Tag Archives: WV

Marshall Honor Band

It’s been awhile since I have posted anything and I cannot decide if it is because I have the winter blues or if we have been busy or if it is the effects of the water chaos and snow.  Speaking of snow, we are covered again and stuck inside with the latest polar blast…like the other 250 million or so people in the country who are affected by it.

Omega March


Engines of Resistance

Anyhow, one interesting thing we did get into recently was Isaac’s involvement with the Marshall University Honor Band.  The Honor Band is an honor for middle school students.  Each school’s band director nominates their best students for a one day seminar with the Marshall University School of Music staff.  Students from the tri-state area come together in one day and get excellent instruction throughout the day that pinpoints their specific instrument.  Later in the evening, the students put on a concert.

What makes this concert especially impressive to me is that the band kids have never seen the music prior to the start of the day.  They learn the music and somehow pull together as a group in a single day.  It’s amazing but really so awesome to see and hear!  So, take a listen if you please…maybe you can forget about the polar vortex and poison water for awhile!

Water…or not

We made the news here in Charleston, WV.  It seems that there exists a several-thousand-gallon tank of chemicals used to clean coal (See here for a reddit discussion on it…thoughtful now but reddit often quickly turns wild wild west…so be warned) which is stationed along the river from which all of our water is drawn and processed.  The tank developed a leak recently…maybe yesterday and maybe earlier depending on who you hear…which leaked into the river.  Of course, that means that the water system pulled it in and ran it through the processing plant in preparation for distribution to everyone.

Water systems are designed to process typical stuff one finds in river water so this extra 5000+ gallons of stuff was not properly removed during the intake process.  No one seems to know how to remove it actually, even if it had been detected earlier.  That means the entire water system supplied by the water treatment plant was contaminated.  More good news…the plant that services Charleston, WV’s Capital and largest city, is the largest system in the state and supplies water to at least 8 surrounding counties leaving 300,000+ people with tainted water.

My family is among those lucky 300,000 so we are following the order to not use the water under any circumstance aside from fire protection (which we have not yet needed, thank goodness).  The water company is not at fault here but there are people blaming them for not notifying customers sooner (it took several hours for the entire issue to become apparent).  Some folks cannot believe that the water treatment plant didn’t detect the chemical until people complained of a “licorice-like” smell in the air, at their faucets, etc.  The water company replied that this was such an unheard of problem and that there was no good protocol to test or clean it and that they cannot possibly test for every potential contaminant.  Rather, they are designed to handle typical river-source contaminants.  I am not doing it justice but the water company has an excellent answer to the question and is not to blame here at all as far as I am concerned.  Instead, the owners of the leaking tank are completely to blame and I hope they find very expensive justice.

Ok, sorry for the rant.  Anyhow, people are behaving in all sorts of ways…some nice and some not so much.  There were runs on all of the stores for people trying to buy water, ice, drinks last night.  The local Sam’s club apparently went through 4200 cases of water in 1.5 hours.  Everywhere was wild and the cops were called into most stores to manage the unruly.  It makes me thankful that we have some water at the house.  Showering is my only real concern and I figure we will make it one way or another to get clean.

I heard that something like 20% of the state’s area is affected by this so we can’t just go to the next town over to get a hotel.  They are out of luck too.  Restaurants are closed, hospitals are on rationing protocols and stuff generally sucks.  Local government and FEMA are (from what I can tell) doing a great job in getting water to people who need it.  The big issue, from what I can tell, is that no one knows how to remedy this situation or how long it will take to work through the system/get cleaned/kill us all.

So dear friends, please consider keeping a bit of water for bathing and drinking in your house.  This problem hit fast here and may last for a significant time.  The unprepared rushed the stores and not all behaved appropriately.  I am very thankful we have water stored at the house so we didn’t have to go out amongst all of the people, some of whom were desperate.  While the government sources seem to be doing well in passing out water today, I am hoping to avoid those distribution areas as well as crowds have drawn there too.  It’s really a matter of how long this lasts though…we shall see!

Ok, that’s all from here.  I’d say we’ll keep a light on for you, but you probably shouldn’t visit right now!

The lighting of the WV Christmas tree

Here it is Christmastime already!  Abigail is a member of the Appalachian Children’s Chorus and they were invited to sing at the lighting of the official WV Christmas tree!  Two large high school bands filled the steps of the WV Capitol building and played back and forth a number of…patriotic songs.  Not really a Christmas song in the entire bunch.  Although I didn’t get much Christmas spirit from their music, they were quite good and a lot of fun to hear.

WV Christmas tree lighting
WV Christmas tree lighting

Herschel “Woody” Williams, a proud West Virginian and the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from  the Battle of Iwo Jima led the Pledge of Allegiance.  Abigail and her group sang a Christmas song or two and the Governor and First Lady lit the official tree.

The Appalachian Children's Chorus
The Appalachian Children’s Chorus
Governor Tomblin and his wife
Governor Tomblin and his wife
The official Christmas tree of the state of West Virginia
The official Christmas tree of the state of West Virginia

The tree itself is nice and the ceremony was cool and all that but what sort of surprised me the most is how accessible the Governor and his wife were during the whole celebration.  Along with many people, I walked right up to him to wish him a Merry Christmas.  He posed for many pictures and kissed a few babies (literally).  I don’t figure every state could pull this off, but I was sort of proud that here in WV, we really are like one great big small town.  Sure, there were a pair of fairly large state troopers standing nearby, but they shook hands and kissed a baby or two as well.

Christmas celebrations all over the Capitol grounds
Christmas celebrations all over the Capitol grounds

So, I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but in my small town of WV, we are now officially in the Christmas spirit!

Quite a party

I have had this written for quite awhile now but we have had a family emergency.  I’ll write more about it soon.  So this is a little out of date but I hope you enjoy anyhow…

So awhile back was the sesquicentennial celebration of WV statehood.  There was lots going on and there are all sorts of places to check out details but we got a few cool pics of things that went on.  Truly, WV went first class on the celebration and made for some really cool memories.  On Friday night, Abigail and I went to the Capitol lawn and sat upon a blanket for an hour and a half to see the widely touted 3-D movie and fireworks show.  It was to run 3 nights and from where we live, I could see the fireworks and hear the music from the first night.  After hearing reviews, we decided to go for the second showing and I am so glad we did!

WV Sesquicentennial celebration WV Sesquicentennial celebration

So Abigail and I went early and sat on our blanket.  We spent some time talking and some time reading and mostly hunting for lightning bugs and people wearing inappropriate clothing.  It was a ton of fun and we had good neighbors.  Too many people showed up minutes before the show so it got pretty crowded eventually but we didn’t have too much trouble.  Anyhow, back to the show…there was a really cool countdown projected onto the Capitol which was fun since everybody counted down for the real show.  The movie was brilliant.  The folks that created it used the architecture of the building beautifully and it highlighted all sorts of important events in WV state history.  We saw images of settlers and the Civil War and mountain musicians and white water rafting.  We saw Mary Lou Retton and the late Senator Robert Byrd.  It was just super well done and demonstrated so many of the things about which we should be proud!

WV Sesquicentennial celebration

The producers played music throughout of course but I think the best part was when the played Country Roads by John Denver.  It’s unofficially the state song and whenever it is played, everyone within earshot sings along proudly.  The crowd served it up well and reminded me once again the the entire state of West Virginia is just one big small town.  It was Country Roads that I could hear playing from my house the night prior to our attendance that let me know for sure that this was going to be a first class show!

Light show on WV State Capitol

Click for a video I took

We had a little bit of traffic to suffer through but I know all of the not-interstate roads to get home so it wasn’t too bad for us.  People were courteous as you would expect in our big small town.  I am super proud of the state I call home and of the party that we threw.  I am glad Abigail and I got to enjoy the party together too!

It’s West Virginia Day!

Today is the sesquicentennial of the creation of the great state of West Virginia!  You see, there was a disagreement on how things ought to go, known as the Civil War.  Due to the mountainous terrain, slavery was not really profitable so it was more common in eastern Va than in western VA.  When the VA legislature decided to count 3/5 of the slaves when setting up representation, western VA residents were not happy.  The people of the region that is now WV did not feel properly represented and saw an opportunity for independence from VA by seceding and joining the Union.  Residents of western and northern counties set up a separate government under Francis Pierpont in 1861, which they called the “restored” government. Most voted to separate from Virginia, and the new state was admitted to the Union in 1863. In 1864 a state constitutional convention drafted a constitution, which was ratified by the legislature without putting it to popular vote.  West Virginia was the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state and was one of two states formed during the American Civil War (the other being Nevada, which separated from Utah Territory).  Personally, I think they should have called Virginia, East Virginia to clarify that we are indeed separate entities.  Many people outside the region still think we are one state, united with East Virginia.  As a small protest, I always call “Virginia” “East Virginia”…so take that!

WV SealWV Counties

Although I am not a native, I have been a part of WV since 1990 when I first came to the state to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College.  That happens to be the same place I met my lovely wife when she accosted me from the library and made me drink hot chocolate with her back at her dorm room.  She’s a native.  We spent a few years away doing schooling and stuff but we were delighted to move back to WV in 2005.  All of her people are here and this is where I will live the rest of my days if it is up to me.

Simple gifts

Simple things…


WV Sesquicentennial license plate The WV Capitol At the Greenbrier

The new license plate, the capitol and a view from the Greenbrier 


WV mountain flowers WV Mountain Flowers

Flowers in the WV mountains

West Virginia is the only state that is entirely within the area commonly defined as Appalachia.  To some people, Appalachia is a negative term, but to me, it means something special.  Typical stereotypes paint Appalachia with ugly traditions such as moonshining and clan feuding, and often portray the region’s inhabitants as uneducated and prone to impulsive acts of violence.  Some of that is true, but there are ugly things everywhere.  Rather, I prefer to think of West Virginians as quiet and kind folks who value simple living and the land and family.  The music and mountains and old traditions of WV run deep and make WV naturally a different culture than much of Virginia.  The state motto, “Montani Semper Liberi” means “Mountaineers are always free” and absolutely represents the mindset that outsiders perceive incorrectly as backwardness or mistrust of outsiders rather than as fierce independence and pride in one’s home.

View from a WV ridgetop

Panorama from a WV ridgetop

To me, West Virginia is a lot about a way of life.  There is rugged beauty here and an abundance of natural, awe-inspiring landscape.  It’s about front porch sitting and gardening and being surrounded closely by the mountains that help feed me both physically and spiritually.  WV is about people and history and simplicity and freedom.  WV is home to me and my family and will always be where I return.  It’s home and I am so glad to help celebrate it’s 150 anniversary!

Possibly my all-time favorite bridge

Is it weird to have a favorite bridge?  I occasionally have to drive to Columbus, OH for work stuff.  I cross the Ohio River at Ravenswood, WV via my favorite bridge.  I am not sure why I like it so much…maybe it’s just the color but I think it is also a mix with the architecture of it as well as the surrounding land.  I always take a number of pictures as I drive across it.  I never pay much attention to the pics as I take them since I am driving, but occasionally I get some pics that almost capture the essence of why I like this bridge so much.

Bridge over the Ohio River in Ravenswood, WV Bridge over the Ohio River in Ravenswood, WV Bridge over the Ohio River in Ravenswood, WV Bridge over the Ohio River in Ravenswood, WV

The air just got a little sweeter

We have another tradition also…whenever we cross back into WV from another state, we call interested parties and report that, “the air just got a little sweeter”.  I sent this pic to Emily on my last trip with my message.  I think Emily is possibly my all-time favorite wife.  She even rates a little higher than WV and this bridge!

Frog time!

Emily’s grandparents have a small pond at their place and every year Mr and Mrs Frog raise their babies there.  We usually try to time it right to experience the sheer joy of frog season.  I don’t know if you are familiar with how frogs work but Mrs Frog lays huge caches of gelatinous eggs which very quickly  hatch and turn into tadpoles and eventually frogs.  If you watch carefully, you get to see all of the steps in between tadpole and frog which might be the stuff of nightmares if you didn’t know better.  Seeing a pond full of tadpoles is simply amazing!  They swim so awkwardly and yet not.  When they start growing legs and losing their tails, things get really interesting.  It is an absolutely amazing transition and a lot of fun to witness!

Looking for frogs in the pond Tadpoles!

Anyhow, we were around the pond last week and got to enjoy the tadpoles in the pond.  Abigail loves to catch them in her hand and sing to them.  She caught a few and while singing, spotted Mrs Frog.  Mrs Frog had a protective eye of course (we could tell) but seemed content to watch us watch her babies.  Of course, what are her options?  We don’t have ferocious frogs here in West-by-God-Virginia.

Mrs Frog Mrs Frog!

Abigail decided she wanted to give Mrs Frog a pat on the back, congratulating her on a job well done with her latest crop of babies.  She squatted at the edge of the pond (I had my camera ready fully expecting Abigail to fall into the water) and reached out to touch Mrs Frog.  With a flash, Mrs Frog leapt into the water upon feeling Abigail’s fingers.    She swam across the pond and under a rock where we could see her one back leg hanging out.  We decided to leave well enough alone and just watch from afar.  Spring is just the absolute best time of year!  There are so many opportunities to experience in the spring.  The Frog family delights us every year!

Under a log

We are doing a little bit of fancy building out in the back yard to convert a bit of space from grass to a food plot.  A few years ago I cut down and old tree that was both ugly and in the way.  I had high hopes of sawing the tree into boards (just to see if I could) and doing something interesting with it.  Three years later, the log is pretty well rotted…and in the way like the tree before it.  I rolled it out of the way so we could work and we found a regular entomological wonderland!

Big black beetle Big black beetle Big black beetle

These two huge beetles dashed around in circles.  I dubbed them vampire beetles because they just wanted out of the sun.  I think they were actually Patent Leather beetles (Odontotaenius disjunctus).  I let them crawl around on my hands and arms a bit, trying to get the kids excited (in a “my dad is so brave and awesome” kinda way).  It didn’t exactly work as I expected but I was delighted that the kids at least wanted to touch the beetles.  I am a country boy trying to raise city kids to not be too much city and a little more country…touching bugs is a good step on the path.  I delivered both beetles to a safe spot nearby…I do not want to harm such cool and beneficial bugs.

Long Brown Centipede

We also noticed a large millipede cruising around quickly once we moved a chunk of bark.  We could not pick him up but he was super cool though a little shy.  He had no interest in posing for a photograph.  I am not sure about exactly what type of centipede he is but I think he is in the genus Cryptops.  I also learned a little something about centipedes versus millipedes.  Millipedes have 2 leg pairs per segment while centipedes have one leg-pair on each segment.  Centipedes have venomous legs while millipedes do not.  Centipedes are fast while millipedes are typically not.  Gosh, there are so many other differences…read some more here.

Girl picking up a worm

Anyhow, I think what made me happiest about this log was the worm family we found there.  Abigail bent right down and grabbed up a worm.  It’s a simple little thing but I love that my darling little daughter will pick up a worm without worrying about it being slimy or wiggly.  She relocated a family of worms the other day while some other little girls looked on in shock.  I have city kids but even in the city, under a log, lies adventure and wonder and just a little bit of country!

Some color in the mountains

I love April.  In fact, yesterday was the perfect date…”April 25th.  Because it’s not too hot, not too cold, all you need is a light jacket.”  That’s from Miss Congeniality…one of the funniest movies ever.  Of course, I would laugh at anything that has Sandra Bullock.  I have a secret crush on her.  Anyhow, the end of April is perfect I think.  Temperatures are nice but really, the colors that pop are what make it especially excellent for me.  I took some pictures that don’t even begin to capture how beautiful and vivid the colors are right now (and especially the last week or so).

Redbud tree in the mountains Redbud tree in the mountains Wild violets

There is such diversity of life here and the mountains, as they green, are just alive with colors.  Dogwoods and redbuds seem to burst out everywhere.  While nondescript during the summer, redbuds and dogwoods are the princes of spring!  Maples come alive first and give the first reddish tint to the mountains but the real power comes later with the purple and white buds that follow.

Spring mountains

I guess the lower humidity and temperature make it so, but even the green backdrop of the leaves and grass are just more vivid than any other time of year too.  I suppose I sort of come alive again after the (for me) depressing winter browns.  I come to really appreciate the color in the mountains every spring and it just wouldn’t feel right without seeing the change and being in the change.  Its in the birds’ songs and the frogs peeps and most definitely in the color of the trees!

Mountain stories

Something occurred to me this weekend.  In a way, I am a story teller, telling the day-to-day nonsense that goes on in our lives here on this blog.  I know that’s pretty much what blogging is all about and it’s pretty cool how I get involved in other people’s lives and how (I suppose) some of you, dear friends, become involved in our lives.  I enjoy telling our stories, for, like sands through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives.

Mountain Stories at the house concert

Some of Lorna Czarnota's books

Anyhow, this realization came to me while at an actual concert put on by a real, professional story teller, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota.  My friend Granny Sue held a house concert where both she and Ms. Czarnota told several diverse stories and sang ballads.  I don’t know if you have ever heard a professional story teller, but if you ever get a chance, go and listen.

Mountain Stories at the house concert
Lorna MacDonald Czarnota

Granny Sue is our neighbor so I knew her house.  She has a fantastic house in the woods surrounded by trees and birds and flowers.  Her home is incredible, filled with antiques and mountain heritage and beautiful glassware and books.  She invited us to walk about her house and drink sassafras tea and enjoy a variety of snacks.  It was a beautiful arrangement and truly an awesome experience.  It’s what story telling was at its beginning…friends and neighbors getting together to tell stories and enjoy each other’s company.

Mountain Stories at the house concert

Abigail and I had a great time and she re-told the stories we heard the whole way home.  I am not sure I am really much of a story teller, but I am delighted that Abigail had so much fun listening and re-telling stories.  I hope she will learn some mountain stories and make up some of her own.  However she wants to communicate, the wonderful imagination that will be fed from these mountains makes me happy!