Sunday, April 14, 2013

Singing, Telling and Gathering in the Mountains

 The weather was perfect. The place was exactly right. The people were fine. The singing was superb. In other words, the weekend was about as excellent as I could have possibly imagined it to be.

We left early Friday afternoon after I finally finished up and e-filed our taxes. I was determined to not come back to that task waiting for me! We packed quickly and headed once more across West Virginia, our destination this time the gorgeous and homey Brazen Head Irish Pub and Inn in the mountains of Randolph county. Of course, I could not make the trip without stopping at a junk shop along the way, and so this rode with us into the mountains:

I wasn't sure what to expect of this trip. I had heard from a friend that a group of folksingers from the Washington DC area gathered each spring at the inn to sing for a whole weekend. I thought it sounded like heaven, but each year it seemed we had a conflict and could not attend. This year, however, the stars combined to make it possible and I grabbed the opportunity even though it meant yet another long trip this week. Our friend Jeff met us when we arrived and we quickly met several other attendees. Then we settled in for an evening of music.

And such music it was! Songs from the Civil War, silly children's songs, plaintive love ballads, country songs, parodies, and more. Everyone sang, and everyone sang along with everyone else. This group could pick up a melody and chorus faster than ice melting in boiling water! I loved every minute. I had to laugh when someone sang the country song "Crystal Chandelier"--little did they know there was an actual chandelier right outside in the parking lot! I gave up and went to bed around 1:00 am, and regretted it as soon as I was under the covers because I could hear the most amazing yodeling downstairs. Too tired to dress again and go back down, I laid there and listened, and finally drifted off.

Morning brought more singing for me, and ramp digging for Larry.You might remember my discussion of ramps in these posts.
Larry is like a kid at Christmas when ramp season arrives, and can't wait to get into the woods to find them. He returned with a huge bag full, which he shared with anyone brave enough to take them. We still brought back plenty for our own use.

I heard stories, too--the story of a mother who witnessed her son being taken to jail during the Occupy movement, the story of a tragic death, stories of World War II from a Jewish man who had been a child in London at the time of the war, stories behind songs and about singers. I believe that in order to be a good storyteller, I must first be a good listener, and I will remember the faces and the voices telling me stories I will not forget.

That evening was, guess what? More singing! I heard so many songs that I have never heard before, sung by  people who all shared a love for the old songs. I was invited to tell a ghost story, so I  told the story of Eaton's tunnel and then the one about Ikie's tomb. I went to bed filled with music and voices.

We woke this morning to a heavy frost coating the ground and the smell of sausage, coffee and blueberry pancakes wafting up from the kitchen. Will Fanning was the chef for the weekend--he is also the owner of the Brazen Head  and along with his wife Jill ensured we had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, and kept things running smoothly for us all weekend.

Our return trip included two more pleasures: the first was a visit I have been wanting to make for two years. We had stopped once at a fascinating country store called Sharp's Country Store, not far from the inn. During that visit the owner, Tom Shipley, told us some of his family's story, and also told me a strange tale about the death of a young woman in the family. The story remained with me, and I wanted to go back and hear more. Larry stopped the day before to see if Tom would have time for a visit, and was assured that we'd be more than welcome. So we once again stopped to see Tom, and he told me the story with more detail about the people involved that included a lot of his family history.

The tale also included a gravestone, and Tom asked, "Would you like to see it?" You know I did! So we all hopped into my little Buick and headed up a steep mountain road to the cemetery, which was located on the very top of the mountain.

We learned that his family owns about 1400 acres there, land that has been passed down from generation to generation. Tom is working hard to preserve that family history and the heritage he values.

When we came down from the mountain I realized what a gift I had been given--not just the story, but Tom's willingness to share his family with us. Such generosity is rare, and I treasure it.

I jotted notes quickly in my journal as we continued our way home across WV 150, otherwise known as the Scenic Highway. Remains of winter's snow still filled the ditches along the road that travels through the high country and offers breathtaking views of the valleys below.

When we eventually reached the highway, it was not long before we also reached one of my favorite places, a small picnic ground in this national forest area along the banks of the Cherry River. We had the place to ourselves; the park service had not yet officially opened it and the debris of winter's fallen limbs and trees still littered the place, but that was no problem for us.
We made quick sandwiches at a table beside the river, and speculated about the large cave-like opening in the hillside on the opposite side of the river. Was it a bear's den? I do believe it was, but did not take the footbridge across for a closer look!

And then, finally, we were home once again, greeted by happy pets, nodding flowers and the comfort of familiar things. We have rested this evening, but tomorrow we will begin getting ready for our visitors who will arrive on Friday, for next weekend's performance at the Parkersburg Celtic Festival with my friend, storyteller Lorna Czarnota, and for the house concert for her that we are giving here next Sunday. Life is never dull, and I am glad of it.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Joy@aVintageGreen said...

How lovely Suzanne, every word a treat. Memories and history.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

I remember visiting Sharp's Country Store a couple of years ago, but they were closed when we came by. I got some photos, however, and remembered the 1941 Bantam car, which then had an over-size wind-up key stuck on the back.

writingdianet said...

Indeed it does sound like heaven, Granny Sue! You and Larry are living the dream:)

Sue said...

Sounds like a really enjoyable trip.


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