On 'Punxsutawney Phil,' the Special Levy, pets and the schools

dave-headshotDang it, that domestic groundhog!

During Groundhog Day on this past Sun., Feb. 2, he came out of his den, saw his shadow, and, then, scampered back into his home to avoid six more weeks of harsh winter weather.

So, keep those winter clothes, boots, snow shovels and snow tires on your vehicles because we Gilmer Countians and West Virginians haven't seen the last of this winter's snow and foul weather.

This snowy and record cold winter reminds me of my first one living in Gilmer County in 1995-96. The snow was so deep and pushed to the sides of the highway going to Spencer that I'd slide from side to side, bouncing off the banks to keep moving toward our newspaper's printer on several Wednesday mornings. In fact, that time prompted my first feeling of being paranoid, in that the snowfalls seemed to start on every Tuesday night, just to give me goose bumps of trepidation in anticipating my next day's wild ride to the Roane County city. Yes, it was nerve wracking driving for me.

I sort of felt that way two weeks ago Wednesday, when Rtes. 33/119 hadn't been completely cleared off. But, (knock on wood), I've still always made it through to Spencer in spite of the snow, ice, rain, floods and downed trees and rocks over the highway in years past.

If you're complaining about the cold and snow, don't feel alone, for others are doing likewise. For instance, I was in Pittsburgh last weekend, and the main topic of conversation was not the Super Bowl in the Steelers Nation, but the harsh weather. "We're tired of it," friends and restaurant servers stressed to me. It appeared that they Ñ way up there north of us Ñ had about the same amount of snowfall as we did down here in Central West Virginia, so, I'd think, they were lucky.

Back to the groundhogs: All the ones they featured on TV were either tame or highly tranquilized. How can anyone dressed up in tuxes pick up a wild groundhog and let him or her look for their shadow? Why, when once trying that with a lonely baby groundhog, I thought I'd get my fingers bitten off. They also let out with loud "whistles" when in danger to frighten other predators away, like humans trying to handle them on "Groundhog Day." Hence, in Pocahontas County, the locals always referred to them as "Whistle Pigs."

I don't know if that term's used here or not? Probably not, for we battle so many more deer running around than ground hogs, which don't dent up our vehicles. Nevertheless, that was a great "Hog-toon" that our accomplished cartoonist, George Harper, GSC Art Professor Emeritus, came up with last week. Unfortunately, George guessed wrong, thinking that the snow and ice were so deep and tightly packed that the critter couldn't get out of his hole to predict the weather, thereby assuring us of a rapid ending of winter.

Hence, parents had better keep their children's winter clothes, coats and boots handy, so that they won't miss any more school days, due to the lower temperatures. (Incidentally, growing up in the city, I can't remember any snow or zero temperature days that school was called off. We went regardless.)

In reality, has anyone seen a wild groundhog coming out of his or her home to-date?

Note on George Harper's 'toon

In this week's cartoon, George rightly wants to honor all law enforcement officers who place themselves in harms way to help others. In fact, just recently two Ritchie County Deputy Sheriffs risked their lives to save a lady from dying in a burning house. Thanks, George, for you alertness! Indeed, this is the type of weather that makes for home fires.

Don't miss Sat.'s Levy balloting

At the Glenville City Council meeting Mon. evening, Mayor Dennis Fitzpatrick emphasized that the whole City

Government urges people to "Vote for the Levy."

He also stressed that the levy will NOT raise any taxes.

These revenues are set aside for maintaining the streets, curbs, sidewalks (not privately owned), street lighting and general maintenance of Street Department's projects.

The Polls will be open all day from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on this Sat., Feb. 8, so that wide time span should make voting easy for the city's residents. Go with a friend as a social!

This is a good cause, and without these revenues, the city couldn't afford to pave and keep maintaining the streets for the safety of us citizens.

As a result, it is in everyone's best interest to support this Special Street Levy's continuation on this Saturday by a "For the Levy" vote.

Awful times for beloved pets

I just found out from John Wolfe, of The Weston Democrat, that Bum, The Wonder Horse, has just died. Most of you remember Bum and his gentlemanly owner, Mr. Langford, as he put Bum through his 35 tricks or so at a past Folk Festival or two. I know that Mr. Langford, a really nice person, is depressed over his great loss, because he and Bum have been inseparable for over three decades.

Likewise, this time of year took the life of "Rocco," a Pittsburgh police dog who died in the line of duty. The news story that I started to read in that city's newspaper put tears in my eyes.

Rocco, who was stabbed by a suspect, died at the animal hospital, but was carried away in a casket for burial with a U.S. Flag draped over it, handled by city Police Officers and saluted by all of the dozens of officers and friends, plus fellow police dogs.

A TV reporter asked a policeman there, "Why are you doing all of this for a dog?"

The straightlaced officer quickly responded, "He was a dedicated and trained police officer just like us; he deserves the same treatment as any of us who die in the line of duty."

As I said, this was a tearful funeral.

Finally, my daughter, Catherine's 16-year-old cat died. "Elton," a black and white domestic acquired in North Carolina, traveled with her here to Glenville in the late 1990s. Catherine worked at this newspaper until getting on board at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. She and Elton were also inseparable, and he was a useful cat in our neighborhood, being a great mouser and mole killer, among other intruding vermin outside.

Since the ground is so hard in Texas now, she had him cremated and his fine looking wooden resting container is in the center of her mantelpiece. She's somewhat relieved to know that he's still in the household, looking over them from above.

Indeed, our attachments to our pets is natural, as in a poll I recently saw, 87 percent of pet owners consider them to be "members of the family." Perhaps that's because pets show unconditional love, trust and comfort in being with their masters, sharing in the family's peak moments and its occasional depths, as well.

School closure sessions

Most local people did not attend the recent school closure Public Hearings.

It is the plan of the Gilmer County and State Boards of Education to close the long-standing and beloved schools at Troy, Sand Fork, Normantown and Glenville.

In prior decades, the schools at Tanner and Cedarville were permanently shutdown, thereby causing much anguish in those communities. In the latter two towns, though, local people have been trying to save those abandoned, but later sold schools.

A Cedarville family has turned their former school, which served as both an elementary and high school, into a museum of town history. But, it's an expensive endeavor, being open only a couple of times a year during town festivals or school reunions.

In Tanner, the old school's cafeteria has been converted into the Tanner Community Center, which is surviving as best it can, being a town volunteer effort, with some financial help from the Gilmer County Commission.

On the other hand, the main building, which is a majestic and massive handcarved stone structure, sits idle, once being the offices of the Summit Center. It was later sold by the County Commission, but now we understand that the owners are searching for others to buy it. Maintaining a large building is truly costly.

What alternative use can that fine, historic building be used for?

This question needs to be put to the Boards of Education that are choosing to close the Sand Fork, Troy and Normantown schools.

From past comments, we suspect that the local BOE's Central Offices may be relocated to the Glenville Elementary School, once it's closed.

What horrifies me is the thought of the local BOE doing nothing!

At the times when all of those old, architectural gems of school buildings were closed in McDowell County, that BOE just let them deteriorate, be vandalized, and ransacked. Now, they are eyesores with no use at all in those depressed towns. In the main, had that BOE planned the closures prudently by taking proposals from any businesses, churches, tech schools or nonprofits that wanted them, they'd still be the centers of action for those small communities of Northfork, Elkhorn, Anawalt, Gary, Bartley, and so on down the list of about 15 closed schools there.

Hence, it would be wise for those citizens in the communities being affected by these future closures to get together now in order to plan, with the BOE, how to utilize those buildings in the best sustainable manner.

If the BOE doesn't keep the structures up to snuff now, don't think they'll put a cent in them after they're abandoned and of no use anymore.

So, this is the time for local "Community Action Committees" to be formed, once again, in order to ensure that the future of those large central landmarks in each town will be preserved and used wisely.

Do any of you out in our newspaper family have any suggestions? If so, let us editors hear from you; believe me, we're concerned.


Finally, be good, kind folks, and try to perform at least one "Random Act of Kindness" this week, if that's possible in our challenging winter weather, notably high waters.

Also, gents and ladies, don't forget that Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching on next Fri., Feb. 14.