A Rocky Point mountain (called hills by Calhouners) high above Euclid-Nicut Road (left); a view from the top, lookin' down a pipeline right-of-way
By Bob Weaver
There are hardships living in Calhoun, particularly when the statistics reveal a lack of opportunity that has persisted since the decline of the agricultural economy.
While many rail about those who have turned to the government for assistance, there is a stumbling block with the lack of opportunity.
Even those low income jobs that once sustained the work-brittle have been globalized, virtually all the near minimum wage plants in the region have gone abroad.
National statistics reveal it is among the poorest areas in America. About 30% of the children are living in poverty, with the county school system struggling economically and to meet achievement standards, not unlike many WV counties.
It's depressing, added is the average income is near the bottom among counties in the USA.
The recession took a further toll on the already depressed county, whose virtue is having some of the lowest taxes on the eastern seaboard and neighbors who lend a helping hand when the chips are down.
Many Calhoun citizens say the national recession was little felt here, most people having long adopted their survival skills.
The taxes are among the lowest in the USA, except many locals think they are "sky-high." The county does not provide the plethora of services many are use to in more urban areas.
Friends living in faraway urban meccas sometimes ask, "Why would you want to live there?"
It can be a place of silence and peace, if one detaches from the media hubris. The crime rate is low.
On September 11, 2001, that tragic day, a New York executive in a windowed skyscraper not far from the collapsing towers, e-mailed the Herald some photos of the disaster he shot from his office. He simply wrote, "I thought you might want to see this."
A top of the mountain view of Crooked Run
A few days later, I wrote back to inquire why he sent the photos, and furthermore, why he would he even be reading the Herald.
He replied, saying he found the site by happenstance, and every morning he clicks-on to see what's happening in Sunny Cal.
"With my life-style here, and few hours to relax between work, I dream of a quieter place," he said.
"I look at the photos and read the stories about life in that slow-lane, a county without a stoplight, and imagine how much I would like to live there, particularly now (9-11). I've read it (Herald) so often, I even know your cast of characters."
Now, after several years of listening to folks and their hardships, I am reminding myself of what this place means to me, even though I've written about it many times.
Old McCune homestead on Crooked Run, Norville and
Bruce are both now gone (left) A dog tombstone
buried back on mountain
Having returned to my home place in 1995, I feel close to the land and its' people who passed my way during my youth. Some of their descendants remain.
Surely it is in the wilderness woods, a county about 90% forested, that stalwart folks work to live with strong survival skills and a "make-do" attitude of gratitude.
Flying above the county, about all you'll see is woods.
It's quiet, very quiet, and without a lot of lights like in most states, it is one of the best places in the USA to see the universal sky, and draws amateur astronomers for a brightened, clear view
There is little violent crime.
There are no traffic jams, the county doesn't have a single stoplight.
For the most part, it is a safe haven compared to the masses who have gone to the metro areas, Calhoun is a place far from the maddening crowd, with crooked roads leading to it.
It's a pretty great spot away from natural disasters, no hurricanes, very rare tornadoes, not on any earthquake fault, and when it floods, we have time to get out of the valleys.
When people have problems and their chips are down, people help their neighbors.
We revel that when you have a flat tire or your car quits running, people always stop to help, even people who might not like you.
People still stop in the middle of the road to talk to each other.
Henry David Thoreau wrote of his two-year experiment with living in a woodland cabin, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
The sun sets over Calhoun landscape
Standing on a high mountain over Euclid-Nicut Road, not far from the Bear Fork wilderness, I recalled the first published edition of the Herald in 1996:
"Those of us with roots in its clay hold cautiously to this place like some cling to diamonds and pearls. There are powerful memories of a time when people were full of gratitude for even the smallest of things, life was hard but simple and most every neighbor was treasured."
"Our families thrust themselves deep into these steep mountains and craggy hollows to learn the toil of the soil, breathing sustenance and survival."
"Then there is the spiritual connection with the earth and creation - a seldom interrupted peace, safe and free."
"Full of spirit, character and flaw, rising up and falling down, their lives are a special gift to us."
"... Maybe we will touch the spirit of one of you as we launch into the new millennium, a shadowy image in a troublesome and distant world."