A few months ago, my wife and I took a trip to the idyllic North Carolina hometown of Andy Griffith, Mount Airy. As we were walking along a flowery Main Street filled with all the classic storefronts of yesteryear—the barbershop, drug store, café, and corner bank—my wife commented to me, “I could live in a place like this.” I chuckled and replied, “You already do!”
There is perhaps no better time to realize all we take for granted in Buckhannon than the Strawberry Festival season. Despite our grumbling about traffic and street and store closings alike, we still go all out to make Buckhannon shine during May. The roads and sidewalks are newly painted, homeowners take a little more pain mowing and landscaping, and storefronts are decorated with painted strawberries. We’re proud of our little hometown and we want to show it off, much the same way those kind folks in the mountains of North Carolina are proud to tell you all about “Mayberry”. And though we may not be the birthplace of a world-renowned television star, we have our own distinct brand of charm and plenty to share.
Robert Redford’s classic film, A River Runs Through It, is a favorite of mine. For those not familiar with it, the movie is based on a novel of the same name by Norman Maclean and tells the story of he and his brother Paul growing up in rural Montana during the first half of the 20th century. One of my favorite lines from the movie comes when Norman invites Paul to travel east to live with him for a while to which Paul replies, “Oh, I’ll never leave Montana, brother.” Enter Buckhannon, West Virginia into that quote, and it could just as easily come from me. You see, I can’t always clearly define my love for our little town, but it runs deep.
Just take a look around. The white-domed courthouse stands as a monument to times gone by, filled with volumes upon volumes of records recounting the lives of our citizens. Outside the courthouse, a sign tells of the Pringle brothers and their “treehouse”—Samuel Pringle’s wife Charity Cutright Pringle was the sister of my 5th-great grandfather, John C.I. Cutright, one of the first settlers of Upshur County, long before that red brick courthouse was even conceived. I suppose my roots go deep as that mighty sycamore “treehouse”. A walk down Main Street brings one past the jewelry store where three generations of Cutright men have purchased wedding rings. Yes, deep roots. And if I take a drive down a few country lanes, I come to the farmland where I was raised, and my extended family and I still reside. A particular smell or the sight of fog rising in the morning can bring back a flood of memories as I remember cookouts, hard days’ work alongside my dad, uncle, and grandfather, and yes, even front porch sitting.
Yes, I’m partial to Buckhannon, but you see, it’s not just me and it’s not just those who grew up here or even those with such family heritage in the county as I. No, it’s even those who have moved here for work or family, or to retire here. They too have found something charming and idyllic about our “home among the hills.”
Through it all, it is not the buildings—though both archaic and charming at once, it’s not even the memories—though they bring beautiful nostalgic yearnings. No, it’s the people that make our hometown what it is. It is the residents we return to—the ever-changing unchanged. We return to family, the comfortable and the welcoming, and sometimes the feeling is so overpowering, we’re just liable to remark, “Oh, I’ll never leave Buckhannon.” But if you ever start to get a roaming eye for another quaint small town and think to yourself, “I could live there,” remember, you already do!