren could possibly in time only read about them. Probably online because those local newspapers are dying by the day. This is why I'm adding a feature to my blog called Out and About. It's about these places I have found and made a point to enjoy. It's places I invite anyone that reads about them to visit, and for a brief moment, vist yesteryear.

One such place is a small community north of Parkersburg called Caldwell, Ohio. Caldwell is the county seat of Noble county and once saw the boom of timber, oil and coal. It's a beautiful area with rolling hills and farm land just off interestate 77 before one gets to Cambridge. Along Main street and across from the court house is a place that, to me, symbolizes small town structure and a hold out from days long gone. It's called the Archwood Restaurant. It sits on the corner, and one might miss it if they were not looking for it. Once you step inside, you soon find yourself in the midst of a true delight. There has always been a friendly greeting as you walk to your booth or table. It doesn't take long to notice that the conversation is among those that know each other.

I have always played a game when I travel, especially trout fishing. I try to find the best of certain foods that would warrent me to come back. The Archwood has it covered from top to bottom. The hamburgers are a thing of the past. They are two handed delights that can fill anyone's appetite. The Big Jun breakfast leaves nothing uncovered, and each one I have enjoyed was prepared just like the first. Your coffee cup or drink is never empty. There is never a feeling of being hurried out the door. You'll always find a couple copies of the local newspaper on the counter and a desert list that can satisfy any sweet tooth. The eatery is clean and comfortable and always so very friendly. It fasinates me to sit and watch others come in and greet each other. The conversation in genuine and friendly. When the waitress comes by to refill your drink and asks how your meal was, you get the feeling they really care. I love sitting in a booth and watching out the window at a world as it is, wondering what it was once like. When you cross the street or walk to where you are parked. so often a passer by will wave even if they don't know you. If one is ever in the area, I so strongly urge them to seek it out and stop by. You won't be sorry.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snow storm in December...

The National Weather Service had been predicting a winter storm to move into West Virginia all week. I never understand why so many seem to never take those matters seriously. They were right and starting after dark Friday night the 18th, the rain turned to snow. It's beautiful here on the river when it snows like this. The pines and bamboo soon cover and create a beautiful color contrast of green and white. It's especially nice when it happens this close to Christmas.

There was little to do other than watch it fall and build. I made sure the squirrels and birds had plenty to eat right outside my dining area windows so I could watch them. Once again, I have created a monster I have named Fatso. He has to be the biggest squirrel I have ever seen. It's nothing unusual for him to plop down on his behind with his tummy hanging over the edge of his feet and devour a whole ear of corn in one sitting. How dare any of the others come near it. He's instantly in a rage and chases them off. They tend to only get the crumbs when he heads back to his nest in the big Maple tree on the river bank, for a nap I'm sure. He's getting so fat that he no longer makes the journey from his nest to the deck via the tree limbs. He simply can't make the jumps any longer.

The snow storm hit as predicted and the southern part of the state has been under siege since Saturday morning. Snow levels coming in from all over the state has some places seeing as much as 30 inches. The turnpike was closed and travelers stranded along the famous toll road for as much as 20 hours.

As I sat at the table watching the circus on my deck, I started to think about a time I too was like so many of those traveling this weekend. I was stationed in Cheyenne, Wyoming, at Francis E Warren AFB. I was granted a leave over Christmas and decided to make the journey back to West Virginia so my wife and I could be with family. One of the men in my photo unit lived in Baltimore and was having a problem getting flight connections home. He offered to help on gas if he could ride as far as Columbus, Ohio. We left Cheyenne in the afternoon and headed east. Conversation flowed and the miles flew by with ease. I made the trip from Cheyenne to Parkersburg in 24 hours. We stopped for gas and eats and that was it. Actually it was a good trip considering the distance.

New Years day my passenger flew into Parkersburg and off we went on what we hoped was to be an uneventful trip back to Wyoming. It was uneventfull until I got to Iowa. Late that night, it started to snow and blow. Temperatures dropped like a rock and driving at times was miserable to say the least. Close to daylight, I stopped at an exit in Ashland, Nebraska, for breakfast and gas.

When I went to leave, I couldn't move forward or backward. The guy who was riding with me had grown a long handlebar mustache while on leave. With my wife behind the wheel, and he and I pushing, we finally got the car moving again. In the process, his mustache froze and when he went to wipe the frost off, it broke . We moved to a Phillips 66 station across the road. We never moved again for two days. The owner told us we could park under the canopy of a drive-in that was closed for the season. It didn't take long for the service station to fill up with others. Soon the word came the interstate was closed and we were stranded there. It was known as the New Years Day Blizzard of 1971. Thousands were stranded along the interstate and had to be rescued by the National Guard. The chill factor at times was -40 below zero and snow accumulations well over 3 feet in areas. The open country of the Nebraska plains was perfect for drifting snow at times well over 6 feet. We slept where we could, along with others. The owner of the service station went out of his way to make us as comfortable as we could possibly be in a situation such as that. When the road finally opened, it was one lane east bound and one lane west bound. The snow was piled so high, you couldn't see the other side of the highway. It took us a day and a half to make it back to Cheyenne. It's most definitely something I'll never forget.

As I sat this morning and watched the snow falling, I heard the news stories of all that are stranded and remembered a time I too knew that helpless feeling. It's so peaceful to look out and see a blanket of snow, the limbs all covered, and that strange silence that comes with it all. There's something about all of this that gives coffee a totally different flavor and effect. The fire in the fireplace seems warmer and more welcoming, and definitely a new meaning to "a long winter's nap".