Ridin' Shotgun

 by Mike Peters

I guess you could call it wanting to go--sitting in the front seat of the car before the question was finished.  The passenger door was closed before the gate, connecting the front yard and the barnyard, swung shut.

Somewhere between the porch and the car, I passed Bobby Joe, the one who asked the question and who owned the 1958 Olds 98.  According to Oldsmobile, the color of the car was champagne.  My answer to his question was always the same, no matter the destination.  Our mode of transportation became a shiny red Mustang in 1968.

We traveled the roads of Jackson and Kanawha to places named Allen's Fork, Second Creek, Haines Branch, Fisher Ridge and Sandyville.  There was also Dudden Fork, Fairplain, Trace Fork, Kanawha Two Mile, Parchment and Middle Fork, among others.

Sometimes we'd stop at a filling station when we didn't even need gas.  We'd leave with a Royal Crown Cola to wash down our candy bars or moon pies.   I had never drank an RC before that.  I only knew about Coke, Pepsi, 7Up, Dr. Pepper and the chocolate milk drink that came in a bottle.  It was a refreshing change.

Sometimes we stopped at Brownie Coleman's store over in Goldtown.  Brownie, first cousin to my grandfather Obert Coleman, was the son of Joe Coleman and Betty Wright.  "Coleman Grocery" was ran by Brownie and wife Ova until August of 1999.  She closed it two months following his death and after some 42 years in business.

Sometimes we took the interstate north toward Kentuck, to visit Bob's parents.  Bobby Joe is the son of William Ayward Casto and Georgia Florence Casto, who were married in Jackson County, WV on 20 July 1938--31 years, to the day, before man walked on the moon and 47 years, to the day, before yours truly tied the knot.  Makes it easy to remember my wedding anniversary.  Thank you Neil Armstrong!

Bob's father went by Ayward or "Mousie."  Never did know the origin of his nickname.  Never did ask.  Bob's Mom went by "Georgie."  They were always Mr. Casto and "Grandma Georgie" to me.

Mr. Casto and "Grandma Georgie" had ten children.  Glenn and Junior are Bob's older brothers.  Billy Casto, a younger brother, is now a Reverend.  The youngest boy in the family, Roger, died before I met Bob.  Believe Roger was about 12 at the time.  There were sisters Wanda, Ida, Brenda, Sharon and Linda.  Sharon and Linda were fraternal twins and close to my age.  They were also cute.  Linda was a blonde and Sharon was a brunette.  They attended Goshen School.

I remember Sayre playing Goshen in baseball.  Sayre's second baseman had a decent day.  He went 2 for 4.  He stroked the first hit up the middle.  His second hit was into right field between first and second, through a hole that was bigger than normal.  Goshen's middle infielders were playing closer to second, a shift designed by their coach to prevent another hit from going through the same area.  It worked, but to the other team's advantage.

I also remember Sayre's second baseman dropping a routine fly ball later in the game.  Just off the infield dirt and onto the grass of short rightfield, he lost sight of the ball.  Not because of the bright sun shining high in the blue summer sky, even though that was the story he told everybody.  He dropped the ball, when he looked away just long enough to smile at the Casto twins watching over on the first base side.  My fifteen minutes of fame ended abruptly with a red face and an error.

Mr. Casto worked for 30 years as a glasscutter for Libby-Owens-Ford in Kanawha City.  He was a quiet, hard working man in the mold of my own grandfather.  He didn't say much, but when he did you listened.  He had earned that respect.  When Mr. Casto died in 1996, his obit numbered his living descendants at 84.  Nine children had produced 35 grandchildren, who had 40 great grandchildren.  Included among his descendants are the surnames Lanam,Thomas, Crank, Miller and Williams.  "Grandma Georgie" still lives in Kentuck.

Sometimes the ride was a short one, just up the road to visit the home of Boone Boggess and Ona "Pood" Phillips at the head of Spicewood.  Boone, the son of Shannon Carr Boggess and Ona Redman, was first cousin to my great uncle Robert Boggess.  Robert married Liddie Coleman, my grandfather's sister, in the '30s.

Boone and "Pood" had nine children that I know about.  The daughters were Wavalene, Abbie, Helen and Nora.  Wavalene married Leon Reed from over on Second Creek and lived in Virginia.  Abbie, Helen and Nora lived at home.  I had a crush on Nora.

The sons were Meredith, Shelvie, Terry, Melvin and Lannie.  I didn't know much about Meredith, who they called "Squirt."  He lived out of state.  Shelvie was nicknamed "Dee" and lived on Spicewood with his wife Roenna.  Terry, who went by "Tab," hunted with us on more than one occasion.  We called Melvin "Bud."  He was a strong, gentle man who could lift a transmission.

I attended Sayre School with Helen, Nora and Lannie, the three youngest children.  I played ball with Lannie.  He was our power hitter.  Not very big, but he had "Popeye" forearms and quick wrists.  He could hit the ball a country mile. I took some time off school to attend his funeral in 1971.  He died in a car wreck on Interstate 77.  I remember a group talking outside the funeral home, in an area where some had went to smoke.  They said his was a one car accident, that his car was traveling at an excessive rate of speed and that it flipped end-over-end a couple of times before finally coming to a stop.  I visited Lannie again, two springs back, when I walked the dew covered grass of Harrison Cemetery early one morning.  It was not far from his home at the head of the holler, back where Jackson meets Kanawha and where I first met the best friend I had on Spicewood.

This past summer, I grew thirsty while watching one of my daughters play soccer.  I put my dollar in the vending machine and pushed the button for RC Cola.  As I unscrewed the cap on the plastic bottle and took my first swallow, I thought of "ridin' shotgun" in a '58 Olds or a '68 Ford.  It was a trip around the curves of "Old Route 21" when there were fewer houses and we had fewer needs.  We were on our way to visit people now deceased or moved away, stopping to do business at stores and gas stations since boarded up or torn down.  The driver is an uncle, who bought me my first RC at one of those establishments, and became a father figure when a nephew needed it most.


Mike Peters

Back to Mike's Meanderings