For some while I’ve considered jotting down stories from those early days of organizing West Virginia Highlands Conservancy — often around the table in Pittsburgh Climbers’ rented shack in Onego.
It was a simple place, with outdoor, um, facilities, furnished with whatever was left over from a dozen members’ homes and some things Jean Rodman found in resale shops. In spite of its humble environment, it was a cracker barrel for supporters of this prospective environmental preserve and on weekends you’d never know the folks gathered there included physicists, chemists, D.C. lawyers, engineers and a handful of artists, etc.
Victor Schmidt and I were a year short of being wed when WVHC was established but we’d been exploring West Virginia trails and caves for five years together, along with other friends from both Pittsburgh Climbers and Carnegie Tech Explorers Club. We were there when Jean Rodman brought all the necessary stuff for dying Easter eggs and she coined that color when all the dyes were mixed together as “Fuskus.” Seemed so right……
I remember bringing out my guitar one evening and slowly breaking into folk songs as people began to tire from the day’s planning for this new organization. There must have been no expectation that this girl in blue jeans and T-shirt actually had any inclination to entertain because the room went silent but for my singing. And I looked around to watch a bunch of very weary planners relax and enjoy that moment. There seemed to be so many ways to contribute to the burgeoning conservation organization.
My heart always had been in both the exploration and protection of West Virginia. My father was born in Clarksburg. His grandparents were among founders of Moundsville. And older WVHC members will remember Dad’s cousin, Sam Shaw, publisher of Moundsville Echo. So my feet always had been grounded a bit in “Mountain Mama.”
I am eighty years old now and hiking has become more of a task than a pleasure but oh, how I miss it! When I do manage to visit West Virginia, it is with deepfelt gratitude for all those who gave so much to the keeping of its many, many natural treasures.
Marjorie L. Schmidt
Note: This came to us through the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy Facebook page.