As told by Grandma Ricie Somerville (Scott’s mom, and my children’s grandmother)
It was a summer when our car was smaller than our family——also, money was tight (as usual)–when Jim’s vacation rolled round that year. Our boys ranged in age from 15 to 5 years old, and their playground was the nearby Big Coal River. Daily in the summer, the boys would work for me for three hours and then go down to swim, chase fish, climb trees, and just enjoy the cool river’s charms. They had worked hard that spring to build john-boat (a small flatboat out of plywood). We borrowed two others, and decided to take a 9-day trip into the boys’ world of the Big Coal River. The price of arriving at our vacation destination was right: from our house, we just went down the hill and waded into the murky waist-deep water.
Air mattresses made a flotilla of brown bodies as each day found our family floating down the Big Coal together. Rope swings hung from trees all along the way and they all had to be tested, of course. People waved or spat at us as we went under bridges.
We beached our crafts by night, and brought out three orange tents and the campfire. At one stop, we found big lumps of rolled coal to toss into the flames. Before we launched back onto the river each day, we enjoyed the beach. The fishing was good and the living was easy. Dad read all of <em>Life on the Mississippi</em> aloud from our ” Laz-e-boy chairs” (we dug holes in the sand and piled up behind our backs) then settled our bottoms in the holes and leaned back to bathe in the warm sun while the boys did all the hard work.
When we got to the edge of Charleston, WV, we rented a U-Haul truck and went back to home, about 25 miles away. The total cost was for the grub—oatmeal, pinto beans, rice, potatoes, cheese, bread, peanut butter—and a few candy bars, bought when we landed near a country store.
We did buy some extra oatmeal to feed the ducks who joined us!