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The Grave Digger and Big Pharmaceuticals

 

I met a gravedigger today but didn’t get his name. We met along the side of the road where he had just finished toping a grave with January clods of mud. We talked about the newly departed, at 31 years of age this man who was too young for the darkness of the grave. He informed me that the 1885 cemetery was full and bursting at the seams. “Drugs,” the Grave Digger said, “We can’t fill the seats in the church anymore but we fill the cemetery to overflowing.”

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Mt Olive church cemetery Philippi, WV

As I walked along the road past the tiny white church and cemetery, down the curving hill to town, I found more signs of the true plague of Appalachia. The results of a generation who knew nothing of the risks, destruction, and power of that a Poppy flower could have.

Along the graveled berm of the road near a hospital, I found the waded remains of a blue latex glove and the unsealed foil wrapper of prescription medication. Suboxone printed clearly in bright blue letters on the label of the wrapper. I knew the name and its use; I had heard it many times on the local news. Even members of my own family have sat at the dining table discussing if this was the answer.

Conversations about heroin, death and opioid addiction are an everyday thing. The statistics flood the television and the internet. We are in a state of addiction and all the struggles that come with it. I take photos of the hospital, the glove and the wrapper and walk back to my car.

 

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Wrapper from the medication Suboxone. 

The Grave Digger has finished his job and sits in the cab of his blue pickup as I walk up to his window. I tell him about the trash that I found and he nods his broad heavy head. “No needles this time?” he asks. “No…. not this time”, I say looking at the gravel-covered ground. I think about the needles I have found on the street. I never need to find more. I think about the young man I watched shoot up and about the families I know who have lost parents to the Grave Diggers shovel. I finally look back up at the Grave Digger and say “Well, maybe this one will get clean.” The Grave Digger and I both know what I said is a lie. It is false hope about the future of this town.

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Mt Olive Church circ. 1885 Philippi WV 2020.

He looks up at the little white church through the windshield of the truck and says to me, “It was the faith in God that got our ancestors here, it was faith the kept them in these hills and it is faith that will get them through this, there is no other hope.” I nod my head and say goodbye.

Driving down the hill away from the Church I pass the little hospital. A beautiful new and clean facility where every day they fight for our lives. Where every day they fight this plague with millions less than the Pharmaceutical companies that planted this rotting plague in our mountains.

By the end of the day, I hear on the news that the CEO of a large Pharmaceutical Company gets sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for bribery of doctors to prescribe a killer Opioid. 5 years… 5 years is what the courts thought fit to sentence a man who has not only destroyed one life but also hundreds of thousands of lives. Where is the justice for the fatherless children I know?

He and men like him have drained every county in Appalachia of funds because each dose of Narcan is $150 dollars a dose and each county has to pay for the medication to save hundreds of lives. He has drained my state of families who can raise their own children. We are now the #1 state in the country with grandparents raising their grandchildren. He has brought more crime to small towns as addicts steal to fuel their addiction. He and his company are draining the churches and filling the cemeteries of Appalachia with the young men and women who were supposed to be our leaders. Too many of them ended up meeting the Grave Digger I met today.

There are no easy answers and no easy solutions for the people who live in one of the highest Opioid addicted states. It is one of the problems that each of us who chooses to live here thinks about and wants to change. It is something that I worry about when I think about my 11-year-old and how will we handle his future. It is something my company talks about when they can’t hire a clean and sober employee. It is what the preachers in all the churches preach against and it is what is killing not only the young but the very state I live in. Today was just another day in Appalachia.

 

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A filtered photo of the Mt Olive Church in Philippi WV 2020.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Cemetaries, drug addicition, family memories, grave digger, Mt Olive Church and Cemetry Barbour County WV, Opiod use, state wide struggle, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Change of focus for 2020.

During New Year’s and the last several days, I have spent time reflecting on what I want the New Year to be about. I keep seeing posts and news stories that worry me. I toss and turn at night about the state of our county and our communities. I wonder about the increase in gun violence, hate speech, and intolerance in our country. I have to wonder if all these things are a reflection of the ongoing and frequent ideas of the “You” agenda.  We are bombarded with messages and the younger generation has been raised with the mantras “Take Care of You”, ….”Make Time for You”, … “Your Happiness Matters Most”,..”Heal Yourself”.  Not that I think overall that these are bad ideas. I just wonder if this is another expression of being focused on ourselves and not others. So much so that the larger picture of service, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness are lost.

When we stop as people looking at each other as neighbors and more like enemies, I become unsettled and wonder why it is happening. I often look back at the 1980’s AIDS epidemic and the years following 9/11 terrorist attacks and know that we can come together to combat the injustice that is experienced in the world. We have proven that we can work together for peace and healing, but somehow we are losing the battle to combat hate and intolerance in our own communities and those around the world. In this way, we are losing America’s Humanity.

So what does this all have to do with my New Year and 2020? I am going to move the focus of my life off of me and try to refocus it on others. I am going to make me a less important figure in my life and place others in the center of who I am. I going to make service, love, empathy, and forgiveness the mantras of my year. It is a shift that might need to be taken nationwide.

If for one moment we could have gotten just one of those gunmen to understand forgiveness or empathy in the moments before the shootings, they would have never happened. If for one moment they could have stopped filling their souls and brains with self-aggrandizing statements maybe they would have felt humility and reverence for the lives of others. Maybe if they were not focused on what the world had done to them and felt thankful for what they had, those lives would not have been so easily wasted.

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brothers fishing  Stone Wall Jackson Lake 2019

My goal is to become a better community member, a better neighbor, friend, wife, and mother. To learn to be less the center of my own universe and more about making others universes better. I want to have fewer things and give more. I want to do work that makes our struggling communities succeed and I want to share love, compassion, understanding as I move forward into 2020.

Let’s pray for a more compassionate year for the United States in 2020. img_20191121_155937893_hdr2020.

 

Categories: About me, Change, Life Changes, New Years Eve, New Years Resolution, Uncategorized, work | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

The Trail of Icicles at Audra State Park

 

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Christopher eating an icicle from the overhanging rocks at the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park 2019.

Early snows came to West Virginia this year. But this week at Audra State Park we found the perfect day to go hiking on a warm sunny 49-degree day. What we found was magical and my photos do not do justice to the beauty of the thousands of Icicles that form along the Alum Cave Trail in the wintertime.

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icicles forming over the boardwalk at Audra State Park Winter 2019.  

 

I had seen a photo once of the park in wintertime and had always wanted to do a hike along the river after a light snow. With Christopher off from school for the holiday, we headed out without any expectations of what we would find. We waited until about noon to start our hike in one of the state’s smallest parks. Audra State Park borders two counties(Barbour and Upshur) and includes several miles of the Middle Fork River. The park has several picknick sites, two pavilions and offers 67 campsites for guests to enjoy. There are just a few trails that cover the 355 acres of the park. The most popular and most photographed is the boardwalk that passes along the river bank and under a very large and long rock overhang along the Alum Cave Trail. The trip from the parking area to the trailhead and around the small loop is maybe 2.0 miles and is easy except for the very steep staircase that is attached to the boardwalk. There is a larger loop trail that takes you along the river bank for a nice walk of 3.2 miles of easy hiking. Both trails intersect at the boardwalk and return you to the picknick area.

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the very steep staircase to the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

Christopher and I had not explored much of Audra State Park in the past and the weather was perfect for wandering and taking photos. We hoped to see maybe just a few icicles at the cave that day but were astonished at the amount of ice we came across. We tried the typical route for the hike following the signage at the first fork, we took the lower trail to the boardwalk. As we reached the head of the boardwalk we were met with a huge ice slick that was 15 feet wide and 20 or 25 feet tall. Water was coming over the top of the mountain where the sun was shining and rolling over to the shaded side. This created several layers of thick ice. It was like a small frozen waterfall except across the trail and down to the river. No Crossing Here! We stopped and enjoyed the water and river below for a few minutes, knowing we would have to go around to see the boardwalk.

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Christopher looking at the ice covering the Alum Cave Trail at Audra State Park.

We backtracked and took the upper fork of the trail to the other end of the boardwalk. We often watched the Middle Fork River rumble by and enjoyed the quiet solitude of an empty park. Finally arriving at the top of the very steep staircase at the boardwalk. I was so relieved to see the stairs were not covered in ice. As we descended the steps the ice began to appear….. everywhere. The ice had somehow not gotten on the staircase but flowed all around it. The sidewalls were covered, some of the boardwalk and handrails were covered, the rock faces were covered, the trees and bushes below were covered. Icicles hung from the roof of the cave and froze to the ground all around us. Water gushed from a spring in the back of the cave and water splashed and froze everything but us.

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Middle Fork River at Audra State Park. 

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Ice covers the landing and ramp to the cave portion of the Alum Cave Trail. 

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looking back up the boardwalk ramp to the landing. We had to slide down this portion of the boardwalk at Audra State Park. 

 

Christopher was so amazed at the ice formations that all I can remember him saying the entire time was, “This is AWESOME!…. this is so awesome… can we come back again, Please?” At 11 years old shimmying across the ice-covered boardwalk was fun and exciting, at 51 it was tricky. The handrails along the boardwalk were much-needed support for me to cross the 12-foot sheet of ice going downhill into the cave/rock overhang. It was breathtaking to see the sunshine gleaming through the ice. I loved watching the dripping water drop 20 feet above me. It was one of those moments where you find beauty in nature beyond your imagination.  I just could not capture it adequately with my camera, I am not skilled enough to take backlit photos efficiently. We walked to the spot where the ice flow had blocked our passage and laughed. Then slowly enjoying every minute turned and walked back across the boardwalk.  The return up the ramp to the landing was also one of those moments where you just wonder what you have gotten yourself into. Christopher headed up the ramp first. I figured if he came sliding back down the ramp to me I could stop him, maybe? He made it with no problem. The ice was ruff and dry at this point of the day. So I took a deep breath and started to walk with both hands on the handrail up the ice-covered ramp. Slowly and carefully I walked right up the ramp without a hitch and stepped into the sun on the landing and about slipped. My heart stopped for a minute I am sure. Then we climbed back up that steep staircase to the gravel at the top. I stopped and looked back down at everything we had seen and felt like I was given a gift.

We then headed to the other end of the park and spent some time on the beach section of the river and walked on the frozen sand. Which sounded like a good idea at the time but got very scary very fast. The water makes the sand mushy close to the edge. I didn’t realize this for some reason and just about ended up in the ice-cold river as the sand gave way under the thin frozen crust. My feet sank about a foot before I dragged them free and away from the river’s edge.

Christopher and I headed home about three hours later and stopped for a drink. We talked about when we wanted to go back and made plans to see the rhododendrons in bloom in May. Overall the hike is very easy, the scenery is beautiful and the water is clear. I am not sure I would have enjoyed this as much if we had been surrounded by a lot of people. The trail is very narrow and not level, not graveled or maintained very well. You hike across what seems like a creek bed for several hundred yards on rolled stones so you need some room to move on and off the trail. Otherwise, for a relaxing afternoon in late Dec. I could not think of a better place to spend the day.

 

Categories: Audra State Park, Barbour County, Camping, family fun, family memories, hiking, ice, photo review, State Park activities, Uncategorized, Upshur County West Virginia, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Polar Express Travels the Hills of West Virginia

For children of all ages, there is a deep and never-changing love for trains and for stories that give us hope. The story of the Polar Express captivated my two sons’ hearts and mine over 22 years ago when the book was first released and I stumbled on to the book at the local book store. Cody my oldest son, got the book and his first of many silver sleigh bells as a Christmas gift while he was in Kindergarten. We read the book over and over that holiday season. After he returned to school he told everyone about the book. For years after that first Christmas, I was asked to come to his elementary school to read out loud the book that had captured the heart of my oldest son and every child who heard the story of a boy and his lost bell.polar express book

 

Then 17 years later Christopher was born and the tradition of The Polar Express continued with the same book and a small boy. Somewhere along the way, others fell in the love with the story and the movie was made that almost every child today has heard of. I was again asked to come to the elementary school and read allowed the worn and dog eared pages to the children. Soon after the release of the movie, an idea came into the mind of a group of avid train people in Elkins, West Virginia and The Polar Express became a live stage show on the rails in the mountains. With last year’s count of riders being over 30,000 who come each year to spend a couple hours on the train to have a short visit with Santa and be reminded that even the oldest of us can still believe in the spirit of Christmas.

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Christopher and Paige ready to board the Polar Express 2019

This year we were lucky enough to get tickets to take my youngest son and my granddaughter for a ride on the Durbin & Greenbrier Valleys Railroads licensed version of The Polar Express. The tickets sell out around April so it takes a little planning to get them before the Holiday Season. We were encouraged to ride the 7pm train just after dark so the kids could see the holiday lights at the North Pole. the Durbin & Greenbrier runs three trains on most nights one at 5pm one at 7pm and one at 9pm with the later two running in the dark.

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Welcome Center Depot at Elkins West Virginia

The experience is geared so that riders are entertained on the way out to the North Pole (45 mins) with the dancing, singing chefs from the book who serve cookies, and hot chocolate to every passenger. The return trip ( 45mins) is filled with meetings with the Hobo that rides on the roof of the train and a visit with Santa and several elves. Each passenger has their Gold Train ticket punched and is gifted a silver sleigh bell imprinted with the words The Polar Express. The evening ends with the Chefs telling jokes and tossing snowballs around the train car and making fake snow.

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crowds board the Polar Express

Dancing Chef on Polar Express

One of the twenty or so Dancing Chefs

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Tom and Christopher Powers aboard the Polar Express 2019

This trip was a gift to my Granddaughter and it was a special experience that we shared together and will never forget. As we left the train and walked in the dark back to our truck, I realized that my cheeks hurt from all the smiling I had done over the two hours. That I was happy about the holidays for the first time in several years. That I had actually gotten a few precious hours of my childhood back and was so thankful to Santa for my very own silver sleigh bell. At 50 I think I needed to remember that there is always hope and a reason to believe.

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Paige Powers tossing snowballs around train car on the Polar Express

Christopher with santa on the polar express

Christopher talking with Santa on the Polar Express

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My first  Sleighbell  from Santa on the Polar Express 2019

The night ended with two very happy young people who drank hot chocolate ate cookies and met the Santa for maybe the last time before they reach their teens. They bought ornaments to take home and snuggled up together in the back seat laughing and smiling about what they saw and how they could do the whole trip again. Tom and I held hands on the way home, at peace and with happiness in our hearts. It was as if Christmas had come back to us too.

I will always be thankful to author Chris Van Allsburg for his skill in writing and drawing. His story has filled my adult life over and over again with hundreds of wonder-filled children who sat patiently to hear about the train ride to the North Pole. His story has helped to revitalize a small mountain town in West Virginia that had a train, the snow and the wilderness of his story. But most of all he has filled my middle age with memories of happy children and my first silver sleigh bell….. maybe if I am still lucky I will hear it ring for many more years to come.

 

Categories: Chris Van Allsburg, Christmas, Christopher, Elkins West Virginia, Family, family fun, family memories, family traditions, Holidays, Polar Express, trains, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Celebrating my birthday with the Philippi Covered Bridge

 

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One of the perks to my job is getting to see this historic bridge almost every day and today ( Nov 1st) I got to celebrate my 51st birthday with the 175th birthday of the settlement of the community of Philippi and the covered bridge.

The Covered Bridge in Phillippi West Virginia is one of the last two-lane covered bridge in the U.S. and the only one that has a state highway passing through the double arches.  Making the bridge an icon for the town of Philippi, West Virginia and the location of the first land battle of the civil war.

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Historical Marker and pedestrian walkway at the Philippi Covered Bridge.

The original bridge was built in 1852 by a local builder Lemuel Chenoweth from Randolph County, West Virginia. The Philippi bridge stood for 137 years before being accidentally caught on fire in 1989 and burning the bridge to complete destruction.

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The closed Philippi Covered Bridge after the fire. image from the Appalachian Blacksmiths website

The bridge we see today was rebuilt to the same standards as the original two years later and reopened to the public.  The new bridge does include two new features, not included in the original plans, a sprinkler system in the bridge and a pedestrian walkway outside of the bridge. Making the walkway a nice place to see the bridge, the river, and downtown from above the water in the Tygart River.

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View of the Tygart River looking at the Philippi Covered Bridge 2018

Since I enjoy taking photos of the bridge so much, over the years I have invited several friends and family members to join me in enjoying the bridge and downtown Philippi. Yet, this day I walked alone in the icy air to the bridge to share in the birthday celebrations with State Officials, County Representatives, and City Employees. Hundreds of cupcakes and cookies were shared with the community.

Barbour County,West Virginia, Philippi Covered bridge over the Tygart River

Barbour County, West Virginia, Philippi Covered Bridge

On this cold afternoon, our community was lucky to have Senator Shelly Moore Capito come from Charleston to speak to guests and remind us that Philippi is a strong resilient town and that even a flood and fire have not stopped us from creating a friendly, thriving, educated community.  Several other representatives from congress and the city spoke to guests on the future of Philippi and their deep love for the place they call home. It was such a pleasure to be part of the celebration of 175 years of this community and its bridge.

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Senator Shelly Moore Capito speaking at the Veterans Park next to the Philippi Covered Bridge.

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City Manager Jerry Drennon speaking alongside the City Council and Philippi West Virginia Mayor.

With my hands full of cupcakes, I walked back across the river on the walkway to my office on the main street. Thinking about how thankful I am to be working in and for this community. The City of Philippi and I not only shared our birthdays together, but we are also partners in making this small community better for everyone who lives, works or attends college here on the banks of the Tygart River. I am not sure there is a better way to enjoy my birthday than to share a cupcake with a friend and think about the story of this town and how I can be part of it for another year.

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Categories: Birthday Party, Covered bridges, Philippi, Philippi Covered Bridge, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | 1 Comment

Beverly Heritage Center Lantern Tours

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Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love to attend events like the Beverly Heritage Center’s Lantern Tours. Every mid-October the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia has two evenings of living history storytelling tours. You spend a little over an hour walking the main streets hearing ghost stories of real events that happened in the town. Tour guides take visitors back in time to the frontier days, to the Civil War, and the beginning of the turn of the century.

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Karl Mulac tour guide for the Lantern Tours at the Beverly Heritage Center.                       

At each major stop on the tour, guests walk the streets with lanterns to the front porch of a building where you hear a little history about the building. Then a narration is given by a living history actor telling a ghost story about those who have died in the area.  Included in the tour is a stop at The Logan House where civil war doctor John Huff performed the 2nd amputation of the Civil War. A stop at the historic Randolph County Jail where you hear Stella Collett tell about a strange shooting and trial. Then visitors stop at the local antique shop, The Goff House, where you hear about its use as a Civil War hospital and the boneyard.  The tour then crosses the main street to stop at Laura Jackson Arnold’s house ( sister to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson) where you hear about her son being drafted into the civil war and his fight to come home.  Then everyone gathers at a settler’s log cabin owned by Jacob Stalnaker and meets his son Adam. Here Adam shares about how he unknowingly built his own coffin and was killed by Indians. Then finally you head to Bosworth’s store (now the Randolph County Historical Societies Museum) where you hear about a young woman falling to her death from a second-story window.  In between each stop Karl, our tour guide, shares other interesting information about many of the buildings located along the main streets. 

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A local actor is telling the story of Dr. Huff saving a Civil War soldier’s life who had a leg amputated in the house.

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Visitors watch Stella Collett tell the story of a murder on Elliott Ridge. 

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View of the Randolph County Jail as the sunset.

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Visitors stop at the Laura Jackson Arnold house to hear a story told by her son Thomas Arnold. 

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 Actor portraying Adam Stalnaker who unknowingly built his own coffin. 

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Lantern on the porch of the Stalnaker Log Cabin in Beverly, West Virginia.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and home

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV,  where the tours begin. 

Beverly is a unique place filled with history and wonderful stories. The fall lantern tours not only give visitors the chance to share spooky ghost stories but support the preservation of these buildings and the history of the area. With a small four-block downtown, the tour is accessible to just about everyone. The Heritage Center can make accommodations for those who need wheelchair access.

My son who was 11 on our visit was overwhelmed with excitement to be allowed to roam the streets of a small town by nothing but lantern light. Then at the end of the tour, he asked if we could come back again next year. He really liked hearing the tails told by the actors and it opened a door to West Virginia history in a way he had never experienced before. So we plan to do the tour again next year with my older son, daughter in law and granddaughter. So they can also walk the cool dark streets and hear the tails of a haunted Beverly.

Events like these give kids a new way of looking at important figures and places in our past. Unlike the museum experiences, you become part of the story if only for an hour.  For a very reasonable $10 dollar entry fee, we spent an evening with ghosts, learned a lot about the history of Randolph County and helped to provide income to Beverly Heritage Center for the future.

Categories: Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly West Virginia, family fun, family memories, ghost stories, Haunted House, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

I get asked all the time if where I work, The Golden Rule, is haunted? For a building to be built in 1902 and not be haunted is a surprise. I would say that the building is not haunted in the traditional way. Not in the way horror movies show hauntings, full of evil spirits and terrible outcomes. I don’t have slamming doors, lights turning on and off or cold chills in the building. I rarely hear strange unexplained noises. I work for hours alone in the large empty building day and night, never feeling a cold chill. But, this building does have visitors.

Black and white photo of the side of the Golden Rule, Belington WV.

I have worked in the building around 18 months and after about 6 months of clearing out the building I gave up on experiencing anything unusual. That is until one warm summer evening when the rain poured down and lightning flashed that I meet someone amazing.

This usual Wednesday evening I was working alone doing inventory and getting ready for the antique auction we were planning as a fundraiser. Tables were lined with items from the 1920s to items used in the 1970s. I would list each item on an inventory sheet and photograph it, so we could either sell the item or place in on display in the future. The storm came in about 4pm and darkened the sky and made the inside of the building dreary enough I needed to turn on the lights. With my back turned to the front glass doors I worked listening to the rumble of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain. A few minutes into the storm I head a pecking sound on the glass that brought my attention to the double glass doors at the front of the building. Standing under the aged front arch, was a man. A small aged man, maybe 5’2″ around 70 dressed in an unusual way.

Front view of the arched entry of the Golden Rule after a rain.

The man wore a blue and white striped engineers cap over his head of short white hair. His face was light with a short groomed beard and mustache with crystal blue eyes that twinkled when he spoke. He wore an insulated blue work coat in the style of a1970s coal miner. He wore dark blue work pants rather than blue jeans. The blue of his eyes, hat, and coat contrasted with his healthy pink skin so much it appeared he had just showered and still had the rosy glow of the heat.

I walked to the locked door and smiled at him through the glass. I opened the door slightly to speak to the petite man. I asked if I could help him and he replied that he had worked in the building years ago and had seen the lights on. That he saw my car parked outside as he drove by and wanted to see what was happening with the old place.

His accent was pure West Virginia, charming and educated. I felt the urge to let him in from the cold gray outside and felt no fear bringing the stranger into the building. We stopped at the front of the first floor and he began to ask questions about who owned the building and who worked for the company and what were the future plans for the Golden Rule.

He was so filled with love for the place that he excitedly asked if I knew the Shinn family. He also asked if I had known him or his brother back in the 1970s when he worked at the store. I explained that I was not in West Virginia then and shared who I worked for. He preceded to share that everyone called him Hatchet and he had a brother named Don who worked there off and on too. He explained he helped Don moved the furniture and did deliveries for Mrs. Shinn, who owned the Golden Rule for close to 50 years.  He had run the historic water-powered elevator and trapped bats on the third-floor rafters over the years. I asked if he had been in the building recently and he said, “no not for years and years. I spend most of my time fixing up old cars now.”

We visited for an extended time on the first floor then I offered to show him around.  He was a fit older man, so we talked about what was on each floor when he worked for Wanda Shinn. He shared stories about selling mattresses and box springs and having to wait on the elevator to raise and lower. “It was so slow that you would pile everything you sold on one trip to save time,” Hatchet said.

G.R. historic photo

We talked about his life as we looked out the windows on the third floor. He said,” I have always loved the view of the rail yard back here.” We stood side by side looking at the aging trains and cars parked behind the Golden Rule. He talked about his last days at the Golden Rule before going to work for the Mines. How being a coal miner had been the best thing he could have done for the pay and retirement. He had made enough money to buy a house and a couple acres of land when he was in his 50’s and had put plenty away for retirement so he could keep rebuilding old cars. We talked about how Belington had changed and how he used to drag race through town on Saturday nights and go to the movies in Philippi. He shared about how everyone for miles around shopped at the Golden Rule. He listed some of the things he bought for his mining job. Finally, he asked me if they were going to save the old elevator or if it was going to scrap. I was excited to tell him that the old water-powered elevator was staying and that we would be looking for someone to work on it soon. I asked if he wanted to see the elevator and if he had any idea how it worked. He was happy to take a look at the old mud covered basement and tell me a little bit about how it worked. He remembered swabbing the piston and waiting on the elevator to slowly carry its cargo up the shaft.

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Empty elevator shaft on the 2nd floor of the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia.

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water Powered elevator pullies in the basement of the Golden Rule, Belington West Virginia.  

 

Finally, after about an hour of visiting and laughter, he said he should go. That he needed to get back to the house it was getting late and dinner would be ready soon. I realized that it was about 5:00 and I would need to leave for home too.  He walked to the door and said: “Thank you so much for showing this to me, it looks like she is in good hands.” He stepped down the stairs to the ground and I waved out the door and said: “Hatchet is was a pleasure to meet you, I hope you come back to visit soon”. Locking the glass door behind him I watched out the door for a classic blue car he had told me about. Soon a blue 1970’s Chevy drove by the building towards the town of Elkins. I couldn’t help smiling the rest of the night thinking of my visitor.

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Old umbrella on the third floor of the Golden Rule building Belington West Virginia.

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Furniture Polish bottles found in the basement of the Golden Rule Building, Belington WV.

A couple weeks later my boss and I found another person who had worked in the building operating the elevator for several years. We invited Charlie to lunch at a local cafe and planned to talk about the mechanics of the elevator and how it worked and if it could be made to operate on just the basement and first floor. Charlie was happy to meet and talk about how the elevator worked. As we eat and visited I casually told Charley and my boss that I had met another man who worked at the Golden Rule. I said I had met Hatchet and that we had talked for about an hour about the building and elevator. Charlie started shaking his head violently “no” and making a throat noise as he tried to swallow his bite of potatoes. Clearing his mouth he blurted out,”You did not meet Hatchet! He’s been dead 25 years! There is no way that is who you met.”

Being  surprised by his tone of voice  I replied with, “if it was not Hatchet then maybe it was his brother Don.”

Charlie’s face grew grave and serious leaning into the cafe table and said, “it wasn’t Don either, he has been dead 30 years or more”.

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Glass shoe sales sign found at the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia. 

At this my poor boss about choked on his sip of coffee. Charlie continued to ask me questions about how I had heard of Hatchet and Don. I told him that I learned their names from the man who visited me at the Golden Rule. A short white-haired man who wore a railroad cap.

“That’s impossible!” Charlie said, “You must have met someone else!”

I gave a description of the white-haired man that I met and told about him leaving the Golden Rule for the Coal Mines. I shared his love of the old cars that he often worked on.

My boss and Charley looked at me as if the world had ended. Confused and in disbelief of my description they looked at one another. Finally said, “I have no idea how I would know this information any other way than from the source.”

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Cleaned off shelves at the Golden Rule before floors were cleaned 2019 Belington WV

 

I  joked that I gave a ghost a tour at the Golden Rule and both men laughed at the silliness of the statement. They blew off the strange story I had told them over our lunch. They were both ready to think that I  had somehow gotten the information from some other old man around town and that I couldn’t have met Hatchet. Neither one wanted a haunted job site and no one wanted to share gossip of a stranger at the Golden Rule for fear of scaring off contractors and laborers.

My experience with the Ghost of the Golden Rule was not one that anyone would call scary. Hatchet is happy to see his workplace coming back to life and seemed content to look the place over with me. He made me aware of several things about the building and the town of Belington that I did not know. So If you had asked me if I had seen a ghost at the Golden Rule before that lunch date my answer was “No!”  In my mind, Hatchet is as real as anyone else. But after that lunch date with Charlie, I still find myself wondering who I met that afternoon and if he meant it when he said he would come back to visit me when the building was finished? I just hope he is as happy to see me as I will be to see him!

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Categories: About me, Barbour County, Benefit auction, ghost stories, ghosts, Golden Rule, Haunted House, historic locations, history, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Creamed Tomato on Biscuits

One of my favorite Appalachian dishes is Creamed Tomatoes. Making it from a batch of garden tomatoes in late summer is a real treat. I always look forward to eating tomatoes from the garden but there is something wonderful about fresh biscuits hot from the oven topped with butter and fresh creamed tomatoes for breakfast that makes the morning so much better. Creaming tomatoes or any other creamed vegetable is not as popular as it once was because people rarely want to take the time to blanch tomatoes anymore. But if I am already blanching them for sauce or canning, saving a few tomatoes for breakfast is no trouble at all. As long as you have some kind of pealed tomatoes available you can use fresh or canned tomatoes. In the true southern tradition, homemade biscuits make this breakfast a feast.

 

Creamed Tomatoed over Biscuits for two servings.

6 Roma tomatoes, or 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, or a mixture blanched and peeled.

1/2 cup whole milk.

2 heaping Tablespoons corn starch.

5 Tablespoon warm water.

2 Tablespoons sugar.

1/8 teaspoon salt.

pepper to taste.

For fresh tomatoes, you will need to blanch and peel at least 6 Roma tomatoes or 2 large beefsteak tomatoes. To blanch tomatoes boil enough water to cover tomatoes. Place tomatoes in boiling water for three minutes until skins wrinkle. Remove from heat and place in a sink or bowl of very cold water for about four minutes and slide peels sink tomatoes. Crush tomatoes with your hands into saucepan removing the core if it is white and tough. Simmer over med-high heat until tomatoes soften and turn to a chunky sauce adding 1/2 cup of milk. Stir mixture and heat back to simmer. In a cup or bowl put two heaping tablespoons corn starch and 5 Tablespoons warm water making a very runny paste. Mix until lumps are dissolved and pour slowly into simmering tomato milk mixture. Simmer until thick like a gravy. Add two tablespoons sugar and 1/8 tsp salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare biscuits and bake until golden brown. Place biscuit on plate open-faced and top with a dab of real butter and cover with Creamed Tomatoes and enjoy the ripeness of summer all day long.

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Although this is not the best food photo, it is a wonderful way to use up excess fresh tomatoes. If by chance you use canned store-bought tomatoes you may not have as many seeds and you can make the tomatoes thinker with the addition of more corn starch and water. This simple dish is a favorite of my husbands and we have it with dinner as a side dish also.

 

Categories: Back yard garden, biscuits, canning, creamed vegetables, Tomatoes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Visting with Ghosts (1650 miles from WV to CO and back)

My trip home to attend my mother’s internment in my home town of Boulder Co. was like no other trip I have ever made. Returning to the mountains in Colorado, I not only said goodbye to someone I loved, but I spent much of my time revisiting childhood friends and reliving memories. I am not sure if everyone goes through similar feelings of joy and comfort when they experience a lifetime of memories and nostalgia but this trip was about visiting with the ghosts of my past and those of Colorado’s wild west history.

I am lucky to have found a man who also enjoys the history of the west, folk tails, museums, old houses, cemeteries and old friends. This trip was planned to incorporate visits to “Doc” Holiday’s, Kid Cassidy’s, Buffalo Bill’s, My Ex-inlaws and my mother and father’s graves and cemeteries. We road historic railways, we became silver miners for a day, we hiked to cemeteries, we toured historic homes, eat spicy Mexican food and laughed at stories of our youth. Several times I felt that we were in a movie about growing up in the 1980s when the only music on the radio was from my generation and faces from high school filled a table at a local pub.

Tom and I Colorado River

Tom and I resting on the shore of the Colorado River, Glenwood Springs, Co.

Somewhere between the kind words said about my mother at a toast in her honor, I floated away to a quiet place of sweetness and memories. A happy place where she was healthy, young and had a huge smile on her face. I like that image of her best, smiling and hugging me. Her ghost was there at the table with us, she was finally part of the parties that I was always going to in high school. She was the honored guest this time and took time to lean over each guest to let them know that they were always welcome to visit her as she played hostess like she always did in our home. Her ghost was happy and free and that night and so was I. The evening turned into a beautiful blending of the past and the present I will never forget how much love I felt in that pub that night! Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and those who sent well wishes during this challenging time.

Friends at Mikeoshea's

Some of my high school family. We are missing a few faces in the photo but I have never felt better about who I have called my friends over the years.

Memories and ghosts were tangible at the cemetery the next day. I looked for and found the family plots of my first husband, my aunt, uncle, and other extended family members all buried within yards of my parents.  It was nice to settle a debt that I had owed to them for the years that they all supported me through youth. It was wonderful to say thank you and place flowers and stones on their graves. Even the memories of my first marriage had less sting and more forgiveness for things that were never in my control. I said a prayer of peace to the crowd of ghosts that sounded me and the funeral of my mother. I knew I was surrounded by the love of my family and friends.

Family together at hotel

The Lowrey clan gathered together after my Mother’s internment.

During the service, my family joined together to say some wonderful things about my mom. We all shared memories of things we remembered about her. We placed things in her cremation box that meant something to us and sent her remains into the ground covered in her favorite flower, the yellow rose. It was not hard to let her go, it was the very best send off a woman who was trapped in a broken body tortured by Alzheimer’s could get. The relief we all felt about her transfiguration spilled into joy, laughter, and sweet storytelling.  It was the perfect afternoon with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. We chatted as her spirit looked over our shoulders at photo albums and scrapbooks, she held her great-grandson on her lap and enjoyed his laughter. I even think I heard her laugh out loud at one of my brother’s corny jokes.  I hated to see her fade away as we walked to our truck after the gathering. With armloads of memories stuffed in overfull boxes, I stopped to say goodbye to my family. Fully knowing that the matriarch of my family, the roots, that kept us together, was gone and we could possibly scatter like leaves in the wind. I felt something shift and knew that I wanted to be sure that did not happen. She had worked too hard to watch the family get distant.

The following day we traveled to Georgetown Co. in search of silver mines and train rides. The day was full of historical adventures, Christopher got to spend time on the Georgetown Loop train and take an extended tour in the Lebanon Silver Mine. The Georgetown Loop was completed in 1884 as a way for miners and their cargo to move up and down the 2 miles of steep incline between Georgetown and Silverplume Co. In the end, the train travels 3 miles of track to reach its final destination only 2 miles away, with a short trip around the loop over the canyon and Clear Creek river. In between the two depots, there are two historic silver mines that visitors can tour to learn more about the lives of miners at the turn of the century. So this was a welcome cool spot on a 99-degree day in Denver.

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Georgetown Loop Train

High bridge of Georgetown loop

The high bridge over clear creek river Georgetown Co

We even learned about Tommyknockers and Dragon’s Blood, which were often found in mines.  Tommyknockers may very well be the spirits of dead miners looking out for living miners with their tricks. Christopher believes he heard one on our tour… poping and cracking the roof of the silver mine. We also found what miners called Dragons Blood. Where silver ore tarnishes and leaches through the walls. It is said that if you fallow the Dragon’s Blood it would lead you to his guarded treasure. In fact, the myth is somewhat true because often where there was silver tarnish leaking through the walls you would find a silver seam in the mine. It also meant that you might pay with your life if you tried to take the Dragon’s Treasure.

We also learned the average life expectancy of a silver miner in Colorado in the late 1890s was 36 years old….Let that one sink in for a minute…. My husband would have been dead almost 20 years by now. Leaving many woman widows before they even turned 40. What sad dark lives the Welsh immigrants lived to come to American and start a new life for their children.

That evening and the next two days we spent in Glenwood Springs, Co. hunting down the grave and museum of “Doc” Holliday my favorite dentist, gunman, and gambler. It was a nice hike to the Linwood Cemetery averaging about and 1 and 1/4 miles all uphill. ( I thought I was going to die, not enough oxygen at about 5,800 ft above sea level).  With beautiful views of the town of Glenwood Springs and the Colorado River. The cemetery is old for Colorado standards many of the graves are from the late 1800s and many are miners. TheDoc Holliday’s gravesite is covered with coins, cards, cigars, and roses, making a testament to his popularity even today.

The only disappointment was the paid entry to what is called the Doc Holliday museum. With only one item that might have belonged to him (a derringer pistol), it was not worth the $5 dollars to see in my opinion. The rest of the room in filled with other information and items from the same time period. So we did read new articles written about him and see other guns from the time period but sadly nothing that really struck me as impressive.

While in town we did stop at a local history museum in a 1905 downtown home. We enjoyed looking at the antiques from the turn of the century and learning about local history. The Frontier History Museum of Glenwood Springs has a wonderful collection of items including one of President Teddy Roosevelt’s saddles that he used bear hunting in Colorado.

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Christopher and Tom look at the gravesite of William F Cody AKA Buffalo Bill. 

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Close up of grave of Buffalo Bill Cody

 

Then we headed to Golden Co. to visit with longtime friends and to see the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody and his museum. The collection of items here is huge and very complete for the same $5 dollars you get ten times the exhibits and information then at the Doc Holliday Museum. You also can walk to a Jefferson County Nature Center and visit the Boettcher Mansion. A 1917  Craftsman/ Tudor style home that is often open to the public and free. Where they rent the building for weddings and other large events.

The gravesite of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is on the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Co. It allows you a wide panorama view of not only Golden and Denver, but East into the grasslands of Colorado, and West to the peaks of Breckenridge and others ( my camera freaked out and I lost all the shots I took from the observation area of Lookout Mountain). The grave is part of a large poured cement patio with a grave covered in raw white quartz. Very traditional in the area to decorate an ugly cement topped graves with local stone and a granite headstone. My grandmothers’ cemetery has a couple graves marked this way. Buffalo Bill’s grave is usually covered in coins, most often a buffalo nickel. We added nickels without buffalos and a penny to the collection saying a prayer for Buffalo Bill and the cities of Boulder and Denver and those that surround the mountain for peace and prosperity.

By the end of our trip up Lookout Mountain, it was time to meet up with a friend for lunch. The amount of traffic and regional construction change made me wonder if I had ever lived in Golden at all. I was lost and thought we would never find our restaurant. Finally finding the El Amigo restaurant, I fell back into a time and place of wondering through memories and felt at ease. Laughter came easy and the warmth of my friend made me relax. I had worried that somehow I would be judged after all these years. I was in some way still being the scared high school girl that I had left behind 3 decades ago. The discovery was that I was not being judged at all but again supported in my dreams and passions was the most comforting thing I have ever experienced.

Nick and I

Nick Plumber and I out to lunch and sharing stories. 

I put to rest, so many worries, fears, and uncertainties, on this trip that I know that I will never be the same. I am better for knowing each and everyone one of my high school friends. I am healthier because I have a wonderful family, who supported me on this adventure of healing. I am stronger for letting go of the people and things I don’t need anymore. I am freer because I have finally become the person I worked for all these years to become.

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Jolynn Powers in front of a huge sagebrush plant. Glenwood Springs Co. 

So when I am asked if It was hard and sad to go home for my mother’s funeral I have to honestly say “NO!, it was a wonderful time. It was the best gift she has ever given me and I am so happy she is free!” I just wait for the confused look on the face of people who do not understand that I like visiting with ghosts and smile broadly.

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Buffalo Bill, Change, Christopher, Death, Doc Holliday, Family, family memories, Healing, historic locations, Home, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boss Woman, not Boss Man

Basement of the Golden Rule before image

 JoLynn Powers on the first day of basement clean up and demo at the Golden Rule. 

Being self-employed and being the Boss Woman on the job at the Golden Rule over the last 6 months is one of the best things I have done for myself. So I just wanted to share an experience with all of you that I find interesting and makes we want to continue the work I do. As the Redevelopment Coordinator for the Golden Rule Building and several smaller community beautification projects around the Barbour County Area, I am always working on projects with multiple people. My job entails working with and supervising volunteers and contractors to get a project completed. I make sure they have the supplies they need and work with local and state officials to keep them updated on our projects. I plan events to promote our projects and do community outreach to get the volunteers involved.

I often manage the challenges that arise as we do construction, demolition, redevelopment and finally instillations. I love working with people and supervising a crew and love to get my hands dirty.

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Team of AmeriCorps working with me at The Golden Rule summer of 2019.                                   Left to right. Sarah, Kelsey, Me and William.

So the day when I had a crew working in the building doing demolition of 2500 square feet of hand made pine shelving I was surprised at my reaction of a just a few words said by a total stranger. As I was heading upstairs to work on tossing hundreds of boards into a dumpster I was approached by a man from the community on the first floor. He had let himself into the building and spoke to me unexpectedly. He said “Hey,…. where is the Boss Man?” I turned and asked him if I could help him with something and what did he need. Again he asked if he could talk to the”Boss Man.’ Being a nice person I never said, “Hey Asshole I’m the boss and that is why I am talking with you.” I just continued to ask questions and answer them for him. Finally, he said he was looking for work and wanted to know if we were hiring and who should he talk to. To this, I said, “No one is hiring laborers at this time, but if you are a contractor like I am, then the main office may be able to help you. They are looking for bids on HVAC, electrical, roofing and plumbing.” The look on his face was of total confusion. Frustrated he asked me who my boss was and where was he. I gave him the name of both of my supervisors and told him to call the office. Then it finally sank in, that I was the crew supervisor and not a man. I think that was almost too much for him.

volunteers help at the GR

These volunteers and AmeriCorps spent a day doing nothing but moving furniture and displays for me at the Golden Rule.

From the deepest part of my belly, I wanted to be an ass and say ” I am the Boss Woman on this job and how well do you work for women?” But in reality, letting him figure it out on his own and speaking to him in terms that would only be handled by the boss I had confused him to the point of frustration. Then when he realized that we had no need for laborers just licensed contractors he was disappointed and equally angry. I spent the rest of my day… irritated. Let’s just say being called the boss is one thing, but to be referred to as a man is never going to go down easy!

I have spent the last week after this situation thinking. I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world and I would not trade any of them for others. My Project Manager and Director understand my love for redevelopment and home improvement and are happy to have me and treat me with the same respect that any person deserves. I have a family who supports me in my passion to build, remodel, and redesign so I rarely ever have a conversation that is not met with equal understanding and passion. But I have to figure out a way to be tactful about explaining my roll at the Golden Rule when a man is confused about the work I do.

After using a grout bag I sweep up the lose grout before washing the tiles

My job for several days was doing grout on our family room floor. Grout bags are a wonderful product as long as you don’t mix too much water into the grout.

So this woman is her own boss and the boss of others and often the main contact for a redevelopment construction site. I have become the thing that I always wanted to be and doing work that I love. I have a team of people I work with who let me enjoy my work and are happy that I want to be involved in community development. So I will just have to get used to surprising people and learn how to say,” Boss Woman, Thank you!”

 

 

Categories: About me, Boss lady, Building rehabilitation, Community Art, community service, Golden Rule, Redevelopment projects, Uncategorized, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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