CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- He's best known as the can-do mayor of Belle and a tireless community volunteer. But in forestry circles, Glen "Buck" Chestnut has another prestigious identity: award-winning tree farmer.
This year, his 308-acre farm on Blue Creek was named the county and district Farm of the Year by the West Virginia Conservation Agency.
He's a tall, strapping man with a folksy manner and an abiding love for his hometown. He left for several years to work, but the Belle-grown farm boy had to return to his roots.
He supports virtually every civic and charity event in Belle and many in Charleston. He's the go-to guy for people with problems, the inveterate helper-outer.
After all that, he unwinds "out on the hill," laboring on his tree farm and wildlife refuge.
"I grew up on Maple Road here in Belle, 11 blocks from this office. Dad was in maintenance at Occidental Chemical. He moved here from Bath County, Va., in 1923 to work for Belle Alkali.
"We had about 10 acres and raised cows and had hogs and raised corn and boarded horses for people. We had to run the cows down. They had bells on them so we could hear them and bring them back to the barn. When they would eat wild onions, the milk would taste like onions.
"One of my jobs was to pull weeds for the hogs after school and to hoe corn, which I hated.
"Belle was a town that was mostly DuPont workers, and people boarded houses out to their friends. In the booming days at DuPont, the town built up pretty fast.
"My family sold the homeplace for about $13,000. Now it's probably worth $1 million. A cousin still lives on an acre of it. All the farm property is still there except for that one acre.
"I always wanted to be a mechanic. My dad bought his first car when I was about 8 or 9. He had to work on it all the time, and I used to hang out with him.
"When I got out of high school, I hung out with people who worked on cars. When I was 17, I bought a '41 Lincoln Zephyr for $75. My first job was with Douglas Produce when I was a senior. I made 33 cents an hour and worked from 1 p.m. to midnight. It took a while to pay for that car.
"I always washed it in the creek. When you're young and stupid, you break ice just to keep a clean ride.
"I worked a couple of different places out of high school then went to work for Walker Machinery. Me and another guy decided we were going to go to college. Cecil Walker, the owner, said he was going to start a second shift so we signed up at Tech for daytime.
"Walker's business dropped off, and they decided not to start the second shift. So we went over to McLean Trucking and started to work on the docks so we could go to school during the day. This was 1960. I got married in '61, to Nancy Lambert, and I was still going to school. McLean shut down and transferred everyone to Cincinnati.
"So I went to Cincinnati and served three years as an apprentice and became a diesel mechanic. We lived in Cincinnati three years. I came back here because I'm an outdoorsman and Cincinnati is not an outdoors place.
"I came back and worked for Occidental and started going to Morris Harvey at night. They hired me to set up the new storeroom and promoted me to purchasing agent and then put me over security. I became director of national affairs for the Tri-State Purchasing Association, and ended up on the executive board.
"I had offers to go different places, but I thought if I ever got back to Belle, I'd like to stay. So I just stayed here and did the best I could.
"I was always very active in the community. My wife tells people I am a professional volunteer. We started the first recycling program in Belle. DuPont, Occidental and Walker Machinery bought bins and racks. The three companies had representatives along with Sally Shepherd, the director of the recycling program. I was on city council at the time. We've been recycling ever since.