Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Loving West Virginia

For the past several years, I have been sharing my West Virginia stories in “Two-Lane Livin’” magazine. Most of my stories have been about interesting places to see or exciting things to do in our state (with a few historical stories thrown in for good measure). Some of you might have wondered where I got my interest in traveling around West Virginia.

I come from a long family line of West Virginians. I’m proud to have a few ancestors who joined newly formed West Virginia volunteer units of the Union Army during the Civil War. In a sense, they were helping to fight for our independence from Virginia (because if the Confederacy had won the Civil War, there is no doubt that the fledgling new state of West Virginia would have been reabsorbed into the Old Dominion). Even with the South’s defeat, the Virginia government still challenged the legality of our statehood (as well as questioning some of the counties that were included within our borders) in a case they brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. Fortunately, in that case of Virginia v. West Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled against Virginia.

Most of my ancestors settled along the Ohio River, from Pleasants County to Mason County. Although my father’s family moved to Akron to work in the defense factories during World War II (my grandmother was a “Rosie the Riveter” building Corsair fighter planes), they moved back home to West Virginia after the war. I’m very thankful they did, so that my parents could eventually meet and I could grow up as a West Virginian.

My family was always interested in and proud of our state. North Bend was our nearest state park, and it served as a frequent destination for family picnics and other activities. Over time, I came to know the place quite well. [Not surprisingly, North Bend State Park was the subject of my very first column in “Two-Lane Livin’” magazine.]

Later in my childhood, my family acquired a small camping trailer, and spent many weekends over the years exploring other state parks and attractions around West Virginia. I have many fond memories of those visits to other parts of our beautiful state. My memories are not just of the state parks themselves, but also of the small towns and rural scenes we would pass by as we traversed the two-lane highways to get to our destination. These trips gave me a good sense of our state.

The enjoyment I got as a youngster exploring my native state never has left me. It is my state, and it always will be my state. I’m grateful that my parents passed along their love of West Virginia to me. I trust that I have helped to instill that same home state pride in my daughter (and perhaps even with some of my readers). I hope that many of you reading this story will cultivate a love for West Virginia with anyone you might influence. Indeed, West Virginia is a state worth loving.

Fireworks over the West Virginia State Capitol during the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 2013 (taken from the riverbank at my beloved alma mater, the University of Charleston).
[This story appears in the June 2015 issue of "Two-Lane Livin'" magazine.]

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