For those of you who might be wondering why I haven’t had any recent ramblings in this newspaper, and you believe it might have something to do with the recent Primary election results, well, consider yourself at least partially correct. I have been in horrendous pain beginning 12 days before the May 10th election, which has to go down in local history as one of the strangest elections ever in Logan County — and we’ve had some dandy’s.
As I write these words, I know the “agony of defeat” still lingers with my longtime friend and State Senator Art Kirkendoll, who lost in his bid for re-election. Unfortunately, in today’s precarious times, 35 years of public service to people didn’t seem to matter much. The nation, and especially this state, cries out for change. Oftentimes, change in itself is not the answer. However, desperate times lead to desperate measures. Even the rise of Germany’s Adolph Hitler was the result of starving Germans in desperate times. Here are a few thoughts which, whether you agree or disagree, you won’t find anywhere else.
Perhaps it was an omen when on April 29th at around 2:30 a.m. I found myself writhing in pain at the base of a solid oak stairway in my home, having fallen 14 steps down what could be called anything but the “stairway to heaven.” I had been asleep for over two hours. I do not remember getting out of bed, opening the bedroom door, or much else besides insidious pain, Little did I know I had broken my femur, the most difficult bone in the body to break, or so I’ve been told, Realistically, it is a miracle I did not become paralyzed or at least have more broken bones.
Oddly, as I lay there awaiting my wife, who had no idea as to what had just happened, my thoughts were of the Civil War. In no other wars were there more men who suffered amputated legs, and I know why. A broken femur, whether resulting from a fallen horse, or a cannon blast, results in such pain that a soldier would beg for the broken leg to be cut off to end his misery. Despite morphine being available during the Civil War, I wonder how many soldiers accommodated their fellow solders’ wishes to end their battlefield misery. I suspect there were many who ended the painful screams with a bullet.,
My hospitalization was kept quiet for as long as possible, primarily to keep our home from being robbed while my wife was with me. She would travel back and forth to Huntington every day prior to my release. I declined rehabilitation at Barboursville because it would mean missing the election returns. I, instead, agreed to home physical therapy of which I have been receiving. Blessed with wonderful friends and a great family, I plan on being back on the job much sooner than my doctor has projected, which, by the way, is two to three months. So, what does all of this have to do with the recent election, you ask?
Well, when one lies in a solitary room and depends upon the aid of others for the first time ever, it makes you realize just what life is really about, and how precious it is. The first person I telephoned was a longtime friend, Charlie, who bravely spit in the eye of death when his doctor many years ago told him he would die from his cancer within just a few months. Hundreds of doctor’s visits later, Charlie’s doctor remains perplexed as to his patient’s escape from death.
How he managed to get my telephone number at the hospital and telephone my room to speak to me remains unknown, as another great friend, Tommy, who has battled cancer, survived numerous heart operations and, in fact, was declared to be dead on five separate occasions, laughed about his ongoing health problems, including daily dialysis treatments. As I thought of just these two long-lost human relics of my past and the many good times we’ve enjoyed over the years, it became apparent to me that one’s stay on this earth really has little to do with wins and losses, and has much more to do with contributions to society or someone’s life in general. I’m sure God’s scales are precise in measuring the good against the bad, and as long as we endure to do what we feel is right then shall we be judged from our toil in life. Here’s a true story of “good” that very few people know about.
There was this red-headed, raw boned kid back in the 1970’s and ‘80’s, who worked in the meat department of Kroger and later at a mine related business first located at Cherry Tree and later at Mill Creek as well as working at a local coal mines. Not exactly a household name, this fellow possessed the unusual attributes of physical speed and strength. Combined with an unbridled desire to compete and win, he competed as a hard-nosed catcher in fast-pitch softball and as an outfielder in the slow-pitch game, both of which were immensely popular sports at the time. He was a noted “star” at both sports where his quiet demeanor simply spelled out confident leadership. At the time, there was no way Art Kirkendoll, the guy some simply chose to call “Redbone”, could realize his compelling future.
Softball was so popular throughout the county, that a political team of candidates for local offices was formed from young men who played the softball game. Some of the names that come to mind include Sid Rayburn, candidate for Circuit Clerk, Homer Butcher for Sheriff, Ted Murray, Anthony “Sneak”Adams, Kirkendoll and a host of other political office seekers. As a writer with this newspaper, I recall taking all of the pictures and writing all of the ads for this softball group which was becoming a political force. All work was done by myself free of charge.
One afternoon in the newsroom, I recall getting a phone call from Publisher Tom George’s office. It actually was Banner Editor Raamie Barker, who was quick to get to the point. “Tom George wants to know how well you know this Kirkendoll guy and what type of a person he is,” said my boss. After explaining what a great person Arthur Edward Kirkendoll was, Barker interrupted me: “Can you get a hold of him and have him come to The Banner this afternoon?”
“Sure,” was my reply with a slight hint of excitement.
I telephoned National Cable Repair where Art worked for T.K. Killen, who also sponsored a fast-pitch softball team that Art was a member of. A few other members of that renowned squad back then included the likes of Ted Murray, Kenny Zigmond, Jack Baisden, Jim Lawson, Johnny Ball and other talented players, whose National Cable team was ranked nationally and won many tournaments in various parts of the country. I told Art of Raamie Barker’s request, and he appeared in the newsroom that same afternoon.
After notifying the Banner powers that be of Kirkendoll’s arrival, I was told to bring him to Publisher Tom George’s office, a place I had never been except once when I was requested to do an interview with then Senator Robert C. Byrd. I walked in with a political virgin by the name of Arhur Kirkendoll, introduced him to Tom George, Raamie Barker and a man who was destined to become his political Godfather, County Commissioner Dr. Mark Spurlock. One could easily say, “And that’s the rest of the story.” But it simply is not.
You see, the unknown Kirkendoll of some 35 years ago who sought the office of Logan County Commissioner was a long shot at best to defeat a Bill Abraham sponsored and highly likable Johnny Mendez, who had resigned his judicial position to become a County Commission candidate. Mendez and the Abraham faction took Kirkendoll’s campaign lightly until the momentum was such that it was becoming somewhat of a menace to the opposition. Behind the scenes moves by many volunteers such as myself and tireless efforts of others produced brochures that suddenly appeared on every parked vehicle in the county just as the election neared. “Kirkendoll: A New Look For Logan County.”
I asked Art to try and do a few things for the Mud Fork area if he was elected. I asked only that he promise to “try” to get water for that upper portion of the creek which had no public water. I asked for a playground that would be centrally located to serve our younger folks, and I asked for a fire department to be located somewhere on Mud Fork. I asked for nothing else.
While some may rightfully say that Major Richard Ojeda’s recent win was an upset of major proportion, one only needs to see the headlines of yesteryear which described Kirkendoll’s win as “the largest upset in Logan County political history.”
If you take a ride up Mud Fork, I hope you will notice a fully furnished fire department that stands brilliantly just below the Verdunville post office. Notice a nice playground directly across from the post office: a post office where some older gentlemen today can be heard speaking of the days when there was no public water, much less fire hydrants or sewer systems.
Indeed, as you travel Logan County you are likely to take for granted the many things made possible by the actions of Kirkendoll and several fellow County Commissioners of the past and present. Clean drinking water, paved alleys, repaired bridges, athletic fields, fire departments, a great ambulance authority… the list goes on and on. There are many things this county still needs and perhaps will ascertain in the near future.
Meanwhile, I salute the efforts of Major Richard Ojeda and his followers who ride the tide of change. We should all do our part in letting Ojeda know that we will support his efforts to make Logan County a better place in these difficult economic times. Speaking from a personal view, if the Major can accomplish half of what Kirkendoll has done, especially at the county level, then a good representative he shall be.
Just remember a public office is an office whose floors are made of thin ice, and if things are not going in the public’s favor, then consider yourself just as a hot potato that can be dropped at any time.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.