Monday, November 23, 2009

My Hometown in 500 Words

I run off the road toward the brush when a pick-up truck whizzes past me at a curve. A thorny weed latches around my neck. I’ve forgotten how foggy and cool the West Virginia mornings are in late August. This was not a good plan, I think about my idea to run on Cow Creek Road. But I keep going, passing subdivisions crammed with large look-alike houses as I jog up and down the hills. 

I can’t remember ever turning on this road even though I grew up a few miles away in Scott Depot to a soundtrack of roaring interstate punctuated by the bellows of train whistles. This place I consider home doesn’t even qualify as a small town. It’s more of an interstate stop-off with gas stations, a couple of truck stops and motels, and a representative of about every fast food establishment in the Southeast. It's unincorporated, meaning it has no mayor, sheriff, or downtown. It got its name from a now defunct train depot built in rolling farmland. Now it’s part of Teays Valley, a district that has about 13,000 people.

There are no museums, galleries, or cafes in Teays Valley. Shopping is limited to Kmart, Kroger grocery store, and a few short strip malls. The closest thing to fine dining is Applebee’s, which also serves as the local nightlife scene. But while I was away at college the community got a movie theater, and as of 2008 residents can shop at four Wal-Marts within a 30-minute drive.

About 30 minutes into my Cow Creek run I contemplate the brick mansions with pools in the back and Hummers in the front that stand across the road from trailers in muddy ditches with ‘80s-era swing sets, rusty tricycles, and shells of old cars piled in the front lawns.

A mile up the road a rooster crosses a wooden board laid over a creek. Way down a sloping gravel driveway a big woman with white hair stands by a barn with her hands on her hips, her muumuu billowing in the breeze. She stares at me. I’m suddenly self-conscious of my spandex running pants and the purple iPod nano strapped to my arm. But I smile and wave. She gives me the look of death.

I keep running as the road twists up a forested hill. When I pass an abandoned, tire-less car parked on a steep creek ledge and inhale a whiff of something foul, I try not to think about stashed cadavers. At the top, the landscape morphs into hillsides dotted with hay bales. I come to a pair of mobile homes, and a pack of grimy pointers sprints after me, yapping at my heels. I try to remain calm, but a traffic sign blasted with bullet holes makes the backwoods horror movie setting all too relevant. I turn around. 

I finally see Midway Valley Mart ahead on the main road at the end of Cow Creek. My mother’s red SUV pulls in to rescue me. I hop in the car, sweaty and breathing hard. “How was your run?” she asks. “Long,” I say, staring out the window. During the five-minute drive home I gaze at the housing developments and office spaces, wondering who lives and works there. When we turn into New London Commons -- my brick subdivision -- I ponder how some of us remain so unaware of the place we came from. 


  1. Rachel,

    I see how your hometown wouldn't help you conjure images, but you've overcome that barrier and created some great images here, and made it quite interesting :) I get a clear picture of the place. Nice details too!

  2. oh i just love it. i just love it. i can't go running at home. people stare at me like i have 3 heads for running in the first place. why would i run when i have a car?


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