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Normantown News – March Week Two

The return to Daylight Savings is one of my favorite holidays. Technically it’s not a holiday, but it is to me! While spring sneaks up in little doses, that one-hour shift makes a noticeable difference. Morning commuters may lament that early morning drive in the dark that comes temporarily with the change, but I celebrate that extra evening hour of daylight. It means winter is over. I now have more time in the evenings for outdoor projects and adventures. Time to sit on the porch.

Outdoor projects have already begun. The Division of Highways guys came along Route 33 in our area trimming trees and branches back from the road. Candidates have also been out, and the collection of campaign signs at the intersection of Rosedale Road and Route 33 is growing. I’m rather impressed at how long the David Walker sign has lasted in that deep turn on top of Normantown Hill. It’s been there since the last election.

It wasn’t much of a winter, and my recent walks with Daisy and Dandelion have already brought fleas back into our home. None of us are happy about it. Pretty soon we will have to bring out the lawnmower, and the first mow will smell like onions. Right now, you can smell the soil. You may not be able to see it from afar, but the forest is budding. Soon the hillsides will take on that pink hue and then the bright green shimmer. Crocus are up, some lucky folks have daffodils in bloom.

A gentleman in the 655* area called the other day to ask where I got the ootheca (praying mantis egg sacs) I placed around our garden. If you missed that previous column, I bought and hatched them to combat the stink bug population in the garden, and we did see a decrease. The caller was not familiar with ebay.com but did have someone who could help him online. A quick google search brought up ootheca for sale on Walmart.com and ebay.com, but the original source for both was Hirt’s Gardens. Hirt’s is based in Ohio, and for those out there without the Internet, you can contact them at 1-330-239-0506.

Normantown Historical Community Center has some great upcoming classes and events! The Food Pantry is held on the 2nd Friday of each month, this month on March 13. Last month’s pantry fed 94 families, including 221 people. The folks there are really needing some additional freezer space.

Most classes at the center are held in the brick building close to the school—no stairs. A Freezer Meal Class will be held on March 14 at 10 a.m. Learn to make freezer meals that you can easily thaw and serve on busy days! The class fees are by donation. NHCC Clothes Closet is held Wednesdays, 11-2 p.m.

NHCC is planning a Big Spring Vendor Event on Saturday, March 28 at 9 a.m. Crafters and vendors are invited.  They ask that each participant has a small item to give away for a drawing. The tables are $15.00 each. I see the list of vendors is growing – Easter Mini Photo Sessions, Avon, Tupperware, Pampered Chef have all been mentioned so far. RSVP by March 26 to 681-495-5960 or 304-462-7042.

Donkey Basketball is happening! Do you have it on your calendar yet? Come on out on April 4 at 6 p.m. to NHCC. Now, they just need a few teams to ride — three teams of at least seven people. Riders must arrive for a mandatory meeting no later than 5:30 pm.

Donations were recently made in memory of Ethel Roberts and the cooks at Normantown High School, and in memory of Urma Sprouse-Hull, a 1941 graduate. Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation, or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret.

       (*Hello out there to readers of The Hur Herald! Bob and Dianne began running this column in their publication last week. For those not familiar with the area, the 655 telephone-prefix reference above would typically mean in the southern area of Calhoun County. Northern Calhoun area is 354. Gilmer County is mostly 462. The generalization gets blurry along county lines. For example, in the Normantown/Stumptown/Rosedale region this column is about, our community has a mix of all three prefixes.)

If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share with community readers, by Sunday morning for the upcoming week, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.

Normantown/Stumptown News – Late February

February is almost over, and I have to say I am glad. February always strikes me as the longest month of the year even though I know that isn’t true, and this being a leap year, the month was a day longer than usual. Thankfully, the sun has been shining.

While sunshine and warmer temperatures were a blessing for those mourning the passing of Harold (Red) Allen, the weather made the trip to Minigh Cemetery on Little Bull Run a bit of a challenge. As a solution, a tractor was brought in by a neighbor and a bluegrass band played “I’ll Fly Away,” while the tractor pulled hearse and Red up the hill to his final internment. This is why you make sure to take your gum boots to Appalachian funerals. Much love to the Allen family, who inherited Red’s sense of humor.

I recently heard someone refer to an eagle as a “Freedom Buzzard,” and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Mr. Holiday (the local eagle) is seen more often on carcasses than actually hunting. Perhaps he’s just lazy, as the amount of road kill is enough to keep him fed. I was traveling through Normantown one evening and clipped a small barred owl who was swooping down to grab a field mouse running across the road. I turned my car around, and the owl was sitting in the road stunned. I stepped out of the car to wrap it in a towel (thinking I could at least offer some recovery time and space in our now-empty hen house), but as I approached, the owl flew away. I hope it survived.

Frank and I would like more hens, but we don’t want to raise them from chicks, and certainly don’t want any roosters. (I had a bad rooster experience as a child.) Also, that minimum order of 20-25 chicks when you get them through the mail is just too many for us. We’d like just a few laying hens. If you are ordering chicks this year and don’t want the full minimum order, consider us in for a couple of them when they become pullets.

Although I have not given any trapping reports, the traps are still out there, in the mud. A 35 pound coyote was caught, hopefully sparing the flock of turkeys it had been tormenting.

As spring grows near, Normantown Historical Community Center gets more active! They will be having their second Rag Rug Class on March 7, at 10 a.m. You will need a size Q or a large crochet hook and some material cut or torn in two inch strips. The longer the strips the better–an old flat sheet torn into strips works well.

NHCC is planning a Spring Vendor Event on Saturday March 28 at 9 a.m. Crafters and vendors are invited and Avon, Tupperware, and Pampered Chef are already listed.  NHCC will have yard sale tables set up. Each will be in separate room. We ask that each participant has a small item to give away for a drawing. Tables are $ 15.00 each. NHCC also will have tickets for grand prize drawing and refreshments will be available for purchase. RSVP by March 26 to 681-495-5960 or 304-462-7042.

I see on the NHCC online calendar that there is a flower/seed swap on Wednesday, March 25th from 8-9 a.m. and an all-day flower/seed swap on Saturday, April 25. It may seem a little early to think about seeds and flowers, but spring is less than four weeks away. Gilmer Public Library will soon be receiving an old card catalog, which they will be turning into an heirloom/heritage seed exchange for public use. If you have any heirloom or heritage seeds to donate, please stop by the library.

Basketball at the Community Center is on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m., and Exercise Class is every Monday and Thursday at 6 p.m. The Food Pantry is held the 2nd Friday of each month, and in February  94 families were served totaling 221 people. NHCC Clothes Closet is held Wednesdays, 11-2 p.m. And don’t forget: Donkey Basketball is coming on April 4.

Gary Settle donated a large chest type freezer (many thanks for that), but the Center still could use another large freezer and another refrigerator. The conversion to natural gas for heat has saved them a bundle in electric but, it’s still expensive to keep all the freezers and refrigerators running, so any financial help would certainly be appreciated. Donations can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation, or mailed to: NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret.

I appreciate the compliments I have received from folks who read this column. Hi to Janet and Bill, who regulars in the world of the morning commute, and Hi to Tracy, whom I rarely see but love talking with when we bump into each other in town. I enjoy knowing my reports are reaching folks out there in the hollers who are bundled in for winter and maybe are just a few hollows over, but I never see. Some hate this time of year as much as I do. Spring is coming. In two weeks, we will be turning our clocks forward an hour and get our evenings back! We’ll make it.

If you have any 25267 news you would like to share with community readers, send an email to hayesminney@gmail.com, or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I will be happy to list yard sales, anniversaries, birthdays, reunions, etc.

Normantown/Stumptown News: December Week 3

When I first moved to this area twenty-plus years ago, I did not give the Little Kanawha River the respect it deserves. I grew up in Marietta, Ohio where the Muskingum River flows into the Ohio River—where barges, paddle-wheels, houseboats, speed boats, canoes, and blow-up rafts can all share the waters. I looked at the Little Kanawha when I moved here in August and saw that I could walk across it without getting my knees wet.

“Pfft,” I said. “That’s not a river.”

“Big” rivers, like the Muskingum and Ohio are impressive in many ways, but they are predictable. They rise and fall slowly, and by calculating rain amounts and river levels upstream, one can easily determine how high the water will get and when. The Ohio River will never “sneak up” on you. My father had a business on the main street near the Muskingum, and I remember having an entire day to lift and move valuables, “just in case,” only to watch the slowly rising water crest just below the top stair at the front door. I was almost disappointed. We spent the evening putting everything back where it belonged.

When I heard the tales of the flood of ‘85 (and again in ‘86 here in Stumptown), I imagined those floods were flukes, freak occurrences that happen once in a blue moon. I have since learned that like blue moons, floods are more common than I thought.

When Frank and I moved to the farm and he told me how high the floodwaters could get on the property, I was still skeptical. I simply could not imagine the creek below the road ever reaching my house. And then the floodwaters came, and I found myself wading up the driveway, watching a hay bale float by.

The Little Kanawha River and area creeks and streams can easily be underestimated. They are sneaky creatures that can rise overnight, become powerful, and spread with a speed that quickly catches you off guard. And run-off water? You never think about how water flows across fairly flat land, how it can create new stream paths and puddles that grow into ponds.

My memories of flooding along the Ohio are timed in the spring. Those were the days when feet of snow fell in winter, and spring melt with spring rain spelled bad news. But my memories of flooding here all seem to be when it’s cold and gray and not the best time to be wet. I often wonder if it’s because winter brings more rain now it seems, and is more a season of mud than snow. My insulated mud boots are now some of my most valued possessions.

This time of year, especially when precipitation seems to last for days, I find myself tuned in to the fork of Steer Creek that flows along Rosedale Road. Even in the dark of night, I can tell by the moon’s reflection on the water’s surface if the creek is flowing high or low. I can estimate, by evaluating the water’s depth, the amount of rain that has fallen, and the amount of rain yet to come–if I need to get out the mud boots. I also know, when a large amount of rain falls in a short period of time if run-off waters might seep through our basement.

The 169-mile Little Kanawha River drains approximately 2,160 square miles of northern and central West Virginia. It is the largest watershed in the state, and in the mid-1800s, was also known as the “River of Evil Spirits” because of the number of people who died when canoes capsized in the river whirlpools. I think of that sometimes when the water’s up.

While it may seem odd to think of flooding during the winter season, a significant number of the record flood levels for the Little Kanawha were recorded November through January. The famed flood of 1985 occurred on November 5, and record-high waters were recorded in Decembers of 1944, ‘45, ‘48, ‘49, ‘56, ‘70, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73, ‘78, ‘79, ‘90, and ‘91. In fact, more historic floods have happened here between October and March than in the spring.

No matter what time of year, we have our lives prepared for high water. I no longer want carpet in the basement, and I work with area rugs that can be rolled up easily if (when) necessary. We have 4’x4’ planks of wood the width of certain appliances, and keep them handy in the basement closet for when rains pour more than an inch in a few hours and we need to lift things off the floor. If the rains keep coming, then we venture out to check on the creek below.

When rising, this fork of Steer Creek first crosses Rosedale Road at the end of our driveway, and we take note of the time and location of the water’s edge. We contemplate the factors and try to determine if the mailbox will disappear and we kick into high gear, or if the waters will crest before we reach that emergency mode. We watch the waters rise, and wait for the rains to cease. There’s a balance point in those moments that valley-dwellers recognize as the difference between another round of high waters and a serious situation.

Not much of a holiday message is it? Happy holidays and high water, ho ho ho? But wet weather like we’ve been having of late brings my watershed concerns to mind. Even so, colorful lights, Christmas carols, and smiling faces are enough to lift my spirits and I’m looking forward to visiting my family this season.

Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise.

Normantown Historical Community Center served 92 families representing 216 people at the monthly food pantry in December.  Thanks to Mountaineer Food Bank for their contributions, and to the local volunteers who make it happen. Dues to join and support the organization are still $10.00, due in January. Donations can be made online at https://nhccwv.com.

Kudos to the folks helped their neighbor out of his burning home on Rosedale Road. You’re heroes in my book, and that just shows what kind of folks live here in our community.

If you have any 25267 news you would like me to share, send email to hayesminney@gmail.com, message me through facebook, or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132.

The Prancing Pariah

A few years ago, I was flamed by a long-time (former) friend on social media, who noted that until I met his family, I was a pariah.

(Don’t feel bad. I had to look it up too.)

A pariah is an outcast, an undesirable, a non-person, persona non grata.

The flaming covered a variety of questionable attacks, but the pariah label is one that sticks with me, all these years later. Not because it hung true, but because it hinted at a truth bigger than the both of us.

It is true, at the time in reference, I was socially secluded. I had recently moved to a new town, returned to college, and had specifically chosen to be a recluse in order to focus on my studies and my homework. Had I not been lured from my seclusion, had I not started following someone else’s path, how different my life would be today.

Yet the term pariah denotes being ostracized, banned. That the seclusion I endured was not my choice, but instead set upon me. How could I have been banned from a community I had not even met yet? Had I been rejected before I felt I had even arrived? And yet, in retrospect, in rural West Virginia, it could have been possible.

Today, my husband and I are still in rural West Virginia, and we are still socially secluded. We know the community now, and we just… prefer to do our own thing. In my 20 years here, I’ve been through periods of social overdose and seclusion, and I am by no means saying we don’t have any friends. But we are busy people, and when we do make social time, we choose to spend it with a few close friends or in special ways.

So, are we pariahs? Outcasts? We have spent 20 years in a community and learned we prefer interaction with a few, and not the many. Does this mean we’ve been outcast? Rejected? Has this seclusion been forced upon us by our experiences with the community or has it been a choice of our own? Has this lifestyle come from a proactive stance to spend time wisely, or is it a reaction to two decades of local interaction?

I wonder, as West Virginia ranks number one in shrinking population, if I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life as an undesirable without knowing it? Someone being pushed out slowly over time by passive resistance?

You’d think someone would have told me.

I guess he did –

from his perpective.

Ignorance IS bliss?

Frank and I eliminated television from our lives in 2001. It wasn’t that difficult really, neither of us had, in our previously single lives, had time or the budget for television, so we weren’t completely accustomed to having it.

Without television, we gain a little more control of the information we take in. Newspaper and magazine subscriptions, sites we regularly visit on the Internet, radio. In other words, we aren’t idly sitting on a couch, taking in the information broad cast to us. Instead, we pick and choose and select what we read, hear and watch.

To be honest, we miss a lot. Hundreds of times we’ve been lost in conversations that discuss a memorable commercial or recent development in a reality tv show. I see headlines naming celebrities I personally have never heard of.

It’s a definite change of lifestyle for a former news hound/reporter. I was obsessed with news — especially local. I was immersed in it, often angry or frustrated by the negative aspects that made mainstream media so popular these days.

I do not mean to imply that I care nothing for the catastrophe in the Gulf. I do not wish to mislead anyone into thinking we’re not keeping up with important developments. We’re just not immersed in the demise of our world and society constantly, again and again and again.

Our lives are definitely improved.

In the 50’s and early 60’s, when television was cheesy and clean — before real images of the Vietnam War presented the first of “Reality TV” people’s lives were simpler. People were happier. People didn’t watch TV in the morning, it was an evening recreational activity. Their minds weren’t cluttered with the problems of the world, and their focus was on solving the problems of their communities. Their attention spans hadn’t yet been trained to the time frame between commercial breaks, and evenings were spent whittling, stitching, quilting, darning…

It’s amazing how much more time you discover in your life when television isn’t a dominant part of it.

Of course, once you learn a life without television, you soon discover you don’t really have time for it.

By the time we finish dinner, and pop in or download a movie, these days, we’re lucky if we can stay awake until the end.

I don’t know what I can do to save the Gulf. But when I pay close attention, the things I can do in my immediate environment become clearer. If rest of the world is – as mainstream media often implies – a victim of our destruction, the best thing I can do is focus on cultivating my world — the land and community right here, where I live.

There could be issues with genetically modified seeds and produce? OK, well, we’ll grow our own. Issues with processed foods? OK, we’ll raise hens and makes things from scratch with quality ingredients. Honey bees are at risk and are necessary for growing our own food successfully? OK, we’ll get a bee hive.

Every day, mainstream media presents you with images of war, extinction, violence, deception, corruption, disaster and death. All I need to do is scan the headlines to see this and get a grasp of society’s condition. But I don’t have to read the article. I don’t have to listen to the broad cast; I don’t have to listen to the video. Instead, I can go weed the garden, harvest herbs, collect eggs and focus on a local future — without the clutter of all the world’s problems in my head.

Can you go a day without television? A week? A month? Like anything else, the point is to be here now, be aware of your actions and intake, and strive for moderation. Break the connection that keeps you focused on whatever is put in front of you. Make choices, selections, about what influences your mind, and you may discover a whole new world — right here at home.