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Mud, WV


A Conley Branch Girl

By Marlene Adkins Thames

I am a Mud River West Virginia Girl! More specifically, I am a Conley Branch Girl. Although not born on Conley, most of my childhood was spent there, leaving me with many wonderful memories of that area alive within me. There was so much to love. I loved the open fields that my great-grandfather, Lorenza Adkins, and my grandfather, Alfred, plus his siblings, cleared when they settled down on Conley. Being small at the time, I thought the mountains were the biggest in the whole world.

I loved the mountains that surrounded our little three room house and Grandpa and Grandma Adkins’ four room house. It was as if the mountains were there to protect us.

The mountain to the east of our house was my absolute favorite. Amongst all of the trees that are indigenous to the area stood a huge pine tree. It jutted out far beyond the top of the forest as if to say, “I am here. I will protect and shelter you from harm”. I made several trips a week up the mountain to that tree. Underneath the tree’s canopy was a solid bed of moss. Mountain Tea, with sweet, red berries, provided substance. This was my refuge; this was my solace.

One day, Daddy broke his back as he and I hauled coal down from the little abandoned mine on our property. I ran screaming to find my Mother, who sent me running to the only neighbor that had a vehicle. After the neighbor came with his truck and lifted Daddy onto the bed on a makeshift stretcher, I ran up the hill to my tree, my solace. I was so scared. I found comfort there.

There were other sad times when I sought out the comfort of the mountain. I ran to my tree when my grandmother died. I ran there when I got into trouble with my parents. I ran there when my cat disappeared and when my grandma’s dog died. That tree and that mountain shared some of my darkest moments, but I always felt better because they provided me a place where I could grieve alone, be scared of what was happening, or to simply be happy on “my” mountain.

I wish I could run there today, but the mining companies came after I left. Neither Conley nor Mud River will ever be the same. In my heart, I know “my” mountain is gone.

Conley is now blocked off with a “No Trespassing” sign at what used to be the turn off to enter the hollow. I can no longer go up the hollow to enjoy the scenes from my childhood. The mining company won’t let me. The mountain at the turn into Conley is even gone. No trees. No wild flowers. No squirrels. Like a lot of places in the Appalachians, nothing is left except what the mining company did not want.

Even the oldest mountains in the world could not stand up to the power of money.

I pray that those of us who love this land are strong enough to stand up for the mountains that remain. They have provided strength, solace, protection, and even life, to us. It is now our turn to return the favor.





Appalachian Voices  •  Coal River Mountain Watch  •   Heartwood  •  Keeper of the MountainsKentuckians for the Commonwealth 

Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition  •   Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowermentSierra Club Environmental Justice

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards  •   SouthWings  •  Stay Project  •   West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

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