Seems like just the other day, but back in the summer of 1972, I worked at Robinson Machine Shop, which was located at Switzer and owned by then 86-year-old Tom Robinson. I was not a machinist, nor did I have any other machine shop expertise, but the old man gave me a summer job while I was home from college, and I basically was a “go getter” and did whatever the man asked—clean up metal shavings, etc.
One day I watched as a delivery man with West Virginia Steel Company worked in the sweltering summer heat to unload a flatbed truck by himself. Feeling sorry for the guy, I decided to help him with the heavy metal. Unfortunately, he rolled a huge solid iron pole into my leg and pinned it against another large piece of metal that I was trying to move. Screaming in pain and cursing the guy until a fly wouldn’t even light on him, the injury led to my first trip to a hospital since being born. So, that Wednesday evening the doctor at Logan General Hospital showed me to have a hairline fracture of the left leg and, for whatever reason, told me to come back on Friday for a cast. I never went back.
Weeks later, I was asked to pinch run in a softball tournament at Kermit. Though leery to do so, I went in to run for Johnny “Seed” Adams, who had just singled in the final inning of a 2-1 contest. Seed was one of the most feared batters ever to play the game, but not exactly fleet of foot, though he ran well for a big man. With the left-handed Don Browning batting next, and him being a speedster, Manager Jim Evans (a man I admired as a father figure) said, “D,” I know you’ve got a bad leg but you can still out run “Seed.” Needless to say, Don (yes, the same Don that has Browning’s Jewelers in Logan) shot one down the right field line for a hit and I then had to “get with it.”
When my foot touched second base, I felt something click. With Don at my heels, I knew I had to reach third, and I did so by sliding into the base safely. We wound up tying the game and going into extra innings against a team sponsored by Silver Brand Clothes. I honestly cannot remember who won the game, but I remember the squad was managed by Boyd Kirkendoll, and his son Art, now State Senator Kirkendoll, was on the team. Later, both Kirkendoll’s would join our team to make us better.
I may suffer from arthritis someday, but I believe the bone in my leg somehow came together that fateful summer afternoon when I hit second base with my left foot. I do know (Thank you, Lord) that I’ve never had a problem with it since and never saw another doctor for the next 44 years. That is until this past April when, I suppose, the law of averages somehow caught up with me. For whatever reason, I wound up at 2:30 on a Friday morning just 12 days before the Primary Election falling down the stairway at my house, breaking my right femur.
While being transported to St. Mary’s Hospital that same morning, I was given fentanyl, the pain killer that is 100 times more powerful than morphine, and the drug that musical star, Prince, overdosed on. Trust me, if you have severe enough pain there is no “high” that comes along with this drug.
I’m relating this story for various reasons, but one reason is to show just how Logan County people continue to make a difference in varying locations. For instance, just before I was to be operated on in Huntington and a metal rod inserted from my hip to my knee, the last person I spoke to was the nurse who was assisting in the operation. She just wanted me to know that she originally was from Lake in Logan County. I only recall her telling me that her maiden name was Ball; certainly a familiar name for that portion of the county.
As it turns out, my nighttime nurse for the six day period I spent in St. Mary’s was also originally from our county. She was from Buffalo Creek and her maiden name was Walls. She described herself as a cousin to Charlie Walls, a former police officer now employed with the Logan Prosecutor’s office, and David Walls, Man Chief of Police. That fact got me to recall three years earlier when my wife, Jan, had surgery also via Scott Orthopedics in Huntington. The anesthesiologist for her surgery was originally from Logan; a gentleman who said he was born and raised on Stratton Street. It just seems that Logan people, or their kinsmen, show up everywhere—and here is even more proof.
After progressing from a bed to a walker, and then finally a cane, I returned to work in July, but due to a raspy voice that preceded even my broken leg, my wife made an appointment for me at the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic in Charleston. It was there following a biopsy it was determined that I had cancer on my left vocal cord. Dr. Laugh said it was 90 percent curable with daily radiation treatments. An appointment was then made for CAMC’s Cancer Center in Kanawha City, the former site of the Watt Powell baseball park. The modern facility opened October 5, 2015.
At the time, Magistrate Leonard Codispoti was still off work following a knee replacement and Magistrate Steve Gray had not had any vacation because Codispoti and I had both been recovering at home. The decision was made by my wife and I to simply keep quiet about my treatments, as enough disruption had already occurred in Magistrate Court. On the first day that I was to meet the radiation oncologist so he could explain what the future held, we made the first of almost 30 trips to Charleston for radiation therapy. The interesting part for me was when the doctor walked into the room to meet with us. “So, I understand you folks are from Logan. Is that right?” the smiling young man inquired. “Because so am I,” he added, even before we could answer.
Turns out that Dr. Prem Raja was raised at Stollings and that his father was the first ever orthopedic surgeon at Logan General Hospital and he actually started the orthopedics department there, which still exists today. “I remember we lived close to the river,” said the friendly doctor, “because we got flooded one time when I was very young. We moved away not too long after that.”
To me, it just seems that Logan County related history can be found nearly everywhere one travels. Heck, it was only recently I found out that a Raleigh County magistrate’s roots lay in Logan County; his great-grandfather being a good friend of the infamous Hatfield clan.
Anyway, I have been to many baseball games at Watt Powell Baseball Park, where the cancer center now exists. I have covered baseball tournaments for this newspaper and over the years have watched many minor league baseball games there dating back to the Charleston Charlies teams. How interesting it was when I parked my vehicle on my first day there to meet with Dr. Raja that the parking space I chose turned out to be right where home plate was always located. A bronze home plate memorializing the historic ball park and the very spot where such former legends as Dave Parker, Tony LaRussa, Luis Pujols, Bobby Valentine, Willie Randolph, and others once stood—before they became major league standouts—lay then at my feet. I felt the irony of it all, and I commented that I might need a “home run” as Jan and I headed into the building.
The good people at the cancer center tried in every way to make sure that I got the latest possible time each day for my treatments, but on a couple of Friday’s when the times were set for 4:30 or 5 p.m., I simply could not make it because of my own job not ending until 4:30 p.m. However, I made all other appointments with varying times at 5:30 p.m., 5:45, 6:00, 6:15, and even 7:15 p.m. Getting from Logan to Kanawha City in an hour was not easy, I might add. But, at least we never had to make the trips on weekend or holidays. By the way, my wife never missed a trip with me.
From the beginning, Dr. Raja told me that toward the end of my radiation treatments I would lose my voice and my neck would become extremely red. Sure enough, my voice began to “go” and my neck started to “glow”. Eventually, co-workers and a few others started asking what was wrong with my voice. Some suggested I see a doctor. It was becoming difficult to not let them and others know about my treatments. Only my wife, one brother and a close friend were privy to my ailment, so this writing may come as quiet a surprise for some people. Thankfully, I was able to make it through a family reunion in September and my recent annual magistrate training without any repercussions. My voice is slated to return within about four weeks, according to Dr. Raja; it will be longer, he says, if I continue to speak, which I will have to do.
October 5th was the one-year anniversary of the opening of the cancer clinic and the final day of my 28th and final treatment. There will be no more putting on the special mask that I wore at each treatment. No more pretending that aliens had abducted me and were prodding me as at each treatment I lay motionless while small machines making odd noises hovered about my head. No more leaving work every day and hurrying 64 miles to make it on time for treatments. No more keeping things secret. On an even more positive note, I have a ready-made mask for Halloween.
My follow up examination is scheduled for November 8th, which is Election Day. That, to me, seems to be an appropriate time to get rid of certain bad things — like cancer, and some candidates, or office holders.
That having been said, and anticipated hospital bills to surely come my way, I say, maybe Bernie Sanders’ national health plans weren’t so bad after all.
BITS AND PIECES
Injuries and illness have indeed taken their toll around the courthouse…..the last update I’ve heard in regard to Magistrate Steve Gray’s condition is that he now is at CAMC in Charleston, but will be transferred to Morgantown, where nuclear medicine is planned to treat his brain aneurism…..I’m told the treatment period will be for about six months…..also on the court’s injury report lately has been noted Logan attorney Robert Ilderton, who injured himself during the summer, but is back to work again…..Magistrate clerk Kathy Guy is recovering from a knee operation, as is Magistrate Leonard Codispoti, and we can’t forget Carol Booth of the Public Defender’s Office, who fell and broke her femur about the same time I did…..recently, while on night duty at the courthouse, I left via Stratton Street and couldn’t help but notice the 40 to 50 people, mostly kids, who were watching the free movie being shown outside at the former Aracoma Hotel site…..the town of Logan has been showing a movie for children every Saturday night at the site when the weather cooperates…..hats off to the town of Logan officials who came up with this idea…..for those of us who remember outdoor movie theaters like Monitor Drive-In and Huff Junction Drive-In at Man, we know these kids in town will have lasting memories…..maybe there will be a scary movie for them close to Halloween…..bring a chair and come to town this Saturday evening with the kids before cold weather sets in…..local guys who fared well at the WVGA Senior Golf Series include Glenn Yost, Scott Mills and Kenny Zigmond, all of Logan, and George Ferrell and Eddie Griffith Jr. of Chapmanville, all of whom are pretty darned good golfers…..the United States should never have entered into a trade agreement that does not allow for consumers to have the basic right to know where their food comes from…..most of us would like our hamburger, steaks, etc., to be marked as to whether or not it came from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, or somewhere else…..locals should know that Muncy Bail Bonds is back as the only bail bonding company in Logan County…..telephone 752-4424 to reach owners, Keno and TaKara Muncy…..a few of my friends might want to place the above phone number in their wallets, or purses: just sayin’…..I saw where a new CBS nationwide poll found that 84 percent of Americans now say they approve of at least legalizing medical marijuana…..I hear the Front Room Restaurant at Fountain Place Mall is under new ownership and that the place is currently undergoing a complete new makeover; more about that at a later date…..DID YOU KNOW that it wasn’t until the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1971 that 18-year-olds were allowed to vote?…..before the law went into effect, one could get his or her brains blown out in Vietnam, or elsewhere, but could not vote for or against the person(s) sending you to war…..nowadays, you can be killed in war, and allowed to cast a ballot, but not allowed to drink a beer legally until one is 21-years-old…..there’s just something wrong with that scenario…..QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I am free of prejudice. I hate everyone equally.”—W.C. Fields…..FINAL NOTE: Of the close to 200 magistrates across the great state of West Virginia, I have yet to find one that does not have parking provided at their courthouse or at the annex building that some work at. I think it’s nice that both Circuit Judges have marked spaces at the corners of the Logan courthouse and that Family Court Judges have close-by parking. I also think it is good that police parking is provided, and that some people park in disabled parking places all day because maybe they need to. However, I think it even better that Logan Mayor Nolletti has recognized that Logan magistrates, who per capita handle more cases, citations, etc., than any county in the state, should at least be given respectable parking. It would have been nice to have when I was walking on a cane and trying to get to daily radiation treatments on time. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.