Through Our Native State

By Lenore Coberly


We drive down the Little Kanawha late in life,

enfolded by green hills in spring leaf, at speed

limits forty on curves, a constant in these parts.


At Dolly Sods we climb to see calypso orchids in

deepest red and boulders piled across the top, the

heart of the world’s oldest mountains laid bare by

fires that burned the cedar mulch of centuries. Firs,

one-sided from wind, and berries grow in crevices

among old rocks at 3,500 feet. Mr. Dahle from Germany

cut the trees and grazed sheep here, found a place

that was home, never dreaming land could burn.


Uncle Bob, ninety-four now, understands the strange

volatility of mountains. He drills for gas, remembers

feuds and deaths and going for a job in fifty-cent

overalls when the railroad came up the Guyan to get coal

that burned hotter than peat. The foreman asked what

he could do and he said nothing so they made him a

tie-tapper on a twelve mile section of track for $2.10

a day while the men were fighting in Germany. “Not

one of them from Harts Creek got killed,” he says, “they

were used to gun fire—whatever happened to that Kaiser?


The cousins and their children’s children gather to laugh

and talk about how easy it is to make mistakes in this

life and how important it is to forgive and be forgiven.


When the burning sun sets

there is light

beyond the next mountain.