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Clarksburg
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Part of me will always be a country boy

by Matt Harvey

ASST. MANAGING EDITOR

I grew up in an old two-story farmhouse on a dusty country road out in the middle of nowhere.

Our house had a tin roof and wood siding that needed scraped and painted again about every three or four years. The upstairs had the kind of beautiful hardwood floor that costs a lot of money now, but that most people covered with carpet then. I just liked the floor because I could slide across it in my bare socks. I also liked the steep, wooden steps because they were great for lining up my toy soldiers and for sending my Slinky down.

The railroad was about half a mile away. It was just close enough that you could hear the trains passing by, especially in the evening when there wasn't any noise from tractors, combines, the occasional car honking as it passed in a cloud of dust or the neighbor's angry Holstein bull.

If you peeled away the paint and the patching from the inside walls (or maybe its wallpaper by now), you might be mystified by a few markings.

In one bedroom, there used to be several small holes. That's where I tacked up a magazine cover showing a Vietnamese soldier, and I tossed my grandma's sterling silver letter opener at it for about half an hour. I was kind of surprised my mom and dad didn't spank me for that. I think they did yell at me for a while and make me either stand in the corner or write an essay on why I wouldn't do that anymore.

In the living room, there should still be a crack running down the drywall from the ceiling to the floor. I did that, too, by playing my Jimi Hendrix records as loud as I could, over and over, on one of those record players surrounded by a wooden cabinet and turned into a piece of furniture.

My older sisters were a major influence. They wore McGovern buttons, peace signs and bell-bottom jeans. Lots of hair was cool at school. A buzz haircut like the one I wear now (we called them flattops) was not.

I guess I was just trying to be cool, to be one of the crowd.

But I have a deep, dark secret from those days, one I didn't dare tell anybody. When nobody was around, I'd play my dad's records. He had albums from Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Freddie Hart, Conway Twitty, Charley Pride and Johnny Cash.

Today, I'm not afraid to tell you that I still love that music.

And I'm not ashamed to tell you that a part of me always will be a country boy.

We moved away a long time ago, but our old farmhouse is still standing today. Probably about 100 years old, I'm guessing it's still delivering up clues to its past every once in a while, like the rusted-out, Depression-era handgun we found stowed away on a shelf in the chicken coop.

But the subdivisions are getting closer every year. The train tracks are gone, replaced by weeds as tall as you or I.

That dusty old road?

It's paved.

And the words to the "country" music on the radio are talking about a whole different America.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Harvey can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at mharvey@exponent-telegram.com