• A visit to Union 2013. If you grew up in Union, West Virginia and you have not been able to return to Monroe County recently, chances are you will enjoy a little tour of Union and the area.

    View a Picture Tour of Union & Monroe County.


“First Impressions” by Willis P. Simmons

Few boys were able to resist the tempting target offered by a hornets’ nest. Unlike wasps and bumblebees, which fly about in a confused and desultory manner, hornets take great offence when their nest is disturbed. From their usually high vantage point, they have an uncanny way of locating the perpetrator. I can not vouch as to their intent, but I have seen them fly in ever-widening circles, almost as though they were searching him out. They often found him… especially if he moved. The saying “mad as a hornet” certainly seems appropriate.

It was the summer after my sixteenth birthday, and a perfect Sunday afternoon. Church was over. Carrie and I were walking along the bank of a small creek which flowed through John Hinchman’s pasture field. Carrie was from Bluefield, and I was trying hard to impress her with my woods lore and knowledge of the outdoors. Thus far, this had consisted mostly of identifying various plants, trees and birds with which I was familiar, and being careful not to mention those which I was not; rather tame stuff for a sixteen year old boy with a new girl friend. I soon saw something better. On the other side of the stream, a hornets’ nest hung high in a locust tree at the edge of a wooded hillside. Fortunately it was not large, perhaps the size of football; but, as I was about to discover, the occupants were sufficient.

Pointing toward the nest, and without thinking of what the consequences might be for Carrie…or my bare back… I prepared to show her how we country boys deal with hornets. Advancing as close as I could without crossing the creek, I picked up a rock and casually threw it in the direction of the nest. Rising up as though it had wings, the rock crossed the creek in perfect flight, and hit the target dead center. With a proud smirk, meant to hide my own surprise, and to imply that this sort of thing happened every time, I glanced back at Carrie, hoping she was sufficiently impressed. I didn’t want to spoil my record by throwing another rock.

I never had the chance. Like black beads falling from a broken strand, the hornets poured out of the torn nest directly toward me. I was between Carrie and the hornets, but they took no notice of her. It was almost as though they knew who threw the rock. I had retreated only a few steps when I felt them hitting my bare back. I certainly made no effort to count, but half a dozen or more found me. Strangely, though, after hitting me they didn’t press the attack, and hornets can sting more than once. They very well may have been addled by the impact, which initially hurt more than the stings. For whatever reason, they soon gave up the chase, and I managed to maintain some semblance of cool as we crossed the bottom toward the fence.

Soon we were through the gate and in the road. Carrie was not sure what had happened, but was concerned. After we had put some distance between us and the angry hornets, she asked if I had been badly stung. As much as I wanted her comforting words, I couldn’t let her know I was hurting. Trying to speak casually through clenched teeth, I slipped my shirt on, and told her hornet stings don’t bother me.

It was well over a mile to her grandmother’s house, where she was staying, and as much again to mine. As we started to walk, I reached out and took her hand. This was always a pleasant thing to do, but this time I did it to keep from swinging my arm. Hand in hand, we walked quietly along the narrow road. Perhaps understanding me better than I knew, Carrie said little, and I was left with my thoughts: That was a dumb thing to do…She doesn’t expect me to impress her…I wonder if I did…I probably didn’t.

Stoically maintaining my composure, we finally reached her house. We said goodby at the front gate, and I watched her walk across the yard. She would be returning to Bluefield this evening, and I wouldn’t see her for two weeks. As she opened the door, she looked back and smiled. A soft kiss and a gentle smile; for a few moments the pain was gone.

It returned with the closing of the door, and I started the long walk up Poplar Holler Hill. As soon as I got around the first turn, I wet my shirt in a roadside puddle and laid it gingerly over the red welts on my back. I trudged on, wondering if girls were worth all this pain.

Certainly they were… and more. Carrie and I went to the drive-in movies last night, to church this morning, and spent the afternoon walking in the countryside. I would be sleeping on my stomach for a few nights, but that was a small price to pay. I had impressed a girl from the big city.

Willis P. Simmons    1999
Friend of  UHS