Monday, August 25, 2008

Times Past

This is one of my favorite photographs of all time. It is of haymaking time in Nelson Gap in Pendleton County, WV. This photo was taken about 1910. The men in this photograph are (left to right) Will Wimer, Martin Vandevander, Roy Lambert and John Lambert.

Will Wimer was the 1st cousin to my 2-great grandmother Sidney (Wimer) Teter. Martin Vandevander was the first cousin of my 3-great grandmother Ruhama (Nelson) Nelson. The Roy Lambert & John Lambert in this photo are first cousins to two of my other grandparents, Cullom Cassel and Elizabeth (Cassel) Nelson. Cullom and Elizabeth were siblings. Cullom Cassel married Mary Jane Nelson, daughter of the aforementioned Ruhama (Nelson) Nelson. Elizabeth Cassel married Esau Nelson, who was the 2nd cousin of Martin Vandevander and of the aforementioned Ruhama Nelson, so you can see, all of these folks are my people. You can also see what I mean when I say I'm related to everyone in Pendleton County.

To me this photo captures a simpler time, I’ve often wondered about many different things in this photo, for example, what were the names of the horses? Whatever happened to the old hay rake? Does it rest in some lonesome holler up Nelson Gap? What were these men were thinking about? Were they annoyed by having to stop to pose for the photograph, or delighted that someone was taking an interest in their livelihood?

I remember back when I was a kid, one time my granddad, two of my uncles and my mother went into the fence stake business. They cut locust logs for the stakes up in Nelson Gap, where these men farmed decades before. My brother and I went along and explored the farm there. The old man who owned the farm was friends with my granddad and was happy to get rid of the locust from his fields. I remember that while we were in Nelson Gap, my uncle Wood got cut by a chainsaw and refused to go to the doctor. He was bleeding pretty bad and we needed something to stop the blood. The only thing my mom could think of that was handy was a Kotex that she had in her purse. She slapped that pad on Uncle Wood’s arm, and it sopped the blood right up and eventually stopped the bleeding. We then went home for that day, and Uncle Wood was still refusing to go to the doctor for a tetanus shot and stitches, but he did let mom sew him up with a needle and thread. He said it got pretty sore, but he did put sheep dip on it (that we used when we banded lambs on the farm) and miraculously it didn’t get infected. I remember the next day Uncle Wood was back at work but was put on light duty…loading locust poles into the truck.
As I recall, we sold 2,000 fence stakes out of the locust that we cut in Nelson Gap, and got $2.50 each for them. The money was split equally between the 4 workers. We ate good there for awhile, but eventually other people found out about the money to be made in the fence stake business, and soon underbid us so the Burns fence stake business went defunct.
Though most of the now vacant farms are still in family owned, their owners have moved away for new opportunities. I wonder what these men in the photo would think if they could know what their progeny would do with the land they worked so hard to build up? These men were part of the land and the land were part of these men, how humbling and rewarding that must have been to see the fruits of your labor be borne in every season. I know that time changes everything, but somehow I wonder if our lives are worth all that we have lost in this great transition?


Tipper said...

I love the picture too. Like you I always wonder about the folks in old pictures-I wish I could slip into the photo and go home with them and see what is was like at their house.

Keith said...

That's some pretty deep thinkn'
I'm impressed