JACKSON’S MILL, West Va.: If you’ve never seen one of those old water-powered grist mills operate, here’s the place to come to. This is where the famous Civil War General Stonewall Jackson grew up, and his uncle had a mill on the banks of the West Fork of the Monongahela River. You can watch ’em dump wheat in the top, and as the huge stone turns, it grinds the grain into flour that comes out below. I imagine, if you’ve a mind to, you could haul in a wagon load of corn, and they’ll grind it into meal that you can bag and take home with you just like the local settlers did 175 years ago.
Jackson’s Mill is famous for another historic event. The first camp for 4-H was held here, I believe in 1921, and they still have those youngins camping here every summer, but not the same ones.
This holiday weekend, when America is honoring our hard-working men and women, they are holding a Jubilee here in honor of Stonewall. They got bluegrass and gospel singing, every kind of craft and art work you can imagine, all of it done by hand in great detail. There’s old steam and gasoline engines, marble shootin’ for the kids, and a bunch of traditional American foods from kettle corn to blackberry cobbler to Sasparilla.
My favorite among all the great talent here was a performer named Bum.
His full name is Bum the Wonder Horse. Now I mean no disrespect to anybody, but Bum is without a doubt among the smartest animals ever to walk the planet. He is the Einstein of horsedom. His IQ, if you could measure it, would place him above ninety percent of the folks interviewed on the streets of Los Angeles by Jay Leno, or maybe a hundred percent.
Just a couple of miles upriver in a town called Weston they are still figuring out who they elected as mayor three months ago. They have had ballot arguments here just like down in Palm Beach, only without interference from high-priced lawyers and television . (I bet though, that if Gary Condit had spent every night of his married life at home with his wife, and if one of these mayor candidates had had a rendezvous with a Washington intern, it would’ve been these Weston fellows on Larry King every night last month.)
They aren’t in any big hurry to settle it. They figure if the President of the United States can vacation for a month, then Weston can survive three months without a mayor. The economy here is just as good as it was in May, which is more than you can say for the country.
There have been all kind of suggestions on how to break the deadlock, short of the state Supreme Court, from arm wrestling to checkers to a carp fishing competition in the West Fork.
But I think the best solution is to have the two stand out in a field, and say, “Bum, go to the fellow that you think will make the best mayor.” He’s sure to pick the right one.
Historical quotes from Will Rogers:
“Well, all I know is just what I see in the papers, or what I hear as I sit behind the free lunch table and listen to the boys bark for their meals…. They call it a Jackson Day Dinner. I made the mistake of my life. I went there with a speech prepared about Jackson, telling how “He stood like a stone wall,” and here it wasn’t that Jackson that they were using as an alibi to give the dinner to. It was old “Andy” Jackson.
Well, to tell you the truth, I am not so sweet on old Andy. He is the one that run us Cherokees out of Georgia and North Carolina. I ate the dinner on him, but I didn’t enjoy it. I thought I was eating for Stonewall. Old Andy, every time he couldn’t find anyone to jump on, would come back and pounce onto us Indians. Course he licked the English down in New Orleans, but he didn’t do it till the war had been over two weeks, so he really just fought them as an encore.” WA #267, Feb. 5, 1928
“…We had a wonderful time that summer. Jim and Dopey came that summer (1915). Jim was a baby boy, and Dopey was a little round bodied, coal black pony, with glass eyes, the gentlest and greatest pony for grown ups or children anyone ever saw. I don’t know why we called him Dopey. I guess it was because he was always so gentle and just the least bit lazy. Anyhow we meant no disrespect to him.
…One year I took Dopey in a (Ziegfeld) Follies baggage car, on the whole tour with the show, and kept him in the riding academys and practiced roping every day with him. Charley Aldrich a cowboy used to ride him, and run by for my fancy roping tricks. He has been missed with a loop more times, and maybe caught more times, than any horse living. In a little picture called the “Roping Fool” where I did all my little fancy catches in slow motion, he was the pony that run for them. He was coal black, and I had my ropes whitened and the catches showed up fine.
…all the children learned trick riding on him, standing up on him running, vaulting… When nineteen years of you and your children’s life is linked so closely with a horse, you can sorter imagine our feelings. We still have quite a few old favorites left, but Dopey was different. He was of the family. He raised our children. He learned ’em to ride. He never hurt one in his life. He did everything right. That’s a reputation that no human can die with.
Goodbye Dopey, from Mama, Dad, Bill, Mary and Jim.” WA #625, Dec. 16, 1934