Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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February 24, 2013

Pistol packing not a new trend

I am not too sure that I agree with Joe Biden on gun control. I am sure that a double barrel shotgun would deter most criminals. I’m also sure that I’m not going to advise Miss Martha, if she hears something making noise outside the house, to stick one out the back door and pull both triggers.

I would expect Bluefield’s finest to arrive at the house in a few minutes with more blue lights than on the runway at the airport. Somehow I can’t seem to picture every housewife in the country armed with a double barrel shotgun by the kitchen stove. Some husbands ought to think twice about that idea.

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My grandmother lived in Yards, Va., and she kept an old “owl head” pistol around the house for protection. My dad said she was a pretty good shot with that thing. Grandmother passed away in 1928 many years before I was born. I’m sure that pistol was considered a powerful weapon in those days.

Grandmother lived not very far from the railroad yard. In the early part of the last century rail travel was the chosen mode of transportation — rail, a horse or an old car. Roads were poor and travel by automobile was suitable for short trips. N&W passenger trains passed through Yards on the main line between Norfolk and Cincinnati. In those days some unsavory characters rode the trains and one never knew who might decide to get off the train in Yards. Grandmother kept that old pistol ready just in case.   

I had absolutely no idea what an “owl head” pistol might be. I did check and found that an “owl head” pistol is a .32 caliber pistol made by Iver Johnson. These pistols had an owl’s head on the grip — hence the nickname. That thing is no match for today’s weaponry.

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I spent a couple of days down in Winston-Salem, N.C., this past week. One night I heard their local TV weatherman mention Bluefield. The next day I was reading a story in a local magazine and, behold, the story mentioned Bluefield. I thought that was pretty good.

The story was quite interesting. During the depression President Roosevelt promised the American people a “New Deal.” In 1933, a program to create work for American artists came into being. In 1938 an artist by the name or Richard Kenah was commissioned to paint murals to reflect the town’s heritage in U.S. Post Offices. Kenah painted murals in Louisburg, N.C., Bridgeport, Ohio and one entitled “Coal Mining” in the Bluefield, Va., Post Office. Some sources put the date as 1942 for the Bluefield Post Office mural. This paper also carried a story about the mural in 2011. I was elated to hear and read something about our area while out of town.

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I was passing time in a waiting room a few days ago and noticed a U.S. Airways magazine that contained a story about Lexington, Ky. After reading the story I began to compare our fair city to the crown jewel of the Bluegrass state.

It seems that the glossy painted a picture that drew me in. Other than Lexington having horses, Saudi princes occasionally jetting in to buy a few ponies, distilleries, and about a million other assets, I decided that I’d rather live here in the Bluefields. I’m not so sure that the bluegrass is any greener. I also figured out why that Kentucky grass is blue. Perhaps an equestrian center might not be a far-fetched idea.  

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I hope that our Legislature sees fit to remove the tolls from the West Virginia Turnpike. I haven’t met anyone that likes to pay to ride that road to Charleston. The road is dangerous. Several friends have lost their lives on that road. Charlie Rose was the latest. I’ll miss him and probably think about him every time I use that road. As I cross the bridge below the last toll booth near Chelyan, I think about friends Ron Goudy and Jiggs Griffin. They lost their lives on that road in 1969 on their way home at the end of the school term.

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There you have it, a few comments on items of interest to the area. I hope you have enjoyed a few more blues skies this past week. Please have a great blue sky day.

Wilson Butt, a resident of Bluefield, is a retired Department of Highways official.

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