As a young man, I turned my thoughts to the heavens, seeking answers to what lay beyond. My playground was open fields, streams and heavily forested woods, where the mysteries of nature revealed themselves to me under my watchful eyes. Those memories from long ago are my constant companions, and I draw upon them as I weave them into the fabric of my writing.
I have had many highpoints in my life, but one in particular comes to mind. When I was ten, a friend told me that I should check out the local Boy Scout troop. He told me that they gave a free stick of gum to everyone who shows up at their meetings. Free gum! I went the very next night and thoroughly enjoyed that stick of gum. While there, I passed all of the requirements for the Tenderfoot badge. That night launched my quest to become the country’s youngest Eagle Scout. Two years later, I had completed all requirements for the highest scouting honor, the rank of Eagle Scout. On my thirteenth birthday, a special awards banquet was held in my honor, and in the presence of five hundred people, I received my Eagle badge.
When I graduated from high school, I went to work as a draftsman at a local machine shop. A year later, General Motors hired me as a tool and die designer. Four months later, I married Mary Ann, the farmer’s daughter. She was and still is the joy of my life and an adventuresome companion.
Over the next fifteen years, Mary Ann and I had two lovely daughters, and I was promoted to design engineer. This position would require me to work ten-to twelve-hour days, seven days a week, year in and year out. This grueling schedule would soon take a toll on our family life. A change had to be made and the sooner the better.
In 1974, I walked away from my life at General Motors and never looked back. My young family and I wiped the slate clean and started a self-sufficient life on a mountaintop in the remote Appalachians of West Virginia.
The task of starting over was not an easy one. Building our home out of rough-sawn spruce with a chainsaw and sweat labor was tough on my office worker hands and body. Blisters piled up on top of one another and in time, soon became thick calluses.
We soon mastered the old ways. We learned to cook and heat with wood, we built our prized two-seater outhouse and a reservoir for the cool, sweet water that flowed steadily from the mountain side. We planted acres of gardens and farm animals soon followed.
With our success on the mountain, came hardships and near death experiences that shaped our beliefs that we surely had more than one Guardian Angel.
Memories of my youth and our years on the mountain shaped my career as a writer. My debut novel, Winder Hollow
, is deep-seated in folklore and family drama in the West Virginia Mountains.
I was fortunate to have a family that was willing to share a life of self-sacrifice and the hardships of mountain living. We embraced our new lifestyle, knowing that every day on the mountain brought new life experiences. Through the years, the generosity of our neighbors sustained us in many ways. Their time-honored ways of surviving in the mountains served us well in the twelve years we lived the old ways. We enjoyed mountain fare with them and listened intently as they wove the magic of their tales around us. A writer couldn’t ask for better memories with which to write endless stories about the mountain people. Their lives are colorful, the mountains are inspiring, and the natural beauty and solitude one finds there, are Heaven on Earth.
In Winder Hollow
, I have endeavored to keep alive the memories of the courageous mountain settlers who were such an important part of our American heritage.
Thank you for spending this time with me. I sincerely hope to hear from those of you who venture to read my book.
R. F. McClure