Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

May 1, 2014

A lot of the past can make a successful transition into the future


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — I’m always amazed by the age of the structures, and a lot of the infrastructure, that still stands in southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia. I remember one man who recalled how he and his buddies made a special trip to Bluefield so they could ride the elevator of the West Virginia Manor, then the tallest building in the region. In another instance, one of us here at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph once interviewed a man who saw Moe Howard, Moe of the Three Stooges, boarding an elevator at the manor.

When you go to most any community in the region, you see structures that had a few years on them when the Titanic was being built. Unlike the legendary and ill-fated ocean liner, they have stood the test of time. In some cases, items built at that time have stood the test a little too long.

About 400 feet of water line were dug up and replaced this week in the town of Pocahontas, Va. Vice Mayor Jerry Gravely said it was probably installed in the early 1900s. The Titanic set sail for the first and last time in 1912, so that makes the pipes older than the wreckage slowly disintegrating in the Atlantic Ocean. The town of Bluefield, Va., and the Tazewell County Public Service Authority helped Pocahontas replace these antique lines, so it was good to see cooperation in action.

Work is underway in places like Princeton and Bluefield to revitalize buildings that otherwise could slowly collapse like the structures in that show “Life After People.” For folks not familiar with that program, each episode takes the viewer to a place like Las Vegas, and asks experts what would happen if people suddenly disappeared from the Earth. In each case, nature quickly begins to destroy the works of the human species. Great bridges fall and skyscrapers topple like rotten trees.

I’ve heard more than one builder say how important it is for a building to “stay warm.” Vital parts like the roof and the plumbing must be maintained, otherwise water starts getting indoors and pipes burst as they freeze. Water is nature’s solvent, and it gradually dissolves material. As it freezes, it can split stone. It can also corrode metal and weaken it.

There are plenty of places both in West Virginia and Virginia where the “Life After People” crew could shoot scenes for future episodes. Old buildings that were proud structures early in the 20th century, sometimes earlier, have collapsed to become brick or wooden shells.

Fortunately, a lot is being preserved, too. Sometimes the work is painfully slow, and done only when money and volunteers become available, but it does happen. The trick is to start taking action before the building starts to crumble or before somebody announces plans to knock it down.

I’ve always liked old buildings, and I like to imagine what I would do with them if I had the money. If enough people also imagine such things, a lot of the past can make the transition into the future.

lll

I get varying reactions when I tell somebody that I have a snake and some tarantulas. Some folks are interested, and others ever so slightly recoil. Personally, I think they are interesting and a lot of fun; learning how to take proper care of them is part of the hobby.

My California king snake, Alice, isn’t venomous, and she — I’m starting to think Alice might be a male — won’t get too big. I did a lot of research before deciding on what sort of snake I wanted. I definitely didn’t want something poisonous.

There are people who do want poisonous snakes, scorpions, and some varieties of spiders. They like the excitement of having something dangerous.

Well, one time I read a good bit of advice for anyone who wants a poisonous pet: Don’t think “If I ever get bitten.” Think “When I get bitten.” If you have a snake, it’s going to bite you some day.

Alice gave me a bite last Tuesday. It was feeding time, so I brought Alice a mouse. Unfortunately, this mouse wasn’t very smart. It just sat there, so I decided to give it a nudge.

Alice could smell the mouse and was already excited. Snakes don’t see very well, so Alice saw my nice pink right-hand thumb and lunged. Alice let go immediately, but the bite drew blood.

I immediately doused the bite with alcohol and hand sanitizer, and washed my hands for good measure.

King snakes don’t have venom, but I would have been in serious trouble if Alice was a coral snake, a black mamba, a rattlesnake or some other species like that. If you have a snake, you’re going to get bitten sometime. Even the sweetest pet will, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt you. You just have to be careful to pick an animal that can’t send you to the emergency room.

Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior reporter. Contact him at gjordan@bdtonline.com