The Winds of Change
As I stood near the old, wooden train trestle in Jenkinjones, I was thinking how I wanted to compose my photograph. I wanted to capture as much of it as I could in one shot. My hair whipped around my face as I attached my camera to the tripod. Although my camera was securely attached to the tripod, I hesitated to the let go due to the strength of the wind. As I stood there, the wind blew one good time, and…..
Seemed to carry me into the past. I looked through the trestle and saw more houses up the hollow than what was there a minute ago. I looked behind me and saw houses everywhere! I saw children playing in the dirt road and yards as the wind carried their laughs and giggles to my ears. I heard their mommas calling them to come in for dinner and children asking “When is daddy going to be home?” I realized as I watched this close-knit neighborhood how so many winds have blown across our beloved county.
The wind blew up a demand for coal. Due to the United States growing at a rapid pace, the need for steel making coal was in high demand. We had that coal and our country needed it. We, as Americans, depended on coal to prosper, to secure our position as a strong nation, to protect our freedoms. Those who were here couldn’t mine the coal quick enough to keep up with the demand. We needed more people to swing a pick and shovel.
The wind blew in many people of different nationalities to McDowell County. Jewish, Italian, English, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Greek, and many others were now home in McDowell County. They had come to America, the land of opportunity and freedom. They chose McDowell County as it was growing and had numerous opportunities for employment. Although language barriers made communication difficult at times, there was one thing that was common and known to all. Hard work.
As the wind had blown in the people, the wind seemed to pick up businesses, churches and homes and construct them across the land. Ten municipalities were built with the strength of one hundred thousand souls. Businesses of all varieties boomed. At least three churches of different denominations were in every community. Homes of all different shapes and sizes were near the river, near the road, on the mountain sides, on the streets.
The wind had blown coal dust into all our veins. Every aspect of our lives revolved around coal. While many of our fathers worked in the mines, those who didn’t still depended on the miners. The bakers, the cooks, the construction workers, the pharmacists, the bankers, the preachers, and many other professionals were all dependent on that black rock.
As the wind blew colder, I thought of the many churches and old buildings that I have photographed in the county that are now one hundred years old, or older. Many, such as the Flat Iron Drug Store, Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Powhatan, and our beloved courthouse are still in use today. However, many have fallen into disrepair.
All of a sudden I heard a whistle and I jumped. Above me, I saw an old steam engine slowing moving, building up steam to pull that load. I realized what an awesome shot I could get. I quickly recomposed my shot. As the wind blew, I clicked the shutter and I thought of the various dilapidated historic sites around our county and how the wind was blowing them away. Those footprints are disappearing day by day. I quickly looked at my LCD screen to see my shot. There was the old, empty trestle silhouetted against the cloudy sky.