A handwritten note by Andy McClure, of Yawkey, is situated in the center of an 18×24 framed collage of photographs from a hunting camp on Spruce Flat near Buckeye. Andy gifted this collage of memories to his friend, Earnie Cobb, of Buckeye, who brought them to The Pocahontas Times office to share.
The photos serve as a reminder of a part of Andy’s childhood that has stayed with him all these years. The 77-year-old remembers the tales from his father, Luther McClure, about the camp as well as the times he got to tag along when he was a youngster.
Andy remembers that his father, Luther, and his friends, Pearl Woodrum and Bill Miller, started camping out at Spruce Flat in the 1940s. The men stayed in an 8×10 tent and cooked on an oil stove.
“They were squirrel hunters and occasionally went turkey hunting,” he said.
Luther worked at FMC Chemical Plant in South Charleston, where Andy thinks he met a man by the name of Carpenter who lived on Spruce Flat. They became buddies and the Carpenter – either Jim or Dan – invited Luther to use their cabin when he came to hunt.
The Carpenter brothers lived on Spruce Flat and the cabin was near their home, so Luther started staying at the cabin with his hunting buddies, and eventually, his son, Andy, joined them.
“That place back there was called the Brightfield where this cabin is located – I’m sort of guessing – it’s probably two or three miles out there from Spruce Flat on around,” Andy said. “It was gravel road then and it still is gravel today.”
Luther drove out the rough road in a two-wheel drive car. While on Spruce Flat, the father/son duo would travel from time to time in the family station wagon. One trip was to Sherwood Lake in Greenbrier County.
“It’s about ten miles around this ridge to that lake off of Rt. 92,” Andy said. “He would take us over in the station wagon. Naturally, no air conditioning back then, so you pretty much ran in the hot weather with the windows down. He would take me out that road to Sherwood Lake to fish. The road being gravel, by the time you got out there, you were covered, and the inside of the station wagon was covered with dust.”
The trips to Spruce Flat were for more than just hunting and fishing. They were a getaway for Andy and his dad. Sometimes Luther would rent a cabin at Graham’s Motel in Buckeye, where they were able to enjoy watching movies on the “big screen.”
“Out next to the road up through there were little cabins, and they rented one of those – we’d sit in a chair and watch the drive-in movie out the back door there,” Andy said. “That was a big deal to see a big screen to watch a movie.”
They would also come into Buckeye on Sundays to attend church, which helped Andy receive his perfect attendance pin.
“Back in the day where I went to church here, they gave pins out – perfect attendance for a year, three years or five years and I was trying to get the five-year pin,” he said. “It was an honor system, of course, but for me to go to the mountains, I had to come out and go to Sunday school someplace.”
They would clean up as best they could and head out to church in Buckeye.
Andy says it’s hard to recall all the things he did as a child when he came to Pocahontas County, but he does remember the stories his dad told, several of which included the Carpenter brothers who owned the cabin they often used.
“What I heard happened, these two brothers – Jim and Dan Carpenter – supposedly got into some kind of a disagreement and somebody burnt that cabin down,” Andy recalled.
Andy also remembers the story about Dan who had too much to drink in Marlinton one evening and he got a ride home. It was snowing at the time, so the vehicle was unable to make it up the mountain to the Carpenter home. The driver let Dan out on the road leading to Spruce Flat.
“The reason they didn’t drive up there is there was snow on the ground,” Andy said. “They let him out, and he was going to walk up the mountain. Him being drunk, he sat down beside a tree there on the right of the road and froze to death.”
Bad luck continued for Jim Carpenter after the loss of his brother. The house on Spruce Flats near the cabin also burned down.
But those tales don’t reflect the fun that was had at the camp, Those happier memories include the tale about Luther’s hound dog, Jake, who took off chasing a critter one day and returned three days later.
There were even history-in-the-making stories – the impact of which was not felt at the time.
“He would tell me about being out around the cabin, hunting in the evenings and he could hear and somewhat watch the Scenic Highway being built,” Andy said. “I always thought, he didn’t know, and I didn’t know either, until now – you didn’t know what the Scenic Highway was. They just knew they were building some kind of road. They could hear the equipment and occasionally see it out there.”
It was a big deal for Luther and his buddies to invite Andy to tag along on trips to the camp, and he recalls the camp with a whimsical zeal.
“That was a big excursion to go to the so called ‘big mountains,’” he said. “Those are what we call ‘precious memories.'”
Andy always held on to those fond memories and was reminded of them after his dad passed away in 1989. He was sorting through photos and found the ones that he framed alongside his note about his memories.
Pocahontas County always held a special place in his heart, and it drew him back in later years when he and his wife, Becky, were looking for a vacation home.
While the couple – who live in Lincoln County – didn’t have a specific location in mind – it seems fitting that they wound up buying a cabin in Mill Point in 2009.
“I have gone full circle,” Andy said. “As a kid up there and now with our camp – to hunt around and fish and enjoy the mountain air and scenery. We love Pocahontas County. I’d move up there if I could get my wife, Becky, to agree to that. We’ve made so many nice friends up there. We go to church up there and met a lot of good people.
“We do our best to come up there and spend some time and let the mind recharge and drift a little bit,” he added. “It’s good for the mind and the body and the soul to recharge a little bit.”
The couple spends as much time as they can at the cabin to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. One of the many decorations at the cabin is a large framed collage of photos from that Spruce Flats camp that first introduced Andy to Pocahontas County.
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