Author James Nixon’s daughter was after him for 10 years to write a book because he would tell different stories at family reunions and she said, ‘Dad, you’ve gotta write it down but he felt nobody is going to believe this.
Nixon’s book Gravel Country Roads is about growing up on a farm in Mt. View (now Cool Ridge) West Virginia. One of 11 children (nine boys, two girls), his early beginnings at McKinley Grade School with all eight grades in one room. At age 11 he helped fight a local forest fire.
“Then Shady Spring High School when it was located in Beaver, went to West Virginia Tech when it was located in Montgomery, then Ohio State. And it details actually six times in my life when I should have died but God intervened,” Nixon said.
According to James, moral values were the best part of growing up in West Virginia.
“My dad and the residents around there if they sold a cow or a horse or something, they used a handshake and that was it,” he said. “There was no contract.”
And he taught all the siblings survival skills… if they got lost in the forest what berries to eat and what mushrooms were good/and what was poisonous.
“It was hard work, we worked 10 to 14 hours a day… always got up at 4:30 in the morning,” said Nixon. “You get the cattle on a milking schedule — they’re accustomed to be milked at five; they gotta be milked at five.”
They looked for work locally but helped the neighbors.
“Hulling corn, tilling the fields, so there was always something to do but the other neighbors reciprocated when we had a need,” Nixon said.
When it comes to his journey in the Mountain State – it’s all about the people, says the author.
“You won’t meet better people than in the state of West Virginia,” he said. “They’re closer to the earth and whenever John Denver said ‘it’s almost heaven, I think he captured it.'”
* All proceeds from James’ book benefit children in need at St. Jude’s and cerebral palsy.