Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 12, 2013

Pumpkin festival, old time socials, and “apis mellifera” all facing the end

— — One of Shakespeare’s best known sonnets is “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” and the idea is that memory preserves. Although the good-time Peel Chestnut Mountain Pumpkin Festival may be coming to an end actually, we might say that technically it will truly last as long as we remember it.

Russell and Pat Synan along with a few hundred neighbors have welcomed us literally into their home up above Pocahontas on one side, Anawalt on the other, and Maybeury on the third edge of the pinnacle triangle where the Synan Farm is the apex.

Today’s festival, beginning at 10 a.m., is slated to be the final October gathering for good old-time (live) bluegrass and gospel music, hayrides, face painting, flea market items, those tasty “bologna” sandwiches, and fellowship with the folks many of us grew up with.

For students of the mountain culture, this will be one more chance to see the neighborhood and community style of the Appalachians at its best. There will be no neon signs or boutiques nearby. Livestock and tractors will be all around, however. Forget the fast food. No high-rise buildings, just high mountain tops with hardwood trees on the hillside and pumpkins in the patch.

It is a way of life almost gone from much of our country. Neighbors in bib overalls and miners’ caps will shake hands, grin, and ask about the family. Others will sit and pat their feet to the hard-driving sounds of “Salty Dog Blues” or “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” There will be a time for prayer, too. And it’s free. The Synans don’t charge for anything. Donations might be accepted to help pay for the mustard and mayonnaise on those delicious sandwiches but you don’t need to bring a dime if you don’t want to. Not even for parking.

The scenery is spectacular but the company may be even better. It’s down to earth at the top of some of the planet’s most beautiful acreage. If West Virginia, which is only a mile or so up the ridge, is “almost heaven” then maybe the annual Pumpkin Festival is actually even closer. It seems that everything except worry is in abundant supply on festival day. Take a moment to say something nice to the Synans before you leave today.

Come to think of it, Russell and Pat have even gone beyond Shakespeare. His great poem was only sonnet No. 18 and the Synans are putting No. 20 on the board. See you there.


“Apis Mellifera” is probably Latin and definitely refers to the western honeybee. According to an article by Bryan Walsh, those bees are extremely important to both of us and it is likely that one of every three mouthfuls of food we consume is directly related to the little fellers. Although the bees are not on salary, agriculture experts say that their efforts are worth more than $15 billion annually to our food industry

Beekeepers continue to worry about the increasing death rates of these vitally important bees and what it means to our economy and our lives. Perhaps not since Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic book “Silent Spring” about the devastating consequences of pesticides have the growers been more concerned about a food issue. Currently, a series of chemicals known as “neonicontinoids” are suspected by many scientists of causing harm to the bees.

Bees and their pollination efforts have a huge impact on many staples of our diets. For example, 90 percent of apples grow because of bee pollination and the same is true for blueberries and onions. Some 80 percent of cherries and cucumbers depend upon the bees and there is a wide variety of other crops which also require help from the bees.

Some experts believe that parasitic mites are to blame for the decline of the bees. Others add that our growing country, which paves and destroys wildflower land at a growing pace, is gradually replacing the areas that bees must have to live and grow and do their pollinating chores. To produce one pound of honey, a bee will fly approximately 55,000 miles and visit two million flowers. That can’t be done on city sidewalks.

The issue has yet to be resolved but one main problem will not go away — humans. We probably are major culprits in the elimination of about 100,000 animal species each year.

Isn’t that a honey of a thought?

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.

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