I returned in early October from a bicycling sojourn to visit an acquaintance near Keyser on the border of Western MD and West VA E.H. lives in a little hollow on the South Branch of the Potomac where the Western MD Railway used to run. On Thursday night my wife dropped me off and I cycled an hour from McKeesport on the Allegheny Passage, arriving at a campsite at Dravo’s Landing in the dark. I traveled sixty miles on Friday and camped at the Army Corp of Engineers Campground at Confluence. On Saturday I cycled the final portion about seventy miles across the Eastern Continental Divide through Big Savage Tunnel on to Frostburg, MD. There I left the trail and cycled the last twenty five miles across wonderfully rolling terrain on Route 36 to Westernport, intended as the final stop of the C&O Canal.
Heavy Dew Friday Morning at Dravo’s Landing
Intersection of 68 and 36 at Frostburg
I met E.H. at the Chat ‘N Chew restaurant, and then went to his place. The house began as a log cabin built by his wife’s parents in the 1920s on several acres of prime bottom land. When he and Joanie married, E.H. built a spacious addition off the original house. It consists of a high-ceilinged living room, dining room and upstairs loft with two bedrooms and a bath.
E.H. and Belly Button the Dog at High Rock
I interviewed E.H. during my visit as part of expanding my project on work and identity to collect stories from residents of Appalachia. He was born in 1940 and started working for his father at fourteen logging softwoods (such as pine and poplar) from the mountains of W. Va. for the nearby paper mill and hardwoods (such as oak, ash and chestnut, before the blight) for furniture. They began cutting about five-thirty in the morning and worked until it was too dark to see. E.H. said, ‘My father was more like a best friend to me than a father. I did the same work as him and got paid just like him." E.H.’s father was born in 1900 and began working in the coal mines at age eighteen, crawling on his hands and knees and digging coal from the face with pick and shovel in a space eighteen inches high. E.H. told me his father worked into his early twenties before he got arthritis and had to stop. He then began logging near where he grew up on Mount Storm in West Virginia. He also worked for the state helping to maintain roads during the Roosevelt administration, mined briefly again during WW II, and then took up logging again until he died in his eighties.