Retired, Once Again

Kat got the news from Amazon: an invitation to start work seven weeks early. That’s good news because Amazon won’t work you off the clock, they pay much better and we get two or three blissful days off-work each week. Rain continues to fall in Elkins, and on too many nights we have had to collect over-loaded garbage bags in a drizzle, lest the ‘possums and ‘coons get there first. We haven’t had a full day off in two months, and we are tired.

Our Front Yard with a Storm Movin' In
Our Front Yard with a Storm Movin’ In

I have enjoyed working most of these two months. It feels good to have some structure, to do useful work, and to get a paycheck once again. People have an emotional need for work. Work fills up most of our waking hours leaving us less time to focus on our trials and tribulations. Sometimes it is unpleasant, but if it were always fun, they wouldn’t call it work.


Local Talent:  Stuart's Fashion Plates
Local Talent: Stuart’s Fashion Plates

We’ll miss some of our clients more than others. We’ll miss Mary Maytag, who runs the laundromat with her husband, whom I call Richard Kimble. (He’s not The Fugitive, he’s the one-armed man with no name. He has both arms, but one was in a sling most of our time here.) We’ll miss Mr. Jimmy, who like me used to be in the home-building business and would love to get back. We’ll miss our hiking guide/diamond miner/paleontologist Richard. Then there’s our pal Mustang Charlie, a local dishwasher who sprung $35 for a season pass to park after work beside the river and down sixers of Bud Platinum.   We won’t forget Purple Heart and Tunnel Mountain, dog walkers who usually stroll together and give us the weather forecast (there’s no radio, tv, or internet in our campground). The former is a Viet Nam vet, the latter a retired Bed & Breakfast operator.


Our Dog Walkers
Our Dog Walkers

We’ve learned things about camp hosting. It may be less stressful to host a campground than a day use area; collection of the fees is easy when they’ve driven in stakes.   Neither is an easy job. You really need to embrace the attitude of “Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care”. Otherwise, plan to go crazy if you are at all driven or competitive. Those camp hosts who last a decade or more learn to roll with the punches and never take the job or themselves seriously. That could have been our problem. But don’t let me discourage you. Ours was one campground out of tens of thousands in this fine country. That’s too small a sample to draw any conclusions.


Uh-oh.  Kat's busted!
Uh-oh. Kat’s busted!

On we roll on our 500 mile trek to central Kentucky. Along the way we will try to park in a few Corps of Engineers campgrounds with full hookups. Each will honor our America the Beautiful pass and its 50% discount. Soon we will commence another late summer and all of autumn in our adopted home town, Campbellsville, KY.


As for Elkins, hey, we’ll always have cachapas.

Beef Cachapas Plate

A Rock-Climber’s Rescue

The previous post described our visit to the Eastern rock-climbing Mecca known as Seneca Rocks. Our tour guide, Richard from Pittsburgh, told us a tale too long for the previous post. His story – and this one – entwines Seneca Rocks, religious sects, and human frailty.


That's What They Climb
That’s What They Climb

The park rangers assigned to Seneca Rocks are too few to handle a serious injury rescue. They rely on the townsfolk, many of whom grew up scaling those cliffs. Most of the townsmen are Mennonites, or Anabaptists, an early branch off from Catholicism.   They believe that effective baptism must be voluntary on the part of the recipient, and since newborns lack free will, true acceptance of the faith can only happen many years later. They broke off from The Church within a decade or two of Martin Luther, maybe before, perhaps after. On those dates The Chronicles are vague.  Modern Mennonites are serious as cancer about sin, the Bible, and the role of God in everyday life. The Amish eventually split off from the Mennonites to form an even sterner religion. Um-hmmh.


What That Fool Doin' Now?  (Looking for gold.)
What That Fool Doin’ Now? (Looking for gold.)

According to Richard, early one summer evening a fellow climbing alone broke his leg on a highly technical (a serious mistake can be fatal) descent. Word went out and the climbing community marshaled their resources. Nearly a hundred sturdy fellows with ropes, rock anchors, carabiners, and years of experience on the Rock appeared in less than an hour. They formed a human ant line at solid footholds along the way to the injured climber. Their plan was to pass up a stretcher, strap the broken man to it, and pass him down from one secure station to another. This they had done a few times before.


A Dangerous Pursuit
A Dangerous Pursuit

In time the point man of this rescue brigade reached the climber needing help. It’s very quiet at night along the Seneca Rocks, and sound carries much further than usual. A voice high up the Rocks called down “He’s not hurt! just missed his rappel exit point. He fears looking for it in the dark. What should I do?”


This Is What He Wanted
This Is What He Wanted

The rescue leader, a young Mennonite preacher, called back: “The wages of sin is Death. Abandon him!”


In Richard’s version the pastor’s response was much shorter: He thundered just one enraged monosyllabic verb preceding ‘him’. I never lie to you my readers. I cannot believe a man of the cloth would use, let alone shout such an oath. At least not in the presence of so many of his flock.


The rescuers went home. The climber spent a sleepless night on the Rock and found his exit point at first light, then slunk back into camp before noon. He quit rock-climbing and took up sky-diving. Jumping out of planes just seemed more forgiving.


Seneca Rocks

Perhaps 35 miles east of Elkins stands an unusual rock formation bearing our title’s name.   It’s thought to be 440 million years old and survives today due to its composition, mostly quartzite, a super-hard form of sandstone that in a former life was the beach of an ancient ocean. Tectonic shift pushed the young quartz up as continental drift forced rock into rock, leaving The Rocks at a 90 degree angle from their old beach home. Today’s rock climbers come from far and wide to scale Seneca, and the Army used the area as a training ground for mountain troops in World War II.   Climbing equipment is much improved since the 1940’s when the soldiers’ lifelines were fiber ropes, they wore combat boots, and everybody hammered pitons into the rock face. Now they use removable clamps that expand in rock cracks and crevasses, the ropes are nylon or better, and American ingenuity has designed $200 shoes whose sole purpose is rock climbing. The technique hasn’t changed so much: be strong, be light, and use the ropes and rock anchors wisely so you don’t fall.


How It's Done
How It’s Done

We have run out of things to do in Elkins so we took a day trip with our tour guide, Richard.   Richard is a Pittsburgher, but he’s put down Elkins roots for thirty or forty years. He remembers the great flood of ’85, works trails as a volunteer, has been a presenter of interpretive programs for the Forest Service, and a while back had a real job working in public health. He’s on Social Security now, and pretty much walks everywhere, except today, when he rode with us to The Rocks.


Diamond Prospector Richard
Diamond Prospector Richard

Along the way Kat asked Richard about the mysterious blue roadside flowers. He knew them well: chicory. That’s the same plant whose roasted roots go into the CDM branded coffee poured at Café du Monde in New Orleans. Chicory became popular in New Orleans early in the Civil War when the Union blockade cut off supplies of real coffee; they blended chicory in with their remaining inventory of coffee beans. Before long the locals came to prefer coffee with chicory. It is an acquired taste.


Chicory and Daisies
Chicory and Daisies

We had a fine sack lunch of tuna sammidges and Doritos on the banks of a fork of the Potomac River whose waters are still two to three weeks from D.C. Richard on occasion prospects for precious and semi-precious gems, as well as gold. Today he was rooting around the beach for interesting stuff, but found only some nice quartz imbedded in another stone. Earlier he had climbed a little way up the trail to gather a soil sample for an old friend who for too many years has been searching for the next Murfreesboro, Arkansas diamond mine. That friend is 80 but still looking for his lucky strike.


Catch n Release on the Potomac
Catch n Release at our Lunchroom on the Potomac
ZZ Top Grew That Beard in 8 Years
ZZ Top Grew That Beard in 8 Years

Aren’t we all?

The Potomac
The Potomac