My wife lived in the Midwest for six years and said it was like living on the moon. She came home to West Virginia at the first opportunity. I know that folks who grew up there feel the same about their flat land as my wife does about her hills; home is always home, after all. I’ll side with my wife on that one, though. I’ve never been in a situation where I felt it was necessary to leave my home state, and can’t really imagine what it would take to make me feel that way. I have no desire to live in a land where no place is safe from flood, where I can’t wander up a holler, or climb a hill and look in awe of the panorama before me.
I hate to see the beautiful hills destroyed, unless it’s to save the rich farmland below, but saving farmland for its farming value happens only in a couple foreign countries. Here, the fertile farmland is developed (ruined) first and the hillsides last. But, the hillsides eventually get bulldozed, too. The sad thing is that my job requires that I be a part of that destruction. The local developer that I’ve alluded to before has a hill that he’s currently working on at the south edge of town, and my bosses’ company often goes there to get fill dirt for its customers. This week, I was hauling dirt to a site only about three miles away to fill in behind one of our local gambling dens (video type).
I may have posted a photo of the hill before, but I’ve included another today. I’ve dubbed the place “Mount Shrinkmore,” since every time I see it, it’s a little bit smaller. Eventually, I suspect that it will be a series of about three terraces, to be developed into retail locations like they did lower on the hill. While much larger than it appears in the photo, it’s not particularly large as hills go. Still there’s a nice view from near the hilltop, while it remains. A road goes through the valley below, past Kohls, Lowes, WalMart, Tractor Supply, several other businesses, a couple churches and many houses. When I was a kid, it was part of the road that led to the state capitol from our town. Back then, it was a four hour drive. Now, the interstate on the far side of the hill across the valley can take you there in less than two hours. Back then, the valley was only a lovely and peaceful-looking collection of farms. (Sigh.)
I console myself some about being part of the destruction by reminding myself that I’m getting a look at the hidden history of that patch of earth. I’ve mentioned before that had I gone to college in my youth, it would have been to learn geology. Today, I noticed that the hard dry rock-like red clay where the hoe was digging had grain to it that sat at about 30 degrees off level. I knew it wasn’t hoe marks, as there were no arcs in the lines; all were straight. Strangely enough, the clay was topped by a perfectly level layer of blue shale (with layers of other rocks and soils above). It looked like the clay had been sheared off level and the shale laid down carefully atop it. For the grain of the clay to be on an anticline, it would require upheaval at some point. The only thing that I can think of that would have sheared off the clay, though, would have been a glacier, unless it was eroded and ground level by flooding. I guess I’ll never know. The photos below can be enlarged by clicking them. © 2014
Mount Shrinkmore - The roadway from which this photo was taken actuallyn crosses part of the hill, and the gravel road is far from level. It's probably nearly a half-mile to the very top of the hill that you see.
Part of Pettyville, West Virginia, as seen from Mount Shrinkmore. A series of dairy and beef cattle farms in my youth, only a handful of green fields remain.