Carbide Camp was Magic by Jean Hanna Davis

Jean is an accomplished singer, guitar player, and sometime songwriter.  She has been performing since the age of 12, in all settings, ranging from concert halls to bars to churches to festivals.  Her family relocated to Charleston, West Virginia from New Jersey when she was 7, and as many times as she has tried to leave, something keeps pulling her back.  Jean and her family live in Princeton, West Virginia.  Her essay explores her experience moving to West Virginia from New Jersey during her early years, and the exceptional “magic” she encountered at a place called Carbide Camp.

Editor’s note:  I am grateful to Jean for revealing the secret world of Carbide Camp.  I was puzzled my entire youth about what Carbide Camp actually was, though I did know that a select number of my friends attended and it seemed to be just as described here, a magical place young people would cling to all year in great anticipation of entering its gates again in the summer.  Any place that can retrieve you as vividly as it does Jean at the end of this essay is someplace special!

Carbide Camp was Magic

My parents are from the Northeast.  Dad was born in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, and Mom was born in Bound Brook, New Jersey.  Both graduated from Bound Brook High School, and Dad went to Kings College while Mom started working for Union Carbide as a secretary.  After Dad finished school, they married and settled in Middlesex, New Jersey.  Dad eventually started working for Union Carbide in Bound Brook.

Union Carbide was a huge chemical company with a long history in the Charleston, West Virginia, area.   It was bought by Dow Chemical Company in 2001.  Union Carbide is probably most famous for the Bhopal Disaster, which happened in Bhopal, India, in 1984.  A storage tank vent malfunctioned and spread poison gas into the atmosphere – over half a million people were injured and more than 4,000 died as a result of exposure to the gas. The same chemical was produced at the plant in Institute, West Virginia, about 9 miles from Charleston.

The area along the Kanawha River in the greater Charleston area was called The Chemical Valley.  When I was young, I remember DuPont, Monsanto, and the Union Carbide operating chemical plants, all in the Kanawha Valley. I’m sure there were more, but the names escape me.

When I was 7 years old, Dad had the opportunity to transfer to Charleston.  He was supposed to be there for several years and move on to “bigger & better things.”  I was in second grade, my sister in Kindergarten.  I remember how sad I was to leave my very best friend, Jennifer Johnson.  We swore to write and to visit, but we never did.

Our extended family was appalled by the idea that we were moving to Appalachia.   “I’ve heard that they don’t have electricity there.”  “You’re going to have to use an outhouse.  They don’t have indoor plumbing.”  We had cassette tapes of all of us, singing along in the most exaggerated HeeHaw accents, to “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.”  There were lots of “Yee-HAWs” on those tapes.  I even remember references to “black-eyed peas and chitlins.”  I’m sure my uncles had no idea what that even was, but they associated it with the South, and West Virginia was SOUTHERN to them.

As far as they were concerned, we were moving to a backward wasteland.  As a second grader, that changed how I felt about moving.  From that time on, whenever I was asked about college or where I wanted to live when I grew up, my answer was always, “Anywhere but West Virginia.”

We moved to Charleston in January.  Coming from New Jersey, I was overwhelmed by the land. Jersey was FLAT.  These were MOUNTAINS in Charleston.  My house was on a mountain.  We had to go over the mountain to get anywhere.  My new friends told me that these were most definitely NOT mountains, but mere hills.  I didn’t believe them.

Carbide Camp mess hall, aka "The Castle"

The highlight of the year was Carbide Camp.  Union Carbide had camps for their employees’ children on Blue Creek in Clay County, near Clendenin.  Camp Carlisle was for the girls and Camp Camelot was for the boys.

It always seemed to me that most Carbiders were transplanted from the Northeast –Bound Brook and Danbury, Connecticut, places that my dad traveled regularly.  We came together for a two-week session each summer, and it was magic.  As a kid who relocated to West Virginia at the age of seven, with parents whose idea of camping was a weekend at a Holiday Inn, these were exotic weeks, filled with music, friends, and fun.

We’d start talking about it in the spring.  “Which session did you sign up for?”  “Can you change it?  I’m going 2nd session & I really wanted us to go together this year!”  “Will you be old enough this time to do the horseback overnights?”  “Did you get a new trunk?  Sorry I fell through the top last year.”  “I wonder if Merge-Cindy-Karen-Sam will be my counselor this year?”

Then came the planning. The clothing with name tags meticulously sewn in each piece; the bandanas for your head (to keep the ticks off); one pair of jeans for horseback riding; flip-flops and sneakers (called “tennis shoes” in West Virginia), and rain ponchos and swimsuits and towels and shampoo and underwear and on and on and on.

When your trunk would just close, you knew you were ready.

We would meet in the parking lot of the Tech Center, a great, sprawling piece of property where most of our parents’ offices were located.  Parents and kids who were going and kids who weren’t going and kids who had already been but wanted to say goodbye to their friends all gathered.  There was always crying.  Kids crying from fear if it was their first year and frustration if their siblings got to go and they didn’t, always last minute dashes to the bathroom, and slightly controlled chaos abounded.  Parents yelling out the ever-embarassing, “Don’t forget to change your underwear!”  “Brush your teeth!”  “Use the bug spray!”  “Don’t forget to write!”

We were transported by old school buses, at least that’s how I remember it.  One bus was loaded with luggage.  Kids were loaded onto other buses and away we went.  The buses would take us as far as they could.  We walked the last bit.  I remember it seemed like forever that we walked, with more than 200 campers and teenagers and adults, walking a dirt and rock road, jumping in puddles if it had just rained, sometimes walking in the rain.  We sang songs (I’m Carlise born & Carlisle bred, and when I die I’ll be *clap* Carlisle dead!), introduced ourselves to new kids, cheered up the scared and the homesick, talked about archery and riflery and horseback riding and lanyards and skinny dipping and overnight trips and Vespers and campfires.  We fanned the flames of boy-girl competition and romance on those long walks to the camps.  We would pass the boys’ camp – Camelot – and they would go get settled.  We girls would continue past the pool and on to our place –Carlisle.

That walk marked the true beginning of Carbide Camp.  We left the world behind and we were on our way to our own private place in the woods.  We revisited old friendships and started new ones.  We were an exclusive club, and you had to be connected to Union Carbide to join.  We were special because we got to be there.

Two weeks later (for most of us, anyway; some were lucky and got to stay for more than one session), after retracing the long walk back to the main road, singing songs and fanning those romances and competitions again, we were delivered back to the parking lot at the Tech Center.  Our parents were happy to see us and we were genuinely happy to see them!  We were truly and utterly exhausted.  We said our sad, dramatic goodbyes to friends who we would not see until the next summer, and shared a deeper connection with those that we would see in the neighborhood and at school in the fall.  We exchanged phone numbers and addresses and promised to write and call and stay in touch, and most of the time we did.

We left with a sense of accomplishment as well.  We performed in talent shows and skits.  We tried new things and tested our limits.  We earned riflery and archery awards. I made it to Jr. Marksman with the rifles (22s), and was the second highest score in Archery.  I got the Silver Arrow award that year, and I recently came across that arrow at my parents’ house.

Holding that arrow in hand, I was there:   At the archery range, bow in hand, targets tacked onto hay bales.  I am wearing red denim bell bottoms with a button fly, a “Sweet Honesty” t-shirt, a pair of red Chucks on my feet, and a red bandana on my head.  My hair hangs almost to my waist.  I can smell the horse corral behind me.  The sun beats down on me as I set the notch into the bow string.

I am powerful.

I lift the bow and take aim, drawing the string back and back – breathe-hold-release – bull’s eye.

All these years later, Carbide Camp is still magic.

For the Love of Marriage by Lisa Lewis Smith

The writer's parents on their wedding day

My parents just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary.  They have provided a good and sound model for my brothers and me.  A large part of the success of their marriage and our family closeness should be attributed to Lewisburg, and to our time at Smithover and the Greenbrier River.  Our numerous canoe trips,  picnics, and family car travels (during  which we put millions of miles under our belts) all knit us together. My parents devoted their time and energy to the meaningful things in life, and showed their children the true value of family and making memories for a lifetime.

The writer's parents, Thanksgiving 2011 in Lewisburg.

 

Lewisburg represents the simple life for me.  It represents not having to show anyone up and investing in the important things:  breathing fresh air, admiring sunsets with your children, soaking up starlit evenings, eating with pleasure and gratitude.  It represents committing to living life to the fullest, and to falling in love with as much as you possibly can.

Our wedding in late August of 2004 took place on this land that my dad always referred to as “sacred.”  That evening, all the things that were precious to me growing up merged together into one memorable occasion:  family, food, and music in the great outdoors.  The moon was full.  The stars were bright. Cousins Fred, Lew, and Will picked away at some of my favorite tunes.  My childhood was over, but my values for life were set.

Lewisburg and Smithover became a special place for me early on.

The magnificent fields, woods, and waters were the vital playgrounds of my youth.

It is a place that continues to transform me, continues to teach peace and harmony, and continues to bring calmness during restless times.

It is my sanctuary.

Through this exceptional place, I have learned how to take great pleasure in the fundamentals of a meaningful life.

I am forever grateful.

The writer and her husband on their wedding day in Lewisburg, West Virginia

For the Love of Music by Lisa Lewis Smith

Following our dinner with my dad’s family, once we force that last piece of pumpkin pie into our bellies, we hang around comatose (if we can find a place on one of the couches).  We ache and moan, and then we push ourselves down the road to the Prichard’s place (now called the Carter Farm)…just a short waddle down the way…to see more family, more cousins, and listen to some incredible bluegrass music.

Family music time with the cousins

I experienced the power of music, the way it works on the mind and heart, early on in life.  Although my brothers and I received the shallow end of the gene pool when it came to musical ability, my second cousins are very talented musicians.  Because of their capacity to perform so well on stringed instruments, we were all exposed to some mighty fine live music in our childhood.  (Don’t get me wrong… my dad sometimes took to the ukulele and was witnessed on numerous occasions performing “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “If You Don’t Like Peaches Baby, Quit Shaking My Tree”…I do not want to take away from his style and enthusiasm. The Prichard boys, on the other hand, they were the real thing!)

It was, and still is, a family affair. Cousin Fred Prichard picked the banjo, his brother Lew is brilliant on the mandolin (My dad always said “best mandolin player in Rockbridge County”), their daddy Fred Sr. entertained on the piano.  Cousin Will joined in on guitar or stand up bass.

Bluegrass to me represents the core values of family.  The stories told reflect both happy and troubled times. When I went to college in South Carolina, I sometimes babysat for a young family.  The daddy went to Episcopal High School, a boarding school in Virginia, and coincidentally was roommates with my cousin Will Carter.  He told me about his trip to Lewisburg once, his first to West Virginia, with Will to meet his family.  He remembers driving into a beautiful piece of property, open and lovely in the spring green, and as they pulled in closer to the Prichard house, a young man, not much older than he and Will, was standing naked….buck naked…in the open field. It was Cousin Fred playing his banjo.  What a memory of his first visit to the mountain state.  I smiled and, although a little uncomfortable, I was thrilled to hear that story of my extraordinary Cousin Fred, as I was hundreds of miles away from home.  He is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind character with a remarkable sense of humor.

To this day, music transforms me. It promotes clarity, peace and tranquility in my life.  It evokes feelings of joy and happiness.  It soothes my mind and soul. The joys and sorrows of life expressed through music is a healthy and healing avenue to deal with life issues.  Music has a magical effect on the mind.  It can be almost supernatural in the way it transforms you from one mood to another.

The feeling of warmth

I remember early teenage years…sitting in an old cabin in the woods on Smithover, listening to Fred and Lew picking away, and sipping on some scotch that was being passed around the room.  The feeling of warmth was three-fold:  the fire, the whiskey, and the music.  It was a memory that I will never forget.  I was in a familiar place with familiar people, but having an experience really of a lifetime.  It was my family and my music that I loved.  It was the place that I loved.  I felt safe and ever so grateful to be part of it.

Tomorrow:  For the Love of Marriage

For the Love of Food by Lisa Lewis Smith

“Beside myself”…that was Buzz Kill Terri’s (BKT – that is what we so affectionately called her) reaction to our eating itinerary at the WV State Fair.

It was lengthy: London broil sandwich to the crab cakes to the gyro to funnel cake to the strawberry shortcake (I am certainly leaving something out).  We had a plan, a line of attack.  We ate with purpose and gusto. I knew BKT was not right for my brother.  But, now looking back, maybe she was right about one thing (and one thing only!), and that was  our eating habits.

We Smiths…we do like to do ourselves in with food.

Smith cousins know how to eat!

Consistent overeating is our way of life.  We are eating enthusiasts.  We have been known to leave one meal and immediately begin discussion on our next. As Geneen Roth presents in Women, Food, and God, we are permitters.  We enjoy “glazy-dazy eating, uninterrupted by restriction.”  Permitters “merge with chaos.”  We are the “fat and jolly” Smiths, appearing to be having fun all the time, and we are, most of the time.  Sometimes it might be a little bit of denial, some escape from our daily pressures.  I have found myself eating half of a chocolate French silk pie when things are not going my way.

Roth describes permitters as those that eat as if there is not enough to go around.  They want to store up for the winter.  I am trying, now at midlife, to be some kind of a version of an athlete, and realizing how hard it is when you eat “like a Smith.”  I have recently launched a discovery process into my outlook on food and life.

The writer's son meets a WV State Fair pig in Lewisburg

I eat fast and I used to take my plate of food away with me if I had to step away to answer the phone or grab a glass of milk.  No way was I leaving it for those other eating maniacs to devour.  You eat fast because those same maniacs might just take hold your plate when they are done with theirs.  It was all about survival of the fittest.

Thanksgivings in Lewisburg:  I have missed only one in my entire life.  It is my favorite holiday without a doubt, a moment of joy just before the hectic Christmas frenzy that I have grown to dread more with every passing year.

Most people have not experienced a Thanksgiving like the one we have at Smithover!  One year we had close to fifty people (my dad and all his siblings, their spouses, and my 15 first cousins, plus some “outsiders”).  And we are all…male, female, big and small… BIG eaters!   We all talk loud and none of us listen.  Boyfriends or girlfriends often joined us, but there was always a whisper… “Do you think he’ll make it back next year?”  “I don’t think she has the temperament for THIS crowd.”  “Did you see his face when he walked in?”  “Take a look at her plate…who diets around here?”

It was rare for an “outsider” to make it to a second Smithover Thanksgiving.  The noise factor alone could run someone off, not to mention the huge amount of food consumption…the seconds and thirds…keep your hands in close and your plate even closer!

Though in China on Thanksgiving Day, the writer's brother still sustains the family honor!

Tomorrow:  For the Love of Music

For the Love of Family by Lisa Lewis Smith

Being the youngest of four and the only girl, Lewisburg helped open my eyes up to the kind of family that we were.  We moved around a lot.  We lived life with great enthusiasm.  We took it all in.  We were not the “armchair” Smiths.

My Uncle Bill would drive with his two young children over from Charleston on most weekends to stay in his log cabin in the woods. He built this cabin single handedly and with great pride (this fact was listed in his obituary many years later).  It had, and still does have, an outhouse and no running water.  My cousins Margie and Will would stay in their zip up pajamas all weekend.  They lived and enjoyed the simple things in life.  (By the way, I was devastated when this man we so lovingly called “Uncle Bill” died.  He was a special force, a gentle giant, a kind soul that you dreaded to see leave this world.  We all miss him to pieces.  He was one of a kind.)

The writer's father (2nd from left) with his 3 brothers, 1950s.

My other uncle once drove to Lewisburg for Thanksgiving (for one night) with his four young kids from Jacksonville, Florida.  They made the long, thirteen-hour drive in their two-door white 1970’s Cadillac Eldorado.  This was the first time my cousin, Curly Caroline, ever saw snow.  She and I were both in the 3rd grade.

These are our people…living life fully – driving from Florida for a family meal and keeping your onesies on.  Living life to the fullest, taking it all in.  I try to practice this today.

My dad’s passion for Lewisburg spilled over onto his children.  He always talked about this “sacred land” and, being of the Scotch-Irish descent, how the “land was the soul of the man.”  Mowing grass on my granddad’s red 1948 International tractor was his peaceful infatuation.

Sometimes we’d spend Sunday nights and my parents would drop us off at Fernbank just in time to start the school week on Monday morning.  Sometimes we slept in our school clothes for the next day, so we could easily be carried to the car early the next morning and make our way to Charleston to start the school week.

If we weren’t there to stay, then we were en route to and from that place that we loved so much. We were always on the run, going to football games in the fall, lacrosse games in the spring, and wrestling matches in between.  It was almost like we lived and traveled with Lewisburg constantly on our radar screen. It was our hub.  We came and went so often, and I’m so glad we did!

“I’d rather be in Greenbrier County” – that was our family motto.

With four kids, there was always some kind of chaos taking place.  Disorder was the normal way of life.

My parents hosted many gatherings in Lewisburg.  Lots of Bloody Marys and bluegrass music. I remember one particular party when my brother Lyle showed up with smut on is face… “Would you tell my mom I need her…my motorcycle just blew up!”  I will never forget the look on that lady’s face.

The writer's father with 5 of his 10 grandchildren, Thanksgiving 2011 at Smithover

When I was about five, we arrived to Lewisburg late one night following a Virginia college basketball game with some close family friends whose oldest son was playing. We pulled into our dark driveway after the long travel.  Our woody station wagon was full with two sets of parents, two of my brothers, two of our friends’ sons, and the only girl (me) sat up front between my mom and dad.  We were all talking about where we were going to sleep…”I want the top bunk”…”I get the couch.”  “I get the comfortable bed.”  All the boys declared their sleeping location.  My dad, being protective, grumbles loudly…”Lisa, you sleep with me and your Mama!”  I proclaimed confidently that he did not have to worry…that I was a lesbian!  Our friends like to bring it up often with a laugh, and I am proud of my quick thinking strategy at five years old.  It worked.  I got the bottom bunk that I loved so much.

The youngest generation of Smiths "clearing land" in Greenbrier County, Thanksgiving 2011

Some other specific memories:  rustling in the leaves in the fall, riding motorcycles, sled riding, bluegrass music, and “clearing land” at Thanksgiving, driving up for the new oasis on Snowshoe Mountain.  (My mom still has her awesome full body ski suit.) Our dog Muskin running into the woods as soon as we arrived…often not coming back for hours, but always returning with the strong smell of spring woods or the pungent stink of going into battle with a skunk (still today, that smell evokes wonderful memories of my childhood in Greenbrier County).

Chaos is not uncommon in a big family.  During a televised football game at one of the many Thanksgiving holidays we spent at Smithover, my older brother surprised us all during the half time show.  He pulled out his shotgun (safely, but without warning) and struck a buck from our back deck, out of nowhere.  The younger kids jumped for joy.  Once the gun was locked away, they ran to inspect the kill.  It was not a customary family event. One of my cousins left with her young child and did not return on that trip.  But she did eventually return.  Your family can really turn you off…but it always amazes me how you come back home for the holidays.  That is the beauty of family.  They say you can’t pick your family….but I sure would pick mine if I had the chance.

Dysfunctional, but fiercely loyal and never boring.

The writer (front row, blue scarf) with layers of Smith family.

Tomorrow:  For the Love of Food

For the Love of Natural Beauty by Lisa Lewis Smith

(Read yesterday’s post for Lisa’s introductory writing, For the Love of Lewisburg.)

For the Love of Natural Beauty

Lewisburg and Smithover are where I developed my powerful inner connection with beautiful and unique outdoor environments.  Imagine lush green, gently rolling land with karst topography and an awe-inspiring view of the Allegheny Mountains and White Sulphur gap.

This was our television, our big screen TV, our childhood backdrop.

The writer's children at Smithover

The woods and open fields, as well as the nearby Greenbrier River, were my playgrounds.  They helped mold me into a lover of the great outdoors, into someone who embraces each of the four seasons with vigor, someone who appreciates the raw beauty of sunsets and clear starry nights, all of which I carry with me today as a mother of two little people.

I had a passion for the woods.  In Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” the two paths that diverged in the woods, in my mind, have always been the two “roads” that lead from our open field into the woods and property of my Dad’s brothers, Chris and Bill.  When you stood at the divergence, one was well-traveled and the shortest distance to the cabin in the woods.  The other was “grassy and wanted wear.”  You could look down one and see “where it bent in the undergrowth.”

Both are lovely, but the one less traveled provides a lengthier and meditative stroll.

The writer's son, Greenbrier River

The open fields are peppered with giant oak, maple and elm trees.  When I was a child, the trees looked like giants waving down at me with their many branches.  Sometimes I would even pretend to shake one of their hands.  It reminds me of the endearing and imaginative children’s book, When Giants Come to Play, which portrays imaginary giant friends that play hide-and-seek, toss marbles, and drink tea with a young child.   The thing is, these trees are not imaginary.  You could actually hide in one of their pockets or pick flowers with them. My dad affixed wire, a tramway of sorts, between the Big Oak and the Old Elm.  It was like being gently tossed back and forth between two giant friends.

The Greenbrier River was our recreational oasis.  We swam and sunbathed at Cat Rock and conquered our fears jumping from Anvil Rock, which was shockingly high.  We mastered walking on slippery snail-laden river stone, porting canoes and fishing poles at places like Anthony Creek, Caldwell, and Ronceverte.  I learned early how to bait my own hook.

The river also served as a science laboratory.  We studied the physics of skipping rocks, the biology of crawdads, and the identity of mountain water lilies. We cautiously avoided water moccasins.

When the day slipped into night, something spiritual and magical took place. Sunsets transformed me.  They were my quiet obsession, and still are today.  I wanted to bottle up every moment when the sun went down and twilight appeared.  The air got lighter.  I carried the peace and tranquility of dusk into my dreams at night.  I would stare westward, surrounded by mountain air, and drink in the fiery colors of the setting sun over the open field. I continue to value and soak up this spiritual golden hour, and use it as a meditative tool or a moment to fall in love again with the astonishing beauty of life.

The writer's son, Lewisburg

Nighttime at Smithover is exceptionally spectacular as well.  Stargazing on moonless nights is also transforming.  Walking through the wet grass at night, you might think darkness is eating you whole, until you look up.  The heavens glow. Your giant friends might wave down at you again with a star dazzled backdrop….and all the stress and anxiety of life just melts away.

You feel closer to God in the country; where the air is fresh, the sunsets are miraculous and the stars…oh man…the stars on a clear cool night…they are stunning!  This is why we called it “God’s Country” growing up.

Tomorrow:  For the Love of Family

For the Love of Lewisburg by Lisa Lewis Smith

A native of Charleston, Lisa was born on June 9, 1973 (the day Secretariat won the Triple Crown).   She received her B.S. in Biology and minor in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston in South Carolina.  She worked as a fisheries and wetland biologist in Washington, Alaska, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia before transitioning in 2002 from environmental consulting to outreach and education.  She currently serves on the board of the WV Land Trust and is an elder and lifelong member of Kanawha United Presbyterian Church.  Lisa grew up spending her summers and weekends at her family home in Lewisburg, West Virginia where she developed an early connection with beautiful and unique outdoor environments.

I am very pleased to share her 6-part reflection on the many elements of her childhood that made her who she is today.  I have known Lisa on and off since we were middle schoolers, and with increasing depth in adulthood as neighbors, community volunteers together, and raising our children.  I hope you will take the time to enjoy her stories of Lewisburg, Family, Food, Marriage, Music, and Natural Beauty.

You may think you know The Smiths, but I am confident you will learn something new as you read.  For example, I just learned that the cousins would make wagers as to which boyfriends or girlfriends would actually come back to another family dinner after their first.  I have new admiration for their spouses!  These are all fun.  Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone.

For the Love of Lewisburg

I grew up spending many weekends and large portions of my summers at my family’s home in Lewisburg, West Virginia.  Sometimes we were just passing through on our way to and from other places, but it was a focal point for our family, a central location.  It was a familiar place that taught me a lot about the important things in life.

The writer with her 3 brothers on "Paw's" tractor in Lewisburg

In the 1920’s, my great grandmother Elizabeth Dana Smith, or “Grandma Dana,” inherited what had been the Lipps Family Farm, about two hundred acres southeast of what is now downtown Lewisburg.  It eventually became the summer stomping ground for her sixteen grandchildren known as the “sweet sixteen” cousins, one of whom is my dad.  They named the property Smithover.

My grandfather “Smut” or “Paw”, who I never met, flipped a coin with his brother Dana.  Uncle Dana acquired the lovely white home on the ridge, while Smut obtained much of the land along the ridge line, splitting that land into five parcels for his five children.

My dad and his bride built early in the 1970’s with the help of my mother’s father. Grandaddy Botts was concerned about some of the wild and consistent revelry that was taking place among young friends in Charleston. He insisted on helping to pave a driveway to his daughter’s new building site, sooner rather than later.  He wanted to help pave a more wholesome way of life for our family.  My parents finished their beloved A-frame home overlooking the Allegheny Mountains two years before I was born.  They had my three older brothers and enjoyed the feeling of being under roof in a place that they loved.

Ever since I can remember, we drove old Route 60 on Friday afternoons from Charleston to Lewisburg, in several versions of the wood-paneled “woody” station wagon.  It was two and a half hours of rough mountain road…but we persisted, always.

I would walk home from Fernbank elementary school often to find my Dad already home and loading up the car.  “Come on baby girl…we’ve got some grass to mow!”  I’d grab a couple of select pieces from my stuffed mama-and-baby animal collection, and off we’d go.

Through rain, snow, darkness or light….we drove on.  Sometimes my dad would be giving up the cigarettes.  When he did, he usually had nicotine gum behind his ear. Sometimes we’d stop at the Traveler’s Inn for a good hot meal (named for General Robert Lee’s horse Traveler that apparently stopped in that spot often to be watered down during the Civil War).

The writer's children in Lewisburg

One particular memory I have was traveling one morning on that part of Route 60 in a snowstorm with my mother and my youngest brother.  I was in first grade.  The bare tree limbs were covered and hugged each other above the road as we drove.  We stopped to let our new puppy, Muskin, out to relieve herself on the side of the road.  (We named her Muskin because we thought it was “a good American Indian word.”  My brother was “Wolf”, his best friend “Coyote.”  I was “Moccasin.”) There was not a soul around.  It was so quiet and peaceful in that moment…so weird and wonderful at the same time.  We were on our way to Lewisburg, once again.

This particular drive is etched in my memory.

Tomorrow:  For the Love of Natural Beauty