“I regularly read your column in The Daily Times. Many of your experiences mirror mine, particularly when it comes to your time on Kinniconick.”
So wrote Jim Ravencraft of Flatwoods in a recent email. But what first got us to reminiscing was the camp cars in which my father, Bruce, and some of his relatives stayed during their employment with the C&O Railroad.
During my father’s 50 years of working at maintaining the railway tracks he spent many years living on the camp cars and catching a ride home on the weekends.
These cars featured bunks for the men to sleep in and a kitchen, with a cook, and tables on which they took their meals (and found time for a little poker game in the evenings).
If my older brother, Bootie (Bruce Jr.) and I got out of line during the week, my mother, Carrie (Katie), would make note of these indiscretions and report them to Dad. It was his job to deal out punishment with a switch across the back of the legs (and after he whipped us, he would then take us to the Ohio River, which ran down past the front yard, for some fishing.)
“One (of my relatives) that comes to mind may have actually worked with some of your family as he was the cook on one of the camp cars,” Jim wrote. “He lived in Garrison for many years before moving to Catlettsburg for the rest of his life.
“He always told the tale of how he met his wife. She was the daughter of the store owner where he would go to buy supplies for the camp car meals that he prepared.
“Sadely, he passed away in 2017 at the age of 104.”
THE FISHING CAMP
But back to Kinniconick Creek, the crystal-clear stream that winds down through the Lewis County hills before emptying into the Ohio at Garrison.
I’ll allow Jim to tell the rest of his story. He writes, “My grandparents, and (great-grandparents), always kept a fishing camp on Kinny. My great-grandfather was a Sullivan and his camp still stands on the bank along 1306, near what was always referred to as mill pond, right where spy run empties into the Creek.
“My grandparents had a place behind where the old Bivens Chapel sat prior to its new location across the road. It’s close to the intersection where McDowell comes down and empties into the creek. He was a detective on the C & O and worked out of Maysville until he retired. At that point he moved to South Shore across from the old city building down by the river.”
The Memorial Day weekends were “a time I remember fondly every year — getting to go to the camp for the long weekend and the extended family coming to visit,” Jim wrote. “We would always go across the county to the various cemeteries where family were laid to rest over the years. Waring, Black Oak, the Sullivan Cemetery. We would decorate the graves and go back to the camp and visit and reminisce with family members that we hadn’t seen since the last Memorial Day and wouldn’t see again until the next Memorial Day.
It was also the start of many trips over the summer and early fall. These were our vacations as opposed to trips to Florida or other points of interest.
“At the time we lived in Florence (Ky.) so it was a 2- to 3-hour drive along the old Kentucky route 8,” he said. “We would arrive late on Friday night, fish and swim and visit all day Saturday and Sunday with a campfire on Saturday night. We would return home on Sunday late for my dad to be able to go back to work on Monday.
“The area you fish in (Rob’s Whirl), is well known to me. We used to swim in Rob all the time when we were there. It had a rope swing across the creek and a creek rock “beach” that made for the perfect place to spend most of the day. It was walking distance from my grandparent’s camp that sat behind the Collier farm on what is now called Kilbreth Lane. There is an A frame that was built over the site of the old camp. It was just an old gravel lane in the sixties with no name when we were there. Where the church is now stood a small country grocery with 2 gas pumps that, like most small stores of the time, sold everything from bologna to bait. It was owned by Vernon and Juanita Adkins. When we were not fishing or swimming, we would keep the store busy buying a dime’s worth of penny candy at a time.
“We would swim in Rob and fish downstream in a “hole” my grandfather always referred to as “John”. He had an old flat bottom Sears Jonboat that was perfect to float in and was light enough for us to carry down over the hill and put in the water. If we were going to be there for a week, he would put out a trotline. Most of what we caught were mudpuppies.
“Once we landed a perch and he retrieved a stone from it’s head. He called it a “lucky stone” and made it seem like they were rare. Later I found out they are called otolith and all fish have them of varied size. To commemorate the event I had it made into a tie tack for him. After he passed years later, my Grandmother gave it back to me as something to remember him by. I still have it in a box on my dresser.
“I guess in an effort to re-create my childhood, I have purchased some property off 1306 just before it intersects with the Grayson Spur of the AA. I’ve yet to do much with it but I hope at some point to have a camp much like I remember from my childhood to share with my grandchildren.”
Reach G. SAM PIATT at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 932-3619.