Columns/Opinion, John Samsell

Country changes for the good and bad

As I look across this great state of ours I don’t see what our mountains once contained but a beginning for those following our footsteps. Yet, I do see where hard work, especially in springtime, will make more changes to our hillsides.

A peek at pictures of days long past show how much of the land has been remolded from farmland to newer roadways which make it easier to traverse the land.  And then I think about what went into those developments.

My parents were determined to have a farm with and without animals. We did the hard work of clearing land that was mostly briers and sassafras. Talk about crude methods, we improvised a garden tiller with a crosscut blade in front. While one person would bunch the briers together, another would cut them with the blade. Using that method and others, we cleared lots of land so cattle could roam there.

As for a hilltop project, the entire family would pick up rocks and haul them in a old Ford pickup that still had a great uncle’s painting ad on the side. The truck was so old it puffed exhaust into the front seat. And, one time during a run to the rock pile, the truck’s battery fell out.

The land once had a one-room school on it. We found that out later when looking at maps of the land. The building was removed and rebuilt along upper Summers School Road.

My great uncle was into fox hunting way back in the early 1900s. In the cabin one the land he left a few trophies he had won in fox hunting. He also left  a pot-bellied stove that we used in the winter that only heated half the room, though it became red hot.

He also left an array of recordings from the 1920s and 1930s. That’s how we learned the words to “Old Horse Fly” and “Overalls In Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder.” There was my favorite, Gene Austin’s “A Cottage For Sale.”

A wind storm in the 1950s blew the porch roof off the cabin which eventually was torn down. Brothers and sisters have since built homes on the land, which has several large rocks that we have names for, such as Bear Rock and Highway Rock. The latter may indicate that the old east-west highway went near there, eventually to Rock Forge. Masontown is only four miles from the farm.

One major change in the Morgantown area is shown through pictures of farmland on the west side of the Monongahela River. It shows a small, covered bridge crossing Deckers Creek, the first bridge in that area.

Most of the land was used to build the Dupont plant in the early 1940s  for World War II munitions production. Morgantown Industrial Park is there today.

The river once had more dams, where there are only four now. I was able to photograph the blowing up of one of the old dams. We photographers had to park at Uffington and walk on the railroad track to a spot where a guy was posted to keep people from going closer to the dam.

Part of that track went across the foot of a stream, and while crossing it later reminded me of the kids in the movie “Stand By Me,” although they had a longer bridge to cross. We had just obtained a

Nikon camera with electric back, and I was able to photograph a series of dam explosion pictures.

Some of the changes in our countryside have been made by weather and ground movement, some good, some bad.