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June 26, 2006

Growing up in West Virginia

It's a really neat thing to spend your life living where you grew up. One reason this is true is, you are constantly seeing things around you that remind you of earlier times in your life. The other day something I saw reminded me of my early fascination with things that flew. As I thought of how I was then, I wondered if there could exist in our modern world, a child with the intensity of yearning for the sky that I had when I was young. I recall a passion for the air that I can only describe as blood lust for the sky and the machines that went there. I was wild to see an airplane on the ground; one I could touch and look inside and inspect from all angles as I walked around it..

But such a thing was impossible, because I lived far out in the country with no way to visit an airport and get close to an airplane. I remember that my young dreams frequently starred airplanes that had crashed near my home. Far from being ghoulish, these dreams featured no broken people or bloody pilots, but rather they were about airplanes that had simply come to earth, seemingly with no people involved. Later I realized my subconscious mind knew that if I was going to get close to an airplane, this was the only way it could happen.

I grew up (and still live) in the small West Virginia village of Arden, perched on the banks of the rushing Tygart River, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. At the time I write about, the big war was recently over and the young men had come home to start families and get on with their lives. Arden had a post office, four general stores, a church and two schools and was located 9 miles from the nearest community that could be called a town. West Arden School, where I matriculated, was a one-room affair in the west shore of the river and East Arden was a two-room facility on opposite bank.

My school was located on a steep hill that ended on the banks of the river, with only enough level area for the dirt road that led up the river to where I lived, about a quarter mile away. The hill containing the school, afforded a great recess and noon time launching area for the paper airplanes that I and my best buddy Murphy turned out by the dozens, and I still remember in detail some of the most outstanding flights we had. What I saw, as they rose and dove in the air currents and made their way down the slope of the hill, was not a paper toy, but somehow the real thing with myself inside it

Most of the men living in the village farmed or worked in the mines, and it seems to me now that the pace of life then was measured and slow, and that there was lots of time for front porch visiting and the school socials we all enjoyed.

My parents raised a huge garden and shopped in a nearby town for staples only monthly, by catching a ride with a neighbor. We had pigs, chickens and cows and our table was always filled with delicious things to eat, which I took for granted then and which I dream about now. We lived in a big farm house that my Grandfather bought at the end of the First War, and it was rambling and comfortable and heated with coal stoves. By the time fall arrived each year, the cellar and meat house were filled with almost everything we needed to get through to the next growing season, and we felt secure and provided for.

It would be difficult for today's child to imagine the world of that time. Although we had everything we needed to live and be comfortable, there was an almost complete lack of anything beyond that, and our isolation from anything outside our village was nearly total. Since the world of flight existed only occasionally, high over my head and out of reach, there was no way I could connect with it. There was no television or telephones and almost no travel for us, since our family had no automobile. There was also no library in our village, so my entire access to the world of aviation was limited to an occasional flying story told by one of the neighbor lads who was learning to fly on the GI Bill, or a dog-eared 'Flying' magazine, handed down to me by one of the same young men.

Surprisingly, this lack of access to the very thing that I wanted with all my heart, served not to discourage my passion but to feed it, by dangling tantalizing out of reach, the magical world of flight.

Today, life for the average American child bears little resemblance to that idyllic time. Instant and complete communication with the rest of the world, via internet and television has removed the veils of mystery from almost any subject that a youngster could be interested in. The average family's ability to move about the country or even the globe, gives today's young people the opportunity to be jaded travelers by the age of six. The family car enables an immediate drive by Dad or Mom to the local airport, should their child show an interest in aviation, and most family budgets could easily spring for an airplane ride for the fledgling aviator, should he ask for one.

When I finally connected with the world of flight many years later, my pent-up enthusiasm served me well. I loved it just as much as I thought I would as a child, and I've been able make a living doing what I love best in the world for most of my life. I've never taken the gift of flight for granted, and even after so many years and many thousands of flight hours, I still feel an inexpressible thrill at each takeoff. At the instant my aircraft's wheels leave the earth and I'm magically borne on the invisible air, I know again that my childhood dream came true.

Steve Weaver Aircraft Sales - Route 3 Box 696 - Phillipi, West Virginia - Phone 304-457-4523 - Fax 304-457-4799 Click here to visit

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