My dad grew up as a country boy in West Virginia, not so very far from where I am sitting right now. His life path took him eventually to Charleston where he got a job in a drug store downtown. Inspired by the owner, legendary West Virginia pharmacist Roy Bird Cook, he became a pharmacist and ran his own very successful drug store for many years. About the time he was 50 be began trying to recapture the spirit of that early country life, I think, when he bought this piece of land. It wasn’t long after that, he bought an Airedale and named it Rags after an Airedale he had as a pet in his youth. The original Rags, he told me, had climbed onto the running board of his father’s truck one day and rode into town, as he had done many times before, but on this occasion he didn’t come back. I don’t think he ever found out what happened to that dog. My dad loved coming out here when he had time. He would hunt with his brother like they used to do as kids, he loved talking to the locals and he was always buying something for the original cabin to fix it up. I remember he was particularly proud of a vintage potbelly stove he had found, cleaned up and installed in the cabin. It was a treasured thing that, no doubt, also reminded him of those early years.
His greatest joy, it seemed, was bringing his ‘city’ friends to the woods and insisting they walk across the rickety old swinging bridge that spanned the river, drink the spring water that flowed right out of the rocks and collect, crack and eat some of the walnuts that used to be so plentiful back then. You could sense that somewhere inside him a little boy was shouting to his friends, “Isn’t this wonderful?”
I was always there, or course. I never missed a chance to be on this land with my dad, even on that first of many fateful summers nights when he said, “Take this pole and flashlight and get in the jeep son, we’re going in search of the elusive lithobates catesbeiana.”
…to be continued.
The Wild Weeks of October
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