Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Birthday Tribute To The Mountain State

In the mid 60's my maternal Grandfather, Jerry Stidham, was named West Virginia Poet Laureate by Governor Hulett Smith.  Papaw Stidham was an excellent poet.  As long as I could remember, back into the 1950's (and even before that) he wrote an original Christmas poem each year.  He would have the poem printed on shiny white cards, with borders trimmed in tinsel, holly, Christmas bells, and evergreen, and mail a couple of hundred out to his many friends, neighbors and collegues.

He had served three terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates along with some other delegates who became well known politicians in the Mountain State.  He had served with Robert Byrd, Arch Moore, A. James Manchin, and Jennings Randolph, all of whom became fixtures on the West Virginia political scene.  Papaw went from working in the mines to become an official with the United Mine Workers of America. I remember two pictures on his living room wall in Holden, WV.  UMWA President and icon, John L. Lewis, and Jesus Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsamane.  Papaw was well acquainted with the former (and worked closely with his brother, Raymond Lewis, in the District 17 office in Charleston).  Later in life he became acquainted with the latter, and he spent the final 9 years of so of his life, preaching the Good News of Jesus to many people over the radio, and in churches he pastored in Kanawha and Logan Counties.

Papaw dearly loved the Lord.  He loved his job.  He loved his family.  And he deeply loved the state of West Virginia, the state his family adopted after moving from his native Breathitt County, Kentucky when he was a child.

For West Virginia's Centennial Celebration in 1963, Papaw Stidham wrote the following poem, verbalizing his affection for the Mountain State.  I think it to be a fitting tribute to share today, 50 years later and 45 years after his death.  Every true West Virginian will be able to relate to the words.  Read on.

A Particular Place

When God made the Earth, He looked out in space,
And graciously blessed a particular place.
Some mountains He molded to begin His plan
As He knew they would be cherished by mortal man.

The valleys He shaped so deep and so wide,
And the streams so swift , never to hide 
The sparkle or ripple from man;s sharp eye,
So crystal and clear as if dropped from the sky.

The seasons He made our desire to delight;
With light of the day and darkness at night,
Overcast with stars and a silvery moon,
The Sun in the heavens every day at noon.

With seeds of Summer's green grass to grow,
Sleeping under the beauty of a winter snow,
The gorgeous Spring flowers for all to see,
And the abundant color of the autumn tree.

Game creatures for the bow and fish for the rod.
Rich fertile soil for the tiller of the sod.
Great beds of coal and timber galore,
Limestone and gas, very much in store.

So great, so fine, wonderful and rich,
A pleasant surprise in each corner and niche.
Nowhere you go will be the same,
For West Virginia is its name!

Author:  Jerry Stidham

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