Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Volcano Days

The days have gone by so fast, I almost forgot to write about the Volcano Days Festival in Wood County, WV. The festival celebrates the oil boom town of Volcano, named for the geyser-like oil wells discovered there. There is a rich history of drilling in this state, and in recent months the activity has picked up once again as gas wells are being drilled all over the western side of the state. We traveled the back way, driving from the Molasses Festival in Arnoldsburg through Calhoun and Ritchie County to the back side of Wood County. On Rte 16, the sign on this house didn't seem like a good omen for the trip--I wonder what happened here to prompt the sign? The house looked deserted, although the grass had been mowed. Weird.

Still on Rte 16, we spied this swinging bridge. My patient husband turned around so I could take a picture of it. Turns out there were quite a few of them along this road, but I liked the sign on top of this one. (Click on the photos and they should become full-screen).

Little green car (registering 209,000 miles on this day)and patient husband, waiting for me to take my pictures. Not much traffic.

We turned off the paved road to take the back way to the festival, passing this abandoned house. What a shame that such a beauty is being left to ruin. There were many outbuildings around the house, signs of a prosperous farm at one time. The straight roofline means the house isn't doomed yet, but someone better do something for it soon or it will be lost. Probably tied up in heirship, and probably a relic of the boom days in the area. (The camera was crooked, not the house!)
We finally made it to the festival after a couple of hours traveling some of the most beautiful country imaginable. Men and their toys filled the grounds, old engines chugged, puffed and smoked all over the place. It was a wonderful sight!
A working oil well, brought to the festival on the back of a flatbed truck. I remember many of them still in operation when I moved to West Virginia in the 70's but these old wells are gone now.

Inner workings of the well. The craftsmanship in these wooden wells is astonishing.

Inside the visitor's center, I happened on these fellows talking about the glory days of drilling in West Virginia. I listened, fascinated to find that there is another aspect of this state I have yet to learn about--oil and gas drilling history.

Brownie Amick (left) and James Richards agreed to let me take their picture in front of the working model of an oil well, built by Brownie. Although he never worked in the oil fields himself, he's become an expert on their history because his wife's father worked in the fields for years. I realized that I was in the presence of history, and that someone better capture what these two know before it's lost. Mr. Richards worked many years in the oilfields, and could tell many a tale. They both told stories of drilling outfits that would get New York investors to back them and come to West Virginia to drill. But what they would do was set up the rigs, bore a small hole, pull up, and move on without actually drilling a well. The outfits collected from the New Yorkers who were none the wiser, and the poor landowners were left with shallow holes and no royalties.
Gas engines of all kinds were on display. Larry drooled over this old-timer, while I liked the juxtaposition of old and new (and I'm not talking about Larry!) in the photo.

Finally, on the way home, the sky gives us one more treat to enjoy. I snapped this through the windshield, which produced some interesting effects.
Volcano Days are held at Mountwood Park in Wood County, WV the last weekend of September. There were lots of things to do: a Civil-War era encampment, live music, flea market, local history books for sale, a "madam" running about propositioning the men, exhibits of all kinds, and many old-timers willing to share their history with a willing listener. Add a beautiful setting and good food, and the festival becomes a must-do for next year.

1 comment:

Mike said...

You know, Santa Clause ought to bring that ol' red car to Larry this year for being so patient with you. You fellers of the female persuasion can really be a test at times, you know.

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