Hence, a book that recounts the Rudolph family's generations of fine-tuned haymaking. And Josh Frye's challenge of running the family farm near Wardensville, explaining in the book one reason why he turned down a career elsewhere to return home: "I'm so sick of seeing farmland developed. It scares me, too, because God doesn't make any more land. Once it's gone, it's gone."
For Frye, such tales paint a welcome portrait.
"The books I see about West Virginia are the poor, toothless people that everybody pities. I don't think we recognize sometimes what we have. I think we need to be proud of what we have and what we've protected and how we've stewarded our land.
"That's important to land protection. Sometimes we don't have that comparison to know we've got something to be proud of. I want this book to say, 'I matter' -- not me personally, but that this watershed matters and that the people who have stewarded this land for so many generations matter."
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"My mother and father both sacrificed and worked to get this place. My dad was a plumbing contractor, but my mother raised chickens and turkeys and pigs and anything to make a dollar. I've worked like hell, too, ever since I was a little kid. And if you work for something hard enough, you're going to take care of it, whatever you get. And I want it to remain just like it is. That means remaining as a haven for wildlife, and a source of community and renewal for all the hunters who have been coming for decades." -- Butch Mills, from the book
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Ailes has a straightforward philosophy when looking for supporters of land trusts.
"When a person comes to me and asks about this, I ask them: 'Does protecting your land pull at your heartstrings?' If they say, 'No, it doesn't, I just want the tax write-off or you're gonna have to convince me,' I just say, 'Next!' It's not my job to convince someone to do it. It's my job to help someone who wants to do it because it pulls at their heartstrings."
Which gets back to her overall philosophy of managing a land trust.
"It's a people project -- it's not just a land project when you're working for a land trust. It's all people and those stories, which translates into emotional connections."
"Listening to the Land: Stories from the Cacapon and Lost River Valley" can be purchased through the Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust website at cacapon.org.
Want to know more? The Cacapon and Lost Rivers Land Trust is one of several local, statewide and national land trusts operating across West Virginia. Founded in 1995, the West Virginia Land Trust, for instance, has been working statewide with landowners for nearly 20 years to try to preserve land through conservation easements and purchases. To see other land trusts working in the state, visit the Land Trust Alliance website, findalandtrust.org.
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.