Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another Adventure In Titmouse Land

You may recall that several years ago I posted a blog about the crazy titmouse who, as I was sitting on the porch, would fly over to my feet and then proceed to pull hairs out of my legs! Our guess is that she thought it would make wonderful nesting material.

The other day I went outside and walked off the deck to the pond. Judy heard me bellowing! I was startled when a titmouse landed on my back and started flopping. Guess its claws where stuck in the fabric of my sweatshirt.

I brushed the bird away and it flew on the porch and landed by the back door. Judy came running and I said check out your bird that just flew from my shoulder. She picked up the frightened titmouse and placed it on the railing of the deck. Judy and I relaxed in our chairs for a few minutes all the time watching the bird recover. We gently talked to it and it seemed unaffected by our presence.


As we were talking sweetly to our new feathered friend, a second titmouse (obviously a male) swooped down and threw our new found bird on the floor of the deck! They were locked in an embrace that obviously was a mating act! Off they then both flew to the forest.

OK- did the first titmouse fall out of the sky during mating and land on my shoulder? (What is the percentage of possibility that this event may happen?) Did I look like a big titmouse and found myself being an innocent victim? Was I a safe haven for the female as she was being pursued by the male? Oh, the questions! Guess we will never know the reason behind this avian adventure.

Monday, April 26, 2010

When technology destroys itself.

A flawed update for McAfee VirusScan Enterprise took down an unknown number of corporate systems running Windows XP Service Pack 3 on Wednesday (April 21, 2010). According to reports, the faulty update caused affected computers to display an error message or a blue screen and to repeatedly reboot. "McAfee is aware that a number of corporate customers may have incurred a false positive error due to incorrect malware alerts," McAfee said in a statement. “The faulty update was quickly removed from all McAfee download servers, preventing any further impact on customers.” The security giant apologized for the blunder and issued a fix. It is unknown how many users were affected by the glitch.

Well, my friends, I know the Meads household was affected by the flawed update. I was working on the Folk Festival newspaper and our system was zapped by this McAfee update. I am happy that McAfee apologized, but how is that helping to get our system back up and running? Our computer has spent the day in the operating room for an update hysterectomy. It has to have the hard drive erased, the new operating system installed, and all data files and programs restored. I received a call from the computer surgeon this afternoon and he indicated that it needed to stay in Intensive Care overnight. Hopefully we will be back on line tomorrow.

Hope you guys had a great weekend and a good week thus far.

Friday, April 23, 2010


A deadly, airborne new strain of fungus has emerged in Oregon. It has killed nearly one out of four known affected people so far and might also attack animals ranging from dogs to dolphins. And it is likely to spread, researchers now warn.

The new strain known as VGIIc of the fungus Cryptococcus gattii not only targets humans but has also proven capable of infecting dogs, cats, alpacas, sheep and elk. Other strains have even infected porpoises.

Although it can spread to mammals, it does not jump from animal to animal. Instead, people and other animals get it from inhaling spores released by samples of the fungus that infect trees.

Symptoms can appear two or more months after exposure. Most people never develop symptoms, but those infected may have a cough lasting weeks, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, headache related to meningitis, fever, nighttime sweats and weight loss. In animals the symptoms are a runny nose, breathing problems, nervous system problems and raised bumps under the skin.

Treatment requires months to years of antifungal medications, and even surgery to remove the large masses of the fungus known as cryptococcomas that can develop in the body. So far it cannot be prevented, as there is no vaccine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Bear!

Yep, our friend, Maxine Smith, heard a noise outside of her house Saturday night. There was quite a racket around the bird feeders. Maxine lives off River Street on Quail Hollow Road. After getting her trusty flashlight, she discovered a "teenage" bear enjoying her sunflower seeds.

Maxine called 911 and they said that a DNR person would call. The "animal expert" said this is the time of the year that Mom Bear leaves her young. The young are now on their own. This bear was obviously passing through and trying out the gourmet treats along its journey. The DNR fellow said to bring your trash in and the beast should continue to move on.

Maxine called her son-in-law, Stan, who lives just up the road. She related her experience. Stan said to call if she needed help. Stan awoke at around 1 AM and went to get a drink. You guessed it - the bear was on Stan's deck!

How neat to be able to see these critters! They can, indeed, be more of a problem than our friends - the raccoons.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Judy read this obituary to me. It was printed in The Charleston Gazette on Friday, April 16, 2010. I am usually not moved by the typical obituary, but this one gives a person not only the character of the individual, but relates the terrible moments that all 29 of the miners' families faced after the tremendous mine explosion in Raleigh County.

Edward Dean Jones

Monday, April 5, 2010, the alarm went off. It was 3:20 a.m., his set rising time for a day of work. Edward Dean Jones roused from his well-earned slumber and quietly extricated himself from the embrace of his beautiful son, whom he had held throughout the night.

His lovely wife busied herself getting things ready to get him on his way. They parted with a kiss and an “I love you.” She called out to him, “Be careful. Come back safe.” He looked back as he walks away at the peaceful setting that was his home, with his wife silhouetted in the open door. It was still dark as he walked down the sidewalk to his truck. He proudly drove away, knowing his family was safe and nestled together in the place of love that he worked for and helped create.

His focus now changes. He is thinking about his other family that awaits him at the work site. He drives the winding, twisting roads through the beautiful countryside of West Virginia for one hour. The trees are blushing green. The redbuds have bloomed. Trilliums cover the hillside. The river provides music as it rushes and then babbles. Fields of green are ready for mowing or plowing. God has painted a beautiful scene. His spirit is calmed and lifted by all this beauty, all is right in the world. He turns across the bridge to go to the job that defines his long career of over 30 years. He readies himself by stopping by his office and his locker. He likes to get there early, before his shift starts at 6 a.m. It gives him time to plan and prepare for the day ahead. There is time for talk and updates, for lighthearted banter between this band of brothers.
He is proud of the job he does. His best is what he gives. After all, he watched his dad, whom he loved and admired, spend 38 years doing this same job. “I'm going to be a man like you, Dad. I'm going to be a man just like you, Dad,” was his calling.

His dad created this same picture in a beautiful little “holler”, so familiar to those of us who call West Virginia home. The daily ritual was similar, as his dad drove away to join his band of brothers and spent long hours toiling for his family of five children and his faithful companion for life, who prayed for his safe return each day. She, his beloved mother, stayed behind to rear her children to be the best they could be. God guided her hands and her heart as his mother lovingly taught him to be God's man. His mom and dad role-modeled for him what living life with meaning and purpose was. He grew strong with his nurturing and guidance from the angel he called his mother and the great soul he called his father.

He left this idyllic scene for college, to start his own life and career. He studied to make his family proud. His dad's toil paid for his education and his parents beamed when he graduated with his mining engineering degree.

Yes, they were miners, a time-honored position for us West Virginians. He, his dad, his band of brothers, and thousands more like them labored side by side to extract this black gold that powers a nation. It lies deep below the beautiful, old Appalachian Mountains, compressed in its seams. They mine it miles below, away from the light of day. A “Sky of Stone” is their vista and narrow paths in the dark tunnels are where they toil. He earns his living doing this job and brings it home to create a better life for his family of three and his beloved canine companion to make four. His life is good. He is happy.

The love of his life, introduced to him by a coal mining colleague, waits on the front porch in her rocking chair for him to come home. She is warmed by the sun of the beautiful day. She surveys the yard. The weeping cherry tree has bloomed and so have the daffodils. She makes a list in her mind of things they need to do. He loves his beautiful home. Planting flowers and maintaining his yard is one of the things he loves to do with her. Dinner is warm on the stove, and he is late. She is not alarmed, as she knows her husband is dedicated to completing the task at hand to the best of his ability. He is sometimes late. The phone is ringing inside. She does not hear it as she is wrapped in her thoughts and her vigil for him to drive into the driveway. It rings and rings until his son, his sunshine, his reason for getting up in the morning, leaves the comfort of his Steelers recliner to answer it. His beautiful son, whom he loves with every fiber of his being, is also waiting. They will have dinner together and then they will spend the evening together. They love “The Andy Griffith Show.” He has purchased his son all the episodes on DVD, and they watch them over and over. They love watching old westerns, the kind that he grew up watching as a boy. They love the Steelers. He has filled his son's whole room with Steelers' memorabilia. They love WVU football and basketball. They love to wrestle and play and their beautiful golden retriever joins in the play. They are constant companions, bonded in a way that most do not know. His son is sick. His son has cystic fibrosis, a progressive and debilitating illness, for which there is no cure. He has spent many sleepless days and nights pleading for his son's life and health. He adores him and wants to be there for him. He wants to comfort him in hard times and laugh and play with him in good times. He wants his son's life to be full and blessed. He will lead him safely to manhood. They will blow out the candles together on his May 1st 14th birthday; since last year his son was too ill to have a birthday cake. They are best buddies. His greatest ambition was to be a good father.
His son hands the ringing phone to his mother. The world as they knew it collapses. “There has been an explosion at the mines.” He is not home.

She cries out in disbelief. It cannot be! His family rallies. The mother-in-law he loves comes to care for his most valuable treasure, his son. His distraught wife gathers her sisters and drives to his worksite. They will not leave till he is safe. The vigil begins. Day turns to night and another day begins. They wait along a wall, “The Sisters”, for any news. They are joined by other grieving families. All wait together, joined by a common cause, united by a common tragedy. Friends are made. Communities rally. There is love and support from a worldwide family. One day turns to two with tidbits of information being given regularly. His family believes he is safe inside the emergency tent. He is there. We will bring him home. The waiting wears on his family's bodies, minds, and souls, but they wait without wavering. He will be among the miracles that are possible in this disaster. Two days lead to three, then four. Day five is the day. It is late. There is a somber tone in the room. It is crowded, more so than ever before. The air starts to get tense as state troopers station themselves throughout the room, and mental health workers are dispensed to the different families. People stand in silence, waiting for the officials to bring word. Time stands still. Tortured is the word that describes our hearts and minds. The word comes - ALL MEN ACCOUNTED FOR - NO SURVIVORS!

Life as his family knows it has ended. His darling wife and child will never see his smile again or feel his touch or hear his voice. His son's ritual of turning the bed down for daddy at 8 p.m. will end. He will not be there when his son is sick and his wife needs his body to lean on. His 83-year-old mother is losing her zest for life. She has given so much of her bouquet to God's bouquet that she questions her ability to go on. She lost her helpmate of 51 years, his father, in 2004. She watched her treasured daughter, his sister, fight ALS for five years, only to lose the battle in 2007. Her darling grandson, his nephew, lost his lifelong battle with cancer in 2008. Now, she cries for her baby, the two-month premature boy who came with a companion, his minutes older twin brother. She nurtured them to health at a time when preemies in a small rural hospital do not usually survive. How can she bare yet another loss? How can she give yet another child? God has been her steady companion. He is faithful. She will hold on as three of her other precious children remain who look to her for love and her comforting arms.
His band of brothers will not hear, “Holey Moley, boys. What are we going to do?” anymore. Their playful teasing of him is now quiet. His expertise and loving kindness to them will be silent as well. They are left with their memories as they trudge back into those dark tunnels to harvest this dark fruit called coal.

Who is this man?

Edward Dean “Dean-O” Jones, 50, was born January 24, 1960. He died on April 5, 2010, deep inside the Upper Big Branch Mine of Performance Coal, Massey Energy. He was working Headgate Section 22 when a tremendous explosion instantly took his life.
He is survived by his beloved wife, Gina “Gin-O” Jones, and his precious son, Kyle Dean Jones, and his faithful canine companion, Mattie. He was the son of Ruby Nell Lafferty Jones and the late Dallas Edward Jones. He was the brother of Judy Jones Petersen and Cheryl Sue Jones.

He was preceded in death by his sister, Vickie Jones Dixon.

His twin brother, Dallas Gene Jones, is left to stand in the gap for us.
Gina's parents, Alice and Dallas Peters, loved him dearly and he loved them. He knows they will be there for Gina and Kyle.

He was a graduate of West Virginia Institute of Technology, where he earned a mining engineering degree in 1982. He had over 30 years of mining experience. The last 14 years, he has worked for Performance Coal, Massey Energy.

He was defined by family and work. Kyle Dean, his son, was gifted with the best and most dedicated father a boy could have. Gina had the most loving, generous, hard-working husband a woman could have. They would have celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary on May 27, 2010.

There is a great void left in his family that no one can fill. However, our faith sustains us. God's will is perfect, though our understanding is clouded. God has planted eternity into the human heart. We WILL be together again.
The services will be promptly held at 5 p.m. Sunday, April 18, at Blue Ridge Funeral Home, Beckley.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in Kyle Dean Jones' name to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, 6931 Arlington Road, 2nd Floor, Bethesda, MD 20814. We need a cure. Help us find it. Dean-O and Gin-O thank you.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at
“Give yourselves to God…surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.” Romans 6:13

Saturday, April 17, 2010

WOW- Gourmet Ramps
Here is info from friend, Lee Kraus. If you are interested in attending today, best you call early. Sounds wonderful.

This Ain't No Traditional Ramp Dinner!Well, that Dale Hawkins is up to some of his culinary activities again... this time it's a fundraiser for the New Appalachian Farm and Research Center (NAFRC) this Saturday, April 17th from 4 to 7 PM.Chef Dale still has some tickets available. Check out the menu below!

The New Appalachian Farm and Research Center's Mission is to support the agricultural community's efforts to build a local food system for the state of West Virginia. If you are interested in attending this one-of-a-kind event, please contact Dale with the number of persons you would like to reserve for. We are pre-selling ONLY 200 tickets in advance of the event and appreciate your support of the organization.

Ramps by Dale (and Teresa): A Celebration of Spring Tonics Saturday April 17, 2010Banks District Civic Center in Rock Cave, West Virginia4-7 PM A Benefit for the New Appalachian Farm & Research Center A 501 (c) 3 non profit whose mission is to support the agricultural community's efforts of building a local food system for West Virginia.
Menu - Roasted Garlic and White Bean Hummus with Ramps on Flat Bread Puree of Fresh Asparagus Soup Country Potato Salad with Runner Beans, Fresh Herbs and Ramp Dust Classic Potato & Onion Frittata Flavored with Ramps Roast Picnic Shoulder of PorkPan Juices with Essence of Wild Leeks Spinach, Ramp, and Mushroom Lasagna Sugar Snap Peas and Mushrooms Cheddar-Parmesan Scones with Fresh Dill Strawberry Rhubarb Tart with Lemon Curd Herbal Iced Tea and Coffee $25 per person
Dinner will be served Family StyleLive MusicFarmer's / Artisan MarketSilent Auction50/50 Drawing
Save Your Seat Now!
Yours in good health, Dale Hawkins, DirectorNew Appalachian Farm and Research

Friday, April 16, 2010

PET Scan and Eyjafjallajökull
Wow, another blessing from the Meads family this week! Judy and I went to Morgantown on Wednesday and had my first PET scan since the "suspect" lymph node was removed in February. Good News! The scan was clear and I am still in remission. The lymph node removed was inflammed and resulted as a false positive on the scan. This is just another of the many blessings we have had in our walk together along the marriage path.

I have been keeping up on the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Today we learn that airports in Europe are closed due to the smoke and ashes coming from the site of the eruption. Folks are urged to stay inside if the ash cloud starts to precipitate in their region. The plume of ash has climbed to 7 miles high into the atmosphere. Melting glacers have resulted in the evacuation of 8oo people.

The microscopic ash is potentially dangerous for people if it starts to "settle" on the earth because inhaled particles can reach the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Airplane engines are endangered by the ash cloud. Volcanic ash contains tiny particles of glass and pulverized rock that can damage engines and airframes.
A spokesman at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, said 840 out of 1,250 flights on Thursday were affected, disrupting about 180,000 passengers. More than 120,000 other passengers were affected at Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow airports

If Iceland's active volcano gets even more active, Icelanders and air travelers won't be the only ones impacted. Gases from past large volcanoes have actually lowered Earth's temperatures, triggered lung ailments, caused acid rain and thinned our protective ozone layer.
The most dangerous gases released during an eruption are sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen fluoride.
Keep informed because this volcano may impact our area.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Loggerhead

Sarah, Jeff, and the boys are vacationing in Charleston, SC this week. On Sunday, our friend, Lance, took the family on a sailboat ride on Charleston Harbor. Lance has purchased his own sailboat, The Loggerhead. This is his permanent residence.

A few shots of an amazing bridge. The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, also known as the New Cooper River Bridge, is a cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper River. This bridge connects downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. The eight lane bridge satisfied the capacity of U.S. Route 17 when it opened in 2005 to replace two obsolete cantilever truss bridges. The bridge has a main span of 1,546 feet (471 m), the longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere. It was built using the design-build method and was designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Amazing - A New Lizard!

The new lizard species is one of only three fruit-eating monitor lizards in the world. Credit: Credit: Joseph Brown.

The new lizard species discovered in the Philippines is decorated in stripes of gold flecks and armed with huge, curved claws for climbing trees.

A giant, spectacularly colored new species of monitor lizard has just been revealed to scientists in the Philippines.

The reptile, which is roughly 6 feet long (1.8 meters), is kin to Komodo dragons, the world's largest lizards. Named Varanus bitatawa, this newly discovered species, decorated in stripes of gold flecks and armed with huge, curved claws for climbing trees, is one of only three fruit-eating monitor species in the world.

New to science, not residents.

As humans continue to explore the last uncharted regions of the planet, discoveries of previously unknown species of large vertebrates have become rare. It remains doubly surprising this reptile managed to escape the attention of the many biologists that work on the heavily populated island of Luzon.

"I am most impressed that such a large, conspicuous, brightly colored species of monitor lizard escaped the notice of biologists for the past 150 years," said researcher Rafe Brown, a field herpetologist at the University of Kansas.

Still, remarkably few surveys have explored the reptile diversity of the island's northern forests. The reptile also seems highly secretive and dislikes traversing open areas.
"At the same time, we are humbled because the species is not really new — it is only new to us as Western scientists," Brown said. "In fact, resident indigenous communities — the Agta and Ilongot tribes — have known about it for many generations. If only scientists had listened to them earlier!"

By Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Share a Moment of Silence

The search for miners who may have survived the mine blast was completed. The missing four were found and they were killed at the time of the explosion.

Across the country, a Moment of Silence will be observed on Monday afternoon to remember the 29 coal miners who were killed at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.

That Moment of Silence will come at 3:30 PM EST, at about the same time a massive explosion rocked the Performance Coal site, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, a week ago.

The UBB Mine explosion is the largest mine disaster in the United States in more than 25 years.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Ponderings on Tragedy

On this Friday morning I am thinking about "The Week In Review". This has been a strange five days. I certainly feel so sad for the families of the miners who died at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, WV. We have 25 miners dead and 4 who have not been located. The explosion was on Monday, April 5, 2010, around 3 PM. Amazing efforts are being made to find the four and; hopefully, by some miracle, they may have been able to enter one of the safety chambers. As I am writing this blog, the search teams have now been able to reenter the mine after a day of frustration yesterday when the teams had to be pulled from the mine due to unsafe gas levels.

The families of miners are among the strongest and devoted folks that I know. The effects on the families and region are so far reaching. I talked yesterday to our friend, Helen Kraft, who lives in Bloomingrose, WV. Helen lost her grandson, Jason, in the explosion. Jason's family is one of the fortunate ones since he was one of only seven whose bodies were recovered after the accident. Search teams will be removing the other miners as soon as the rescue operation becomes a recovery one.

Jason Atkins was born and raised in Boone County, near the coal mine where he lost his life, said his father-in-law, Rick Withers. The 25-year-old miner and his 28-year-old wife, Amanda met when they were students at West Virginia Tech and got married in 2008, Withers said. Amanda Atkins could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Withers said he was not sure when Atkins began working at the mine. "He was an hourly guy," Withers said. Atkins played second base on his high school and college baseball teams, but left West Virginia Tech without graduating, Withers said. He enjoyed playing golf.

Glenville State College also lost a graduate who was working in the mines at the time of the explosion. Roosevelt Lynch was a gentle man.

May I say that Governor Manchin is doing a great job of coordinating efforts. He has worked diligently during this crisis.

In the midst of this all this sadness, the spring weather seemed to remind us that we are blessed and need to appreciate each day that we "are above grass". The show of blossoms this week was most impressive. I took a short video of the side garden, but Blogger did not let me upload the critter. Will try again later. It has been in the 80's and 90's during the first of this week. Yesterday rain arrived and the cold front dropped the temperatures. This morning it is currently 39 degrees.

I am off to Spencer to pick up Mom Meads. Judy and I are taking her this evening to the performance on the GSC campus of the National Symphony. Have a great day and appreciate your blessings.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Bee Keeper' Inn

After the fine buffet, Judy wanted to show Deb and Bruce the Bee Keeper's Inn which is a bed and breakfast located across the creek from the Hutte. We have stayed here several times.

The room we like is the "rose" room that is one room that is located on the first floor. If you remember many years ago I blogged about our wedding anniversary experience here and the stories included Jessie, the native brook trout catching dog, and the family of skunks playing under the floor boards of the room!

The kitchen is rustic. Fresh fruit is still on the table.

I think Deb and Bruce enjoyed Judy's "tour".

Here is a new Helvetia addition. The water depth under the bridge is around 6 feet. Water is COLD! Guess Judy and I will not know the pleasure of this Appalachian swing.

We did travel the extra five miles to Pickens. Eleanor, ownes and operates the Hutte, taught at Pickens in "the early days" and walked to and from Pickens each day. The ten mile walk during good and bad weather made this lady a strong individual. Over 90 years young, Eleanor is amazing!

We toured the hamlet of Pickens. (Took a few minutes- chuckle) We did see the beautiful new school located here. The graduating classes are the smallest in the state. Graduates from this k-12 school average 3 to four per year.
It was a great day. What a joy to experience good food, heritage, and the wonders of nature with friends!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Helvetia Gourmet Experience
As mentioned previously, Sundays at the Hutte involve participating in the wonderful presentation of food on the buffet. The waitress below was so friendly and competent.

The meats this day were ham and lamb. Both of the ham and the lamb dishes were exceptionally tasty. I really enjoyed the lamb.

I did not memtion that after church Judy and I traveled with our friends, Bruce and Deb, to the wilds of Randolph county. I should add that, in addition to the meat offerings, we all were impressed with the Helvetia cheese and bread, onion pie, green beans, applesauce with lemon, marinated carrots, spiced pinapple, parsley potatoes, pickled beets, salad, peach cobbler....and THAT WONDERFUL SAUERKRAUT! The sauerkraut is the best around.!

As always, it was a memorable experience dining at the Hutte. It is equally wonderful to be able to share this experience with friends.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Miss Eleanor
Eleanor Mailloux (pronounced may-you) is the owner of the Hütte, (pronounced hoo-tay) a restaurant located in the Swiss colony of Helvetia, tucked in the scenic hills of northwest Randolph County. In the years since it opened, the Hütte (it means "little hut") has served meals to customers hailing from all 50 states and from many foreign countries, including Spain, Japan, China, Norway, and, of course, Switzerland. Mailloux has the signed guest books to prove it. So why do they come, and why do they keep coming back? For one thing, the Hütte offers a splendid array of German Swiss foods at very affordable prices. But it's more than great food at a great price.

Each visit to the Hütte is a happening. You never know what to expect when you arrive; you might find a parking lot full of motorcycles, Ferraris, or even a helicopter or two. Or there might be a troupe of musicians traveling through who are more than willing to play for a meal. The Hütte's homey ambiance sometimes confuses first-time guests who arrive in cold weather. "I get a kick out of watching them come through the winter door," Mailloux says. "They often look around with confusion and say, ‘Sorry, we thought this was a restaurant.'" At the Hütte, you feel like you're dining in a private parlor, complete with an aromatic wood-burning stove, armchair, and tableful of books. "It's not what you expect when you enter a restaurant," says Eric Jones of Morehead, Kentucky, "but it immediately puts you at ease."Each of the five Hütte dining rooms are chock full of American and Swiss antiques, most acquired locally. "I call it a living, working museum," Mailloux says. Then she laughs and adds, "Organized mayhem is the theme."There are bookshelves laden with vintage hardback books, and adorning the walls are paintings, photographs, household and farm implements, musical instruments, and flags. (Listen on the hour for the cuckoo clock's call!) There are also tables of magazines and pamphlets, and brochures for local tourist attractions. And prominently displayed is the guest book for all to sign.

One dining room features the switchboard from Helvetia's original telephone system. (That is where we dined.) The property where the Hütte is located was once owned by the Peoples Telephone Company of West Virginia. A fire burned the telephone company building down, but the switchboard was rescued intact. Mailloux says that in those days, if there was a fire, the operator would ring residents a certain number of times, which meant "Get out of your homes and come help!"

Featured on the Hütte menu are a signature sausage dinner, baked ham, Morgan Henalie (chicken), bratwurst, and Zurich sauerbraten (served with noodles). The menu also includes Swiss muesli, featuring whole-grain oats, nuts, fresh fruit, yogurt, and honey. This selection is a delightful meal by itself. Many of Mailloux's recipes are original and closely guarded. All dinners are served with rosti (Swiss-style potatoes), a vegetable, hot applesauce, kraut, and homemade bread. Appetizers include a tempting cheese and fruit plate.

A lunch menu of soup and sandwiches is also offered. Reservations are recommended for the popular "Bernerplatte" meal, served on Sundays."We use only hand-picked meats and vegetables," Mailloux says. "Most of the vegetables are locally grown. The chickens and eggs are also supplied by locals. Sometimes we trade out goods and services. Fortunately talented artisans live in the community. If I need a plumber, electrician, mechanic, or whatever, I know who to call. Needless to say, they are well fed with the Hütte's best. We take care of each other. We have to, in order to survive in this backwoods setting." Mailloux and her staff make every effort to ensure that guests leave satisfied and happy. "I know what people go through just getting here," she says. "So it's up to us to reciprocate and then some."

The Hütte is open 363 days a year (not Thanksgiving or Christmas), from noon to "whenever the patrons are happily on their way home," according to Mailloux. "Nobody gets the bum's rush here," she adds. "Sometimes diners lose track of time and pitch in and help wash the dishes before they leave."Whether or not they work for their supper, patrons of the Hütte can leave their credit cards at home. This restaurant does not accept them. Cash or checks will do nicely, thank you. When asked if the no-credit-cards policy ever causes problems, Mailloux laughs heartily and says, "No, not at all. If a customer was relying on using a credit card, I just give them a copy of the bill and ask them to send me the money when they get home. It works every time. I've never been stiffed. And it makes them feel good that we trust them."

The Hütte serves wine and beer, including a special brew supplied by Mountain State Brewing Company in Thomas. One of the state's newest microbreweries, the company is owned by Mailloux's grandson Willie Lehmann and her stepgrandson, Brian Arnett."My whole family is involved in the Hütte," Mailloux explains. "Without them I would be lost. Not only do they help in the daily work, but they are actively involved in the future development."Mailloux's daughter Cathy Mailloux, who passed away last fall, helped a great deal with Hütte operations. Daughter Heidi Arnett, who runs the town post office, helps out when she can. The Hütte staff also includes Debbie Sayer, Kay Wooten Howes, Lori Smith, and Donna Williams. All have been employed by the Hütte for a number of years. Sayer has 27 years of service and Howes has 23.Mailloux's grandchildren range in age from 20 to 29. They include Lindsay, Henry, Bill, Emory, Jordan, Willie, Anna, Loren, and two Claras. Henry's daughter, Morgan, age 11, is eagerly learning the business.

"My future is set and I am pleased," says Mailloux. "I am living my dream."Mailloux estimates that the Hütte serves between seven and eight thousand diners a year. A considerable amount of business comes from the many festivals and other events held every year in Helvetia and in nearby Pickens. Word of mouth from satisfied customers is the Hütte's best advertisement.Also adding significantly to the annual total are motorcycle clubs and automobile rallies that come to and through Helvetia. "The back roads of West Virginia have been discovered," Mailloux explains. "It used to be that ‘location, location, location' meant having a business on the growing end of a town or city. Now it includes off-the-beaten-path places like ours.

The Hütte has grown by leaps and bounds over this period of discovery."One of Mailloux's favorite groups is a motorcycle club from the Northeast. About 40 riders come every year on their Harleys, Hondas, BMWs, and other bikes. Mailloux says with a smile, "They are always bone tired and hungry, and sometimes soaking wet when they arrive. I scold them for not giving us enough notice. Then we throw their clothes in the washers and dryers, and feed and pamper them before putting them into whatever beds are available at the time."One of the riders is an editor from Backroads magazine. Every year the publication puts out a special issue, The Best of Backroads. Several years ago, the first place winner of the "Great All-American Diner Run" was the Hütte. Here's what Backroads had to say about the Hütte and the twisting, country roads leading to it:"You'll find this place hidden deep in the West Virginia mountains and getting to it is a bit of a ride, but the town and the restaurant are well worth it. When you have this combination of good food, great staff, and exquisite roads, it all adds up to numero uno ...."At least six other large motorcycle clubs are regular patrons of the Hütte. Fairly recently, the restaurant has picked up the Rolls Royce and Mercedes Club rallies."They are great, fun-loving people," Mailloux says, "not at all snooty like one might expect. They think they've died and gone to heaven."

Like many of her clients, Mailloux is no stranger to adventure. She was raised in Helvetia since the age of five but as a young adult left to support the Second World War effort, then travel the world with the American Red Cross. In the mid-1960s, while serving in the Red Cross on Guam, Mailloux got homesick for Helvetia. She talked a woman friend into joining her in a restaurant venture. The two opened the Hütte in 1967. The friend later moved to Michigan and sold her interest in the business to Mailloux.Some of Mailloux's fondest memories of her childhood in Helvetia are of the Swiss elders, whom she remembers as kind, gracious, and generous. It seems she has taken their example to heart as owner of the Hütte, which has become not only a popular restaurant but the center of village life. Of Helvetia Mailloux says, "When you take the Swiss heritage of hospitality and combine it with West Virginia's heritage of proud, caring, and hardworking mountain people, you have an unbeatable combination for a community."

(Thanks to Jim Wilson of Wonderful WV Magazine for the above information.)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter in Helvetia

What a beautiful day yesterday! There are few places that capture our hearts more than the Hutte Restaurant in Helvetia. Helvetia is tucked away in a remote corner of Randolph County. This isolated community was settled by Swiss starting in 1869, and is known today for maintaining Swiss traditions, food, and folkways.

The population of Helvetia in the late 1800's approached 500. Population currently is around 25. Here is the menu for the 2010 Easter buffet.

The Hutte is an eclectic mix of local history. We ate in the library which houses the switchboard of the Helvetia Phone Company (which burned many years ago).

Other rooms are equally visual interesting. What fun it is to check out the art and artifacts!

I am always facinated by the masks created for the celebration of Faschnaut. This is the spring celebration that ends in the burning of an effigy of old man winter - the ancient festival has its roots in Pagan religion throughout Switzerland.

Tomorrow we will say hello to the special lady of the Hutte - Helvetia Hutte owner Eleanor Mailloux.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter 2010

Well, the Mountaineers did not win last evening. The Duke team out-played them, but we are so proud what WVU has accomplished this season.

This is a special Sunday morning. The sun is out in full force and it is illuminating the beauty around us. As I am sitting this morning by the window, the Bradford pear, forsythia, cherry tree, and daffodils are all in full bloom. Hopefully, I can share this sight with you soon. Even the small patch of ramps are poking their leaves out of the leaf litter in the back yard.

We are having a special trip this afternoon. We will travel to one of our favorite WV destinations - the Hutte in Helvetia. We go not only for the great Easter buffet, but for the enjoyment of nature and the history of the area. Will report back to you all on this trip.