We had a bit of a snow fall a couple of days ago. West Virginia is probably, no not probably, is the most beautiful state in the union. A couple days before the snow, I was driving to Ansted. It was a bit windy and there was a crisp chill in the air. Not bad, but cold enough to need a jacket.

Along highway 60, the wind was blowing the dead leaves like waves off the Pacific Ocean, similar to the ones the surfers enjoy. The waves continued all the way to Dad’s house.

The mountains, in their winter slumber, looked lonely, almost dead. The only way you could tell there was still a pulse was that the trees were still standing. Many places carcasses of trees laid land where lumber companies have clear cut the land. It will grow back in all of its glory, in 20 years.

It still drives a stake through my very soul to see where there once was a strip mine. The scar they left on the mountains will never heal. All you can see is the area where nothing is growing, nothing to support life, all that is left is clay and rock. I can feel the mountain spirit and the earth groan each time I pass one.

I understand that was the means to the way of life way back when. Today the mine companies reclaim the strip and make sure life grows back.

The snow fell and the mountains took on a sparkling appearance. It’s like the blanket of snow covered all of man’s mistakes.

The aroma in the air changes with winter. I can smell the difference between those that are burning coal and those burning wood. This fashion of warming a house is quickly changing. Propane and natural gas are taking their place.

The night was falling, the ground white and pure, and the roads were clear. It seemed like around each corner the scenery appeared as pictures seen on Christmas cards: snow all around the houses, on their roofs, with Christmas lights, sat way back off of the highway, between the trees, in a field I know was cleared by their ancestors. There were cows and horses nibbling on the evening’s supper of hay. The scenery made me want to stop and take it all in. I didn’t want the drive to stop. I was smitten by the old mountain spirit. He does that to me when I least expect it. I knew he was in cahoots with Mother Nature.

I couldn’t help go way back when I was about three feet tall, visiting Pop and Grandma. Pop always had horses. He worked them plowing, pulling and anything else a horse was needed to do.

I remember the sled he had and how he would hitch the horse up to it. It was huge and heavy, made out of timbers, iron, and chains. I don’t remember but I believe the horse’s name was Old Bessie.

He would let my brothers, Ray, the oldest; Ronnie, the youngest, and I ride her to the barn after a day of work. He had an old burlap sack he would put on her so we wouldn’t get her hair on us. He would say, “Your old Grandma will throw a fit if you boys come in with horse hair all over you.” Now in retrospect that is pretty funny. Which side was which was never discernible; he just flipped it on horse’s back and tossed us up. Ray always sat in front, Ronnie, being so small, always rode in the middle and yes, that left me sitting nearest to her tail. I still remember how warm and comfortable I felt sitting on her back. She was a huge horse and sitting on top of her was like sitting on top of the world. It was magic, I tell you!

I remember going up the hill to the barn one day. We couldn’t have been older than 4 through 7 years old. Old Bessie started farting blue blazes. Pop hollered, “Ricky hold that tail down.”  No way was I going to lean that far back to get a hold on her tail! She just “let her fly.”

Pop would take us down off her at the barn. We would head on back down to the house. There Grandma was cooking or cleaning, but I remember her saying, “You boys get changed into some new britches; those you got on have horse hair all over them!”

But I remember the crisp air, the warm horse and Pop’s laugh.

(Pack may be contacted at rickypack@peoplepc.com. Letters to the editor regarding his column may be e-mailed to ckeenan@register-herald.com.)

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