|By James C. Haught|
I have had a vacation on every continent except Antarctica. But I believe my favorite vacation was on the West Fork of the Little Kanawha River. In my early life (1930-1950) we did not take vacations. World War II was over and it was a happy time in America. I was thirteen years old.
Dad had previously secured a camp site from Harley Mace. It was located about a mile up Route 16 between the Jerry Hole and the Mace Hole. We were planning to camp and fish. My Dad had purchased from Army surplus an 8 X 10 wall tent and a rubber raft.
I prepared the camp site. I removed all the brush from the camp site. Next I collected enough fire wood for a week. We pitched our tent on a flat spot above the creek. Dad had gotten a load of hay from my grandfather, James Hoskins. Going down to the camp site I found an old cook stove someone had thrown over the hill. I removed the top; dug a hole in the bank and placed the stove top there. We had a cooking surface that was about knee high.
Mom cooked our supper that evening. It was composed of ham, green beans and fried potatoes. While she got supper ready Dad, my younger brother and I set a trot line. Since the trot line was 300 feet long we zig-zagged it across the creek. We had place hooks about every two feet. We baited the hooks with minnows, worms and dough balls. After dinner I said. "This is going to be the last home cooked meal we going to have."
Later that evening, before dark, we ran our trot line. We had caught a couple of cat fish. But then just after dark, there occurred a problem in paradise. The gnats were so thick they would panic wild animals. They bit and got into every ones eyes. Even when we got in the tent they were still a general nuisance. Finally Dad burned a rage to produce smoke. We were all afraid he would set the hay on fire but he didn't. I got a good nights sleep. Mom and Dad did not.
The next morning we had a breakfast of bacon and eggs. After breakfast we got in the raft and paddled up the Mace Hole. We fished our way back down. Mom caught three nice bass on minnows. Dad cast for muskies but did not catch anything, neither did my brother or me.
After lunch we went fishing again but had no luck. Dad caught a sucker but threw it back. We ate the three bass for supper. The moment it got dark the gnats were back again. Everyone was miserable until Dad lite another gnat smoke.
Tuesday was pretty much the same thing. We caught fish and ate them. After dinner Mom and Dad drove over to my Grandparents home on Spring Run. They never came back. But they sent my Uncle Clay Moneypenny and his son, Bob. After breakfast we paddled up the Mace Hole again.
We didn't catch any fish and there were none on the trot line. But there were a lot of bull frogs along the banks. Although it was against the law I got my 22 rifle and we went back. Bob and I shot eight frogs. We ate them for dinner.
The next morning my Uncle Clay and Bob went home. But my Uncle Buster Hoskins replaced them. Early the next morning before day light we crossed the creek and went up on the hill. Since we had my 22 rifle with us we shot three squirrels. They made an excellent dinner that evening.
During the afternoon we went down to a riffle where there were lots of weeds growing in the edge of the creek. We had sowed two seines together (illegal) and seined the weed beds. We caught several nice sunfish and rock bass. We cleaned them and had them for dinner and breakfast.
When dinner was over on Thursday evening and we had cleaned up our pots, pans and dishes from supper, Clark Stalnaker stopped by. About 9:00 P.M. we drove down to the "Y" where Buster and Clark drank beer. I drank grape pop. After a short while two women came in. They sat down at our table. Finally one of the women suggested that they go to another beer joint at Stinson. Going back up the West Fork they happily let me out at the camp.
After a good night's sleep and breakfast I got a visitor. His last name was Marshall and he was a game warden. He asked who I was and what was I doing here all alone. I gave him my name and told him I was Horace Haught's son. He knew my Dad. He ask if I had caught anything. I told him about the fish we had caught and that we had eaten them. I didn't tell him about the squirrels or the frogs. I also told him that my parents would be there shortly but he didn't wait.
Just before lunch my parents arrived. Mom was mad that my uncle had left me alone the night before but I told her everything was fine. We took down the tent, and removed our trot line from the creek. We had caught some fish and a turtle. We kept the fish but let the turtle go. We let the air out of the boat and loaded the car.
We drove down to Arnoldsburg and ate lunch at Eula Altizer's restaurant. Eula was an excellent cook but her hamburgers didn't compare with the fish, squirrel or frogs.
That was the first and last vacation I ever took with my parents. I consider it the greatest adventure I ever had. One does not have to travel the world over to have a great adventure, often they are right next door. Each time I drive south on Route 16 and pass that camp site a great flood of memories nearly overcomes me.
James C. Haught