• 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.


“The Last Date” by Willis P. Simmons

A year had passed since my foolish … but perhaps not futile … attempt to impress Carrie by throwing a rock through a hornets’ nest.  I was now a year older, but evidently not a year wiser.

Carrie, the girl from Bluefield, had spent a few summer weekends at Creamery. We had some pleasant outings together; and, on one occasion, Dad allowed me to drive his truck to Bluefield to visit her.  Although Dad was rather generous as to my using his truck (most boys’ fathers kept an iron grip on the keys) his consent in this matter surprised even me.

Dad’s truck didn’t have the ubiquitous cattle racks. It could be cleaned to a passable degree, and I was glad to have it.  However, I now had the use of my brother’s 1951 Chevrolet.  It was green; the chrome was shiny; it had white sidewall tires and a radio and a power-glide transmission… and Carlis was in Florida.  For the most part, I drove it carefully; never recklessly, and seldom fast.  Most girls appreciated that … and so did their parents. I realized early on that there would be little fun in driving a car if parents would not allow their daughters to ride with me.  Even so, there were other ways to show off; and, on one particular occasion, I chose the wrong way and the wrong girl to do so, and the result was more painful than the stings of angry hornets.

As I have indicated, I had known Carrie since the previous summer. I liked her, and I suppose she liked me, but I was beginning to suspect that she liked animals even more… and hunting was not a topic of conversation with us. But, most of all, she liked dogs.  I also liked dogs, but not all dogs.  I liked dogs that stayed outside.  I liked dogs that were not overly affectionate.  I liked dogs that didn’t bark without a reason and who tended to their own business; that business being the chasing of rabbits and foxes; and, if in their spare time they should purloin a few eggs from the hen house, that didn’t sully their reputation as far as I was concerned, although Mother held to a different viewpoint.  All other dogs were merely a nuisance. I tolerated them, but I never harmed them.

It was a fine Saturday afternoon when Carrie and I arrived in Alderson, with no particular destination in mind.  As we came down the hill and passed in front of Uncle Clarence’s gas station, Carrie noticed a dog that had turned the corner at the hardware store, and was casually strolling down the middle of the street.  It was not a hunting dog, just an average brown mongrel. It was neither big nor little; but it was a dog, and I should have known that Carrie held all dogs in equal esteem.  She cautioned me to watch out for him.
A juvenile impulse came over me.  I turned toward Carrie. “I’m going to run over him!” I pressed down on the gas pedal.  The lazy power-glide transmission shifted into low gear, the speed increased, eliciting the expected protest from Carrie. The dog gazed at the oncoming automobile and held his ground, calmly sitting down in the middle of the street directly in front of the Lobban funeral home.  I stopped. I looked at Carrie. “You didn’t think I was really going to do that did you?”  She gave me a rather wilted look that plainly indicated she was not so sure.

We were at a dead stop, but we could no longer see the dog.  I looked on my side; Carrie looked on her side.  She opened her door and looked; I opened my door and looked.  The dog was nowhere to be seen.  With a casual shrug I moved slowly ahead. We immediately heard a subdued but distinct thump; then another thump as though the wheels had passed over a small chuck hole. I stopped.  The dog voiced no protest; there was complete silence outside… and inside… the car.  I was afraid to move; afraid of what Carry might see, and feeling somewhat like the Ancient Mariner, who, “With his cruel blow he laid full low the harmless albatross.”

Then, a small commotion arose from beneath the floorboards as the dog exited by way of the rear bumper. We looked back and saw him moving away at a rather brisk pace. He had found his voice. He had also found the sidewalk, which I’m sure he now realized was a less hazardous way to travel through town. We watched until he disappeared in the parking lot at Copeland’s garage. Except for running a bit sideways, he seemed to be no worse for the experience.

I had pretty much spoiled the day. We turned around and started toward home. When we passed the garage, Carrie looked at the parking lot, and then looked at me. There was no anger in her eyes, but there was disappointment… and that hurt more than hornet stings.

Although it was a somewhat frosty ride back to Creamery, our parting was amicable.  We had had several bright summer days together, and when this day began, we both knew it would probably be the last one.  Carrie was about to return home and start her last year of high school.  I had finished school, and was contemplating joining the Navy.  But, in retrospect, it should have ended on a more propitious note.

Willis P. Simmons   2004       

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