While traveling from Virginia Beach to Cincinnati, we took a stop over in Beckley. We had stayed at the Beckley Exhibition campground before but they had been overnights and we didn't have a chance to check out the activities. There is actually quite a lot going on within walking distance of the RV park. There is a fitness mountain trail that runs around the park. There is of course the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. Then there is the Mountain Homestead, and if that isn't enough there is the Youth Museum of Southern WV. The walk down from the campground was a picturesque path that started at the edge of the campground and worked its way along the side of the hill above the entrance to the mine shaft. The building behind it is the old school house. The Homestead spreads out on both sides of the mine giving the whole place a kind of community feeling. We made our way to the office and after proper introductions began our tour. The train runs about every 45 minutes or so and there was plenty of time before the next train departed. We decided to take a look around the Homestead. As we wandered down the main street we came across Patricia Neal who was one of the presenters who worked there. We spent the rest of our time there and completely overshot the time for the train ride. She explained all kinds of things about the old building and the items which were held within. Of particular interest to me was an item that I don't remember ever running across before. I spotted it sitting in the corner of one of the buildings. Patricia explained about the weasel wheel which was used to collect spun yarn. it was often run by the children. when a yard of thread was wound on the weasel a small wooden peg would "pop" giving rise to the rhyme "Pop goes the weasel" We continued working our way down the road, stopping at each cabin to peer inside to see what treasure was hiding within. There was a well stocked general store containing all those wonderful old boxes and cans with their picturesque labels. From soap to beans the shelves were stocked with all the things that a small town would want. Further down the lane we found a small outbuilding and inside was an old copper still, ready for the mash and a little fire. The lane ran out at the home of one of Beckley's prominent citizens. Inside Patricia began explaining the use of the various things that were on display. It was during our discussion about moving the house to its present location that we learned that the last resident was still alive and in fact was one of the presenters at the park. Ninety-two year old Buford Hartsog had taught school for some 30 years in Beckley and now give talks at the old school house on he other side of the coal nine which is in the middle of the park. We were delighted to find out that Buford was actually working in the part and headed off to find him in the old school house which was the house we saw as we walked down the hill from the RV park. For the next hour or so, as visitors came and went, Buford regaled us with stories of life in Beckley and what it was like teaching school in a mining town. He even took an opportunity to demonstrate the old time disciplinary device so prevalent in those time. It was a delight to hear the stories and picture what the town was like from all the old pictures along the walls. In a way it seemed like a simpler life and in others it seemed so much harder then life is today.
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