No Diving for Weenies!
“Which eye do I look in?” That was my first thought as I began talking to Bill Johnson, proprietor of the Johnson Family Campground in Braxton County. I settled on the left eye finally, but soon thereafter it began to wonder off so I switched to the right eye. I asked Bill about which eye was the one I should be looking in and he laughed and proceeded to tell me a few stories about his eyes and some of the comments he has heard over the years. Such as when one of his hunting buddies didn’t think it was fair hunting with him since he could see around trees and look both ways at the same time!
Bill, a Christian man with high morals, tells of his difficulty talking to women wearing low-cut tops. “They keep pulling up their tops ’cause they don’t know which eye I’m looking out of.” As I laughed he assured me he was looking into their eyes.
We then took a tour of his campground as he gave me the history of the place. His Dad bought the property, located on the banks of the Birch River where Long Run empties its waters into the rock strewn river, way back in 1946.
When I first drove up to Bill’s House, which you come to first, I was first struck by the size of the huge rocks to the left of the house. Bill pointed out one rock and said, “A 17 year old boy climbed to the top of that rock and it took 4 grown men to get him down!” The road to the campground goes between those rocks which seems to stand as towering walls protecting the campground.
Bill and I walked along that road and he showed me his unique picnicking spot on top of one of the rocks. He also told me about the miles of ATV trails which he could ride for two weeks without crossing the same trail.
As we walked down the road his 40X80 foot pavilion came into sight. As with many other things at the campground, Bill had built the pavilion using trees he cut as pillars. He tells me of how they used to have over a thousand people at Gospel sings. “Once I built the pavilion; though, people quit coming.” He said they had a sing last year, but it only drew 18 people.
He showed me a sign hanging on the wall near the stage that said Gospel singers had to be fully dressed if they wanted to sing. I thought that was odd and so asked him about the sign. He said, “Some people made that sign for me ’cause some of the singers would get up here wearing shorts or bikini’s. They needed to have more respect for God than that.”
I agreed and we moved on to what I came to realize was the centerpiece attraction of the campground. In the middle of the river was one of those huge rocks with a deep pool between the rock and the shore. Shelly, who lives at the campground, told me earlier that Bill, who is 66 years old, dives off that rock and he thinks anyone that won’t dive off the rock like he does, is a “weenie.” I asked Bill about that and all he would say is he’s been diving off that rock for 60 years and he never jumps. I took that as confirmation of Shelly’s claim.
On the way back he showed me the petrified stump he found and an old millstone that used to grind grain in a nearby mill. He told me of the bridge over the river seen from his yard that his Dad helped build back in the 20’s, which is now named after his Dad. He showed me where the horses had cut a trail down the river bank before the bridge was built, and the fording place up the river where wagons used to cross.
If you like talking to men who love their land and care for it like a child, then you need to go camping at the Johnson Family Campground. You will find it on www.WVyourWay.com listed under the “Lodging” heading and Campgrounds RV’s/tents, or the “Tourism” heading under Fishing and ATV Trails.
As I was about to leave he invited me in the house for a bowl of beans. I told him how tempting that was, since I could smell them cooking from the kitchen, and asked him if he had a ham bone in them. He replied, “Hickory smoked ham.” I knew; however, that if I went in for a bowl of beans, I’d still be sitting there listening to Bill tell his intriguing stories.
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