The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Outdoors

June 17, 2012

‘Adventure days’ provide memories

BECKLEY — When I was a child, my family would take Sunday drives. Dad called them “adventure days.” I was never informed prior to the excursion where we were going or why; I was simply a backseat passenger along for the ride and the sounds and smells open-window drives provided.  

The smell of a freshly cut hayfield, creosote-soaked railroad ties alongside a track or the coolness of a river as its water snaked through a water-willow shoal were often brought to my senses as the car’s tires crunched the gravel on some backcountry West Virginia road. It was on just a road my life would change forever.

Dad pulled the car under the shade of an enormous poplar tree that stood just off the road. My brother and I perked up and looked out the window toward the river — neither one of us had the nerve to ask why we were stopping. Under the canopy of the ancient tree stood a shack of a house with brush and junk leaning against its tired board-and-batten siding and barely visible from the road was a sun-bleached sign that read, “For Sale.”  

The property’s backyard was steep banks that lead to a sandy river bank that had a river birch arching over the water. In the tree was a rusty light fixture with a bullet hole in the shade and the bulb was broken. The family watched as Dad walked the property studying every corner in great detail and not saying a word we could understand. All we heard were mumbles and grunts as his eyes fell on something he found unsightly or displeasing. After a thorough inspection, he whistled for us boys and we ran to the car in high anticipation. All he said as he pressed the accelerator and turned the wheel onto the gravel road was, “We’ll buy it if the price is right.”

We spent every weekend for the next two summers hauling rusty trash and cutting sticky briars off the property. Everything we touched in the old house either needed repaired or destroyed depending on who was in charge of the particular project. My brother was a rip-it-out-and-start-a-fire kind of worker while Dad and I were more into saving things that gave the camp house character. After we would complete our portion of the “project list,” Dad would turn us loose to fish the riffled waters of the shoal upstream while he continued on his last project, which was generally to create another to-do list for his boys.

The camp eventually was livable, at least for long weekends, and we spent most of our family’s free time there. It’s where I first learned how to paddle a canoe, where I caught my first trophy smallmouth bass, learned how to fry frog legs, roast a pig in the ground, how to shoot passing ducks and, most importantly, my love for water and porch swings.

As life passed by, so have the camp and my father. I no longer have the joys in my life of his laughter or the smell of Elk River from its screened-in porch.  

This past week, my son and I took two days to tear down an old building at a river camp I just purchased. In all the sweat and spiders, I paused to hope he too someday will think of the camp and his father on Father’s Day and recall the sounds of moving waters and hear his father’s laughter in them.

1
Text Only
Outdoors
  • Some books for the rest of summer

    Stretching out in a hammock with a good book is a great way to relax on a warm summer afternoon. Here are a few titles that have recently caught my eye.

    July 27, 2014

  • Creating a week to remember

    After my traveling shoes were placed neatly beside the door, it was time to spend some much needed time around home.

    July 27, 2014

  • There are some changes on the way

    Hunters who have found themselves driving out of their way to check in a deer, turkey, or bear will no longer have to waste the time or gas starting in 2015. 

    July 27, 2014

  • The cure for the summertime blues: Go camping

    In case you haven’t noticed we are looking right down the gun barrel at winding down on another summer.

    July 26, 2014

  • 071714 Coda and Callie.jpg Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

    How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs. 

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 071314 Chris Ellis.jpg DNR’s ‘outdoor summer school’

    Attention all West Virginia hunters and trappers. It is once again time for outdoor summer school and the course materials are hot off the presses.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Meet the Eurasian collared-dove

    Back in 1974 a local pigeon fancier imported a flock of about 50 Eurasian collared-doves to the Bahamas. Ultimately he released the birds, and they took to living in the West Indies. By the late 1970s some had reached south Florida, and by the late 1980s, some had been seen in Georgia and Arkansas.

    July 13, 2014

  • July in W.Va.: Recreational opportunities abound

    It’s July in the West Virginia mountains, which brings vibrant orange tiger lilies, blooming rhododendron, and of course fireworks. Usually the heat and humidity is in full force, but so far the weather has been nice.

    July 13, 2014

  • Shotgun 101: Shoot more and live better

    “God is not on the side of big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.”
    — Voltaire

    July 9, 2014

  • Fireflies are living lights

    At recent Fourth of July fireworks displays, spectators squealed with delight at the annual spectacle that illuminated the night sky. And I’m sure more than a few compared the spectacular pyrotechnics to the subtler displays of fireflies that punctuate backyards, parks, and campgrounds all summer long. We call these displays “nature’s fireworks.”

    July 5, 2014

Web Special Sections
  • Special Web Sections

    Click HERE for stories about natural gas and Marcellus shale gas extraction.

    Click HERE for stories about the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

    Click HERE for stories about the passing of U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

    Click HERE for stories from The Greenbrier Classic PGA TOUR event.

    August 6, 2010

Helium debate
Helium
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage