Last weekend I presented two ghost walks in Ripley, WV, a mile-long stroll through stories of "mystery and history," as the director of the local Convention and Visitors Bureau called it. The walks are sponsored by the CVB and have become a popular annual tradition. Each year I research new stories to add and new tidbits from history to enhance the walk because many people return for the walk each year.
|Over 100 people came out Saturday night for the ghost walk|
The ghost walk was followed by a drive across West Virginia to the eastern county of Grant, where I told stories at the Grant County Library in Petersburg. A crowd of 50 turned out for the Monday night event. The audience included everyone from small children to senior citizens, so I had stories for all ages in my program.
While in Grant county, we took time to visit the Dolly Sods Wilderness area, one of West Virginia's most beautiful scenic areas. It was a very windy day and we had to be careful as we ventured onto the rocks to be sure we weren't blown over the edge!
I remember when we camped on Dolly Sods about 15 years ago. An elderly gentleman camped nearby told us that he was one of the Dolly family for whom the rocks are named. Dolly Sods is known for its abundance of wild blueberries and huckleberries, which attract both humans and bears in the summer months.
This gentleman said that when he was a boy they often spent days on the mountain picking berries, and that every 4 years or so someone would set fire to the mountain. Why? I asked. Well, he said, the brush would get to growing and crowding out the berry patches, so they'd burn it off to let the berry plants grow. That practice had to stop once the government took over management of the land. This reminded me of stories about the Native Americans burning off land so that the blackberries would come back in thicker and better.
We left to drive to central West Virginia for storytelling at a school in a small community that was a victim of the terrible June "thousand-year" flood. I had a great time telling tales at Birch River Elementary. I think the best--and most touching--part of the day was being interviewed by two 5th grade students. One of their first questions was, "Were you presonally affected by the floods?" They went on to describe some of the damage in their area. I did not suffer any damage to my home from the flood, but in this state we're all family, and what hurts one hurts us all. Thank you, boys, for reminding me of that.
In the few days remaining in this month I'll be storytelling at three more schools: for eighth grade students in Kanawha county, high school students in Putnam county, and elementary students in the northern panhandle town of Follansbee. I finish up with an evening of ghost stories at the south Parkersburg library.
It's been a good month telling my favorite kind of story! Check out my upcoming performances here, and maybe I will see you at an event in the near future.