Tales from the Hills & Hollers of West Virginia Spun by a Modern Day Mountain Man - Chris Ellis
"Once we arrived at his garden, I was set free to run and chase grasshoppers or frogs done near the pond while he got his chores done in the tidy little rows of tilled earth. Occasionally, he would look up and whistle and, like a groundhog, I would lift my head high in the field so he could see me and would know I was okay." -- from Pop's Garden
I’ve known Chris Ellis for nearly a quarter-century, dating back to when he was a rangy young man living not too far from Beckley, West Virginia and the New River Gorge. He was raised on the banks of the Elk River. While his work in outdoor communications and promotions over the years has taken him all over North America, he stays true to his West Virginia home and roots.
Ellis is an accomplished trout angler, a skilled river raft driver, an enthusiastic squirrel, turkey and deer hunter. In fact, he was one of the wonderful West Virginia crew in 2004 who helped when we put together a deer hunt for the first wounded warrior ever to take such an adventure directly out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has run his own outdoor destinations and guiding business, working with the West Virginia tourism office on outdoor destination marketing, worked public relations and marketing from some well-known outdoor brands and is now the marketing chief for Timney Triggers. During much of that time he has also written regular articles for the Herald Dispatch in Huntington and the Register-Herald in Beckley.
Last fall, Ellis told me he was compiling a book of some of his favorite stories and memories of growing up and living in the Mountain State. It’s out and titled, “Hunting, Fishing and Family – From the Hills of West Virginia.” All of the articles were originally published in the two newspapers cited above.
If you read this book, you’ll learn a lot about Chris Ellis; his home, his passions, his values. It isn’t a single, long-spun narrative but a collection of short stories – vignettes really – that are rarely more than a couple pages long.
Each conveys a memory, emotion or philosophy related to an outdoors experience, often connected to sharing that experience with a loved one. The book is full of testimonials to his parents, kids, dogs and, especially, his grandfather. I loved the story where he explained what separated his grandfather from the typical weekend angler. Similar tales reveal his boyhood wonder at watching the old man operate. Ellis explains how he wants to pass along the oral history and lessons to his own children and grandchildren. Ellis said he hopes people find it a nice collection of what it meant to grow up and live in his special part of America.
The book is a fast 123 pages, in a compact 5.5x8.5-inch size with no photos or illustrations. If you hunt from a turkey or deer blind or treestand, it’s an easy one to slip into a pack. Read a story or two, then scan the woods or field. Repeat process...
Among my favorite passages were Pop’s Flag, Elk River Mom, Dad’s Day and Above All, He Was a Fisherman. If there is one line, I too will lovingly echo until my least breath, it’s, “Thank you Granddad for taking me fishing.”
The book (ISBN-13: 978-1-942294-15-3) is published in paperback by Quarrier Press in Charleston, West Virginia. It is $12.95 and available through www.wvbookco.com in the Nature/Outdoors category.
Reading Ellis' compilation had me thinking, again, about my own memories. In the end, all we really have are our memories. We don’t leave – end – with anything other than that collection of experiences and relationships. Many outdoor writers are contemplative, seeming to intently seek life’s lessons as they go about their pursuits. The best part is they not only build their own rich collection of memories, but also get to share them with the most important person to any writer – the reader.
Check out Chris' book...