Of Men And A Mighty Mountain – Readings At The Opera House Celebrate Logging History
Marlinton, WV – A special presentation will be held at the Pocahontas Opera House on the evening of Thursday, October 6th. Pocahontas County HS students will read excerpts from W.E. Blackhurst’s “Of Men And A Mighty Mountain.” Blackhurst, a Pocahontas native, is well known for his books about logging culture in eastern West Virginia. It’s one of the many events occurring in conjunction with the Smithsonian exhibit, “The Way We Worked” at the municipal building in Marlinton.
Emily Newton and Roxy Todd, Americorps Vista volunteers working on the 219 Writers’ Project, have worked with the kids to choose and prepare their readings. The 219 Writers’ Project has as its mission traveling and collecting oral histories along the historic road to create an online and print guide of the Allegheny Mountains. Newton explains why this is so important.
“A very important part of this project is making the history and the stories of the highway accessible to everyone in our community,” says Newton, “including those students at the high school. So about a month ago, I started meeting with a group of high school students and we chose to do an interpretation of the Blackhurst book, Of Men And A Mighty Mountain.”
“They’ve worked very hard on this and now, this coming Thursday will be performing their theater piece as a part of the Smithsonian Exhibit.”
Nicholas Solliday portrays The Timekeeper.
(music) “Yes there was always drama, there was laughter, sweat and blood,” he says. “My second wife has died and I am left chiefly with my memories. Many people come to me now; they want information of the rousing days, of great timbering activities. They ask about the trains, the camps, and the men; I answer as best as I can, but my only source of information is my memory like the human race is prone to do.”
“I failed to keep records of the past, I never thought of history as being made around me. I wish I’d kept records, I wish I’d written many things down.”
Newton says it was another logger who gave Rebekah Anderson the inspiration for her reading.
“The high school students interviewed Earl Burks, lifetime logger,” she says, “and one of the stories he shared with us was one of the loggers who he worked with, every time it was time for breakfast, and they would put out the eggs, everyone would come up and get their serving of eggs and sit down. This one particular friend of his would come up, grab the whole tray of eggs and take it back to his seat. That reminded us of this one section that Rebekah reads for her monologue.”
Here’s Rebekah Anderson as the Cook.
“I always got up about four o’clock or sooner and 3 or 4 cookies helped me start breakfast,” reads Anderson. “We cook about 15 gallons of oatmeal, cut up about 500 biscuits; then we make about 20 gallons of coffee.”
“When the biscuits was in the oven and everything else near ready, we start fryin’ eggs, about 300 will be enough. Mostly our men was well pleased with their meals, and they’d say Francine Rocks is the best cook on the mountain.”
Once again, here’s Emily Newton, with all the details.
“It is Thursday night at 7 o’clock at the Pocahontas County Opera House,” she says. “The entire evening is free; the theatrical interpretations from the book accompanied by live music with Caleb Diller and David Kershner. And a warm, true wood hick meal of beans and cornbread, all for free.”
Thanks to Roxy Todd for providing the audio of the kids and Emily for this story.