|By Bob Weaver|
Today we say good-bye to Deward Offutt.
Driving around yesterday, I went down Daniel's Run by his farm, for no good reason
other than to take a few moments to remember him.
Sadly, I thought about a little plan we had some weeks back to take a little road trip
around the county and visit some folks, but he became too ill.
I thought about Deward, the smiler, who could break loose with a grin, ear to ear for the
smallest of reasons.
I thought about Deward, the servant, who showed up and did things, year after year.
I thought about Deward, the politician, who stuck to his guns and took a stand.
I thought about Deward, the family man, who delighted in the accomplishments of his
children and grandchild en.
But mostly I thought about Deward, the farmer, who just a few weeks past was trying
to do his farming duties.
I remembered this small "Ode to Farming," which we now dedicate to Deward ...
SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - "The Last Farmers - A World Close To Home"
By Bob Weaver
"Farming - A kind of continual miracle wrought by the hand of God" - Ben Franklin
The world in Calhoun County was barely more than one could see in the early half of
the 20th century, the distant ridges and dark hollers. Family members marched off to
the wars in great numbers, leaving their beloved farms behind for others to tend.
While transportation rapidly progressed in most of America, after World War II the sight
of a single car moving by my Grandfather John McCoy's house in Hur, aroused
curiosity. There was a rush to the front yard to see who it might be.
My world was the Village of Hur and the McCoy farm, the Hur Church, McCoy's store,
the post office and a dozen or more nearby neighbors, connected by a dusty road and
some wooded paths. Life may have been difficult and laborious, but it was not
complicated. It was connected to the gifts of life, nurtured by that which was grown by
hand and distributed by family and neighbor. People counted because their numbers
Most country roads were still mud, mostly traversing up and down rocky creek bottoms
with few bridges. Antiquated ferries still carried passengers and autos across the
waters of the Little Kanawha until 1960.
Calhouner's were still connected to the earth, its vegetables, fruits and silage, and
animals still grazed on much of the cleared land. It was life on the farm, although some
engaged in oil and gas and a few construction projects, survival work like the WPA and
A silent but powerful change took place in how families lived after World War II. It was
the time of the last farmers, finally giving way to the industrial revolution and labor
beyond the gardens, pastures and meadows.
A parting from the selling of eggs to the A & P Store, the churning of butter, the
smoking of meat and the canning of hundreds of quarts of vegetables. For most, it was
not by choice.
Still, the first summers after World War II were spent planting and hoeing. Long days
under shade trees with baskets and tubs of food to be peeled, cut or diced for canning
jars or pickling crocks. The notion of obtaining the food supply from a supermarket was
slowly catching on, eventually giving way to such dependence.
The agricultural economy, a "hard work" kind of life, still lent itself to some serenity. I
know Grandpa John went to his night pillow with full inventory of his stock. How much
food in the cellar, hams in the smoke house, animals on hoof and hay in the barn. He
knew where he stood.
Today, the inter-dependence on hundreds if not thousands of others control our lives
and daily survival. In New York City during a trucking strike, it was said the city would
be without food in 24-hours.
Yet, in the odyssey year of 2001 it can be said of Sunny Cal, we are barely off the farm,
a short distance from those "primitive times." There are fewer than a dozen folks,
old-timers, who still use the horse and plow, whose sustenance mostly comes from the
sod, a reminder of those simpler times.
And many Calhouners, because they so desire, still raise a garden, have some animals
and cut hay. It is certainly not profitable. It is in their soul to stick to the sod of their
ancestors, and they will really be the last of the farmers, to be remembered.