The Good Heart of Thunderpants

By Bob Henry Baber

 Hey, kids. I know a little tart whose nickname is Thunderpants because she has lightning bolt stickers on the side of her diapers!

“Hello there, Thunderpants. What are you doing?”

“I’m practicing to grow bigger, Silly!”

Well, as you can see, Thunderpants is one of the smartest girls in the whole world. Not only is she smart, but she’s good-hearted too. That means that she cares about people. Maybe that’s why Thunderpants was chosen to get a magic pacifier with special powers.

Anyway, one night, when she was sucking on her magic pacifier and was just about to fall asleep, Thunderpants heard the faint weeping of little children on the other side of the earth.

“What are they crying about, Thunderpants?”

“They’re crying because they don’t have enough to eat and they’re hungry.”

So Thunderpants decided that with the aid of her magic pacifier she would fly over and see if she could help. While she was flying, she saw that there was lots of extra food everywhere, and she whooped down and gathered it under her cape. When she arrived the kids were overjoyed to see her, and after eating their fill, they thanked her for the wonderful gift she has brought them. Thunderpants was pleased that she could help, but even while they were celebrating she heard other children crying in a nearby land. Faster than a bubble in a bathtub she went to see what the trouble was.

When she got there the kids explained to her that they were sad because their parents were at war. So Thunderpants gathered the parents together and scolded them for fighting and not learning to share things and love one another. And the adults were so ashamed of themselves that they laid down their guns and made peace. And everybody was so happy that they threw a great party with Thunderpants as the special guest of honor.

“You’re our hero!” they said.

“No, I’m not,” Thunderpants replied, laughing. “I’m your shero!”

Now even though Thunderpants had a magic pacifier, feeding the hungry and stopping wars was hard work, and Thunderpants was tired. So she said goodbye to her new friends and flew back across night towards home. And while she did she gathered tiny stars under her cape and sprinkled them over the towns and villages and farms so that each child would have a night light in their room and not be afraid of the dark. By the time Thunderpants got home it was very late, and she barely had enough energy left to hang the one star she saved for herself. Then Thunderpants stood at her open window and said, “Good-night, Moon. See your friend, the sun, in the morning.” And with that she crawled into bed, laid her head on the pillow, and slipped into a dream filled with all the other good deeds she was going to do with her magic pacifier and with her good heart, which is, after all, the most powerful magic of all!

Peter Rapp-It

By Bob Henry Baber

No doubt you’ve heard the story of Peter Rabbit, the country bunny who so long ago got into trouble when he went into a certain garden against his mother’s very sound advice. Well, it’s a good thing that GrandPaw Peter survived his mishap with Mr. McGregor, because this story’s about his great, great, grandbun–a fine rabbit who calls himself Peter Rapp-It because he’s bound and determined to become a big star in the rapp music business just like his father, Fluff Daddy. You might say he was planning on following in his daddy’s paw path. Anyhow, at some point the rabbit family migrated to Cleveland, Ohio, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and that’s where our story takes place.

Now Peter’s mother, Buff Momma, had stopped at the mall on her way home from Tae-Bo class and had new spring clothes and sneakers for Peter, his sister, Topsey, and his brother, Turvey.

“Wow, new FUBU!” the buns exclaimed as they tried on their stuff.

“Can we wear them outside Mom, can we?”

Topsey and Turvey pleaded and begged so hard that Buff Momma finally gave in with a sigh.

“Okay, but you’d better stay right here in the yard and don’t you dare get a thing on them or mess them up, Y’hear?”

Out the buns went, bouncing with joy as only brown and white tailed bunnies with new hip hop clothes can do. But it wasn’t long before Peter concocted a different plan. You see, Peter was feeling pretty cool and all, and the sudden urge to do a little rapping in Mr. McGregor’s music studio just around the corner popped into his head and wouldn’t unpop.

“Hip Hop Pippity Pop, Name’s Peter and I’m on Top.”

“C’mon,” Peter begged his siblings, “We’ll just sneak in for one quick rhyme and hop right on home. I promise.”

“Hip Hop Bippity Bop, No Rapp If Caught By Pop…”

Topsey and Turvey were hesitant, but the thought of being in the very place where all the musicians hung out just got the best of them and so, before you could so much as twitch your nose a time or two, they were gone.

Outside the studio was a silver sign that read “Garden Recordings…with little peas and juices for all” It was in the shape of a giant CD, the center of which was painted with tomatoes, carrots, beans, lettuce, and squash–all the things the buns loved to eat. Inside the lobby the walls were lined with gold trophies and records and other awards that the buns speculated must have been worth dillions of dollars. The newest gold record belonged, of course, to Broccoli Spears–the buns’ fave.

“Shhhh!” Peter warned as the threesome snuck into the actual recording room, which was a clutter of microphone stands, wires, drums and musical instruments of all sizes and shapes. Peter stepped up to a mic and rubbed his nose. To his surprise his perked up ears heard a rustling noise come out of the huge speakers suspended in the corners of the studio.

“Hippiddy, Hoppiddy, 1, 2, 3…” Peter’s amplified words bounced off the walls like little sound bites being chewed. By this time Topsey and Turvey had moved closer until they were standing like backup singers behind Peter, who began to rapp a song he’d made up upon the spot.

“Well I really luv rapp and it’s plain to see I’m about to make rapp music history– o yeah…..o yeah…..o yeah!”

Just then a door slammed and a man yelled out, “McGregor’s the name and music’s my game. What are you flopears doing in here?” And with that he lit out after them. Topsey and Turvey, being closest to the exit door, made good their escape and hi-tailed it on home. But Peter Rapp-It, alas, was not so fortunate. He snagged his new jacket on a piece of speaker wire and tore a big hole in the arm. Even worse, he caught his left sneaker under the foot of the piano and it popped right off. But with Mr. McGregor in hot pursuit he didn’t have time to retrieve it. In fact, he was barely able to get out the door before Mr. McGregor caught up with him.

“Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow,” McGregor said as he shook his head at Peter skittering up the street.

By the time Peter returned home Topsey and Turvey had spilled the green beans about their escapade to Buff Momma who was, to say the least, not a happy camper.

“Peter Rapp-It, where have you been? And where is your other sneaker? do you know how much those FUBU’s cost? Now you go straight upstairs until Fluff Daddy gets home and we can figure out what your punishment will be.”

Peter, his tail drooping, thought about his last punishment, which had resulted in an acute case of “Room-atism.”

But just as he was trudging away the celery-phone rang.

“Yes,” he heard Buff Momma say apologetically, “Yes, Peter Rapp-It is my son. He’s bad!” Don’t I know it! Say What? Oh yeah, you mean, he’s good?! Y’say you want to offer him and his backup singers a contract!? Topsey, Turvey, Peter, come quick,” Buff Momma screamed as she waved the cel-phone above her head and did the bunny hop with Fluff Daddy, who had just come home and didn’t have a clue as to what all the commotion was about.

“O, Peter, can you believe it?”

But Peter Rapp-It had already grabbed a carrot off the table, and pretending it was a mic, was singing away to the joy of his entire family.

“Well I really luv rapp and it’s plain to see I’m about to make rapp music history– o yeah…..o yeah…..o yeah!”

Stale Christmas Cookies

By Bob Henry Baber

Photo: Dennis McClung (L) Don McClung (R) taken in Beverage Barber Shop in Richwood, WV, 1962.

Dennis and Don Mclung with turkey. My name is Don McClung. Everything I herein recount took place the week after the Christmas of 1962 on a frigid winter’s night high up in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. But my tale, factual though it is, is actually a mere post script to a tragedy that happened 82 years before my own story took place.

How Cold Knob and Lost Flats got named, or by whom, nobody seems to know, but well-named they are, indeed. Both have challenged the endurance of many a mountaineer.

Well over a century ago one of the region’s first pioneers, William Baber, lived with his family in his mountain home about four miles from the present day town of Richwood, which had not yet even been founded.

It was November, and William wanted to get in the family’s last supplies before winter set in. Since there were as yet no railroads, he traveled with a neighbor in a two-horse wagon to the distant hamlet of Ronceverte. He took along his beloved son, James, and his loyal dog, Shep. Even in good conditions, the distance was a day’s journey, and the next day was spent securing and loading supplies. On the morning of their return trip William, James and Shep awoke to find snow falling in Ronceverte, which was two thousand feet lower in elevation than the homeplace. This, they already knew, would mean for a challenging trek home. Slowly the party traveled through the Greenbrier valley and up and over Cold Knob. By this time conditions had deteriorated into blizzard conditions with blinding snow being driven by nearly forty mile an hour northwest gusts of wind. Nonetheless, on the back side, and just a few miles from shelter and the warmth of hearth, the travelers discovered fresh bear tracks in newly crusted snow that William knew would soon be covered by drifts.

Now in those days the flesh of the bear was prized for food, and the skin could be sold for much-needed cash. William was anxious to find that bear, so he instructed his friend and James to go on home with the loaded wagon. His plan was to track the bear to its lair, mark its spot, and then walk the remaining distance to home. He’d then come back for it in better weather. But after a few hours, when he failed to return, James became alarmed. A search party was quickly organized and began the difficult task of finding William. After much searching, and deep into the night, they found the object of their search. Apparently, due to hypothermia, or perhaps a stroke, William had become bewildered and had crossed a half-frozen stream of water before he got out on the opposite side and sat down with his back up against a tree. This is where his frozen body was found. Shep was still with him and had kept the panthers from harming the body of his master. The search party could see the small and larger concentric paths he and the wild animals had beaten around William. The searchers built a bier from branches and bought the dead man through the snow and woods and back to his tear-filled home.

Strangely, it was reported that when the search party found him, one outstretched and naked hand was cupped and held upwards. It was filled with freshly fallen powder.

As for me, and mine, it all started innocently enough. My younger brother Delmas, from Rupert, came over to Richwood to go turkey hunting with another brother, Dennis. I loaned them my old ’49 Ford pickup because it already had chains on it and they were going to go out the Greenbrier Road. They planned to hunt around Manning’s Knob where the infamous Civil War spy, Nancy Hart, is buried. They should have, but I’m sure they didn’t realize just how deep the snow would prove to be.

Late in the afternoon I went down to pay my gas bill at the corner Pure Oil because they gave the Top Value Stamps I was collecting to try and get my wife a new toaster. After I returned home, I began to become more and more uneasy about the boys. I got to thinking that my truck was old and might not start. So I put chains on Dennis’ car, got my feisty little mutt, Tippy, and headed up the mountain.

I never thought to get a light-I didn’t think I would need it. I drove out Greenbrier Road. A short piece past the Mullens’ house, I found my truck parked on the side of the road near a deep snowdrift by a ravine. It was still light enough for me to see where the mailman had delivered to the Baber’s mailbox earlier in the day. Henry Baber and his wife lived on a mountaintop farm a half mile in from the mailbox. Theirs was the last house on the road until you went up and across Cold Knob and down into Trout-at least two dozen hard miles away. I quickly made the decision to walk down to see if they were at the Baber’s or if they have possibly seen them. I’d truly hoped so, because if they hadn’t, it was hard telling where they were in that vast wilderness.

When I arrived at the Babers’, Henry’s wife Tessie answered the door. She was a stout woman with a warm Christian face, white hair, and a deserving reputation for being one of the best cooks in these parts. I could smell a blackberry cobbler wafting from the back of the kitchen. It smelled simply delicious.

“Come in. Come in, Don. What brings you out on a bitter night like this?”

“I’m looking for my brothers, Delmas and Dennis. They came out this way turkey hunting. You haven’t seen them, have you?”

“No, I haven’t,” she said, as a serious look of concern swept across her face, “but it’s a frightfully cold night to be out in the woods if that’s where they are.”

Tessie, who had braved many a wicked gale and seen temperatures near 40 below, knew as well as any person alive just how cruel and relentless those mountains could be.

By this time, I figured something was wrong. They should have been coming in. And there was another thing that bothered me; a freezing fog was starting to set in. That made me realize that the going was going to be rough and that I didn’t have a light to go searching with, either.

“I wish Henry could go with you, but he’s in bed, sick with a bad cold and a fever,” Tessie said, as she handed me a kerosene lantern she’d fetched from the basement. “Be careful, Don, please.”

I retraced my steps back to the truck, but just before I got there, I noticed, close by to a big sugar maple, a huge turkey track that headed down the mountain. When I looked closer, I noticed the boys’ tracks, too. They’d given chase below the north ridge of the mountain, just beneath the Baber place. I tracked them downhill to Little Laurel. The snow was drifted and deep. I still recall that the laurel leaves were already curling in and huddling as close to their stems as they could possibly get. The frost on them glistened when the light of my lamp slid over them.

“Delmas! Dennis!” I hollered repeatedly, but they didn’t respond. All I could hear was the lonely echo of my voice bouncing from mountain to mountain before it evaporated into what had now become night. My alarm grew by leaps and bounds when I realized that the boys had penetrated even deeper into the wilderness and out of earshot. I knew something was seriously wrong and I’d have to go on. However, when the flame wavered and I shook the lantern, I realized it was nearly out of fuel. Since I knew approximately where I was, I initially thought all I’d have to do was scale straight up the steep side of the mountain, as opposed to redoing the mile long loop I’d just made. But to my dismay, when I got to the top, the fog had gotten much thicker and I couldn’t even see the house. In fact, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was. So I zigzagged along the spine and picked my way along an old fence line until I could finally see the dim lights of the house. I couldn’t have been anymore than 30 yards away, if that.

Tessie became even more worried when she saw that I’d returned without the boys. “Do you think something’s happened to them, Don? I’m getting worried!” she said, as I came into the welcome heat of the home. Before I headed back out into the cold, dark night, Tessie filled the lantern and gave me two bags of leftover Christmas cookies. She also gave me some stick matches in a used medicine jar, just in case.

I proceeded to retrace my steps. When I got down to Little Laurel it was completely frozen over-or appeared to be. Carefully, I crossed the crackling ice that covered the creek and fought my way through the thickets. Despite the disorienting fog, I followed the slick bed upstream and headed towards Lost Flats and Town Rocks. I was young and in good shape from working in the mines, but already I was beginning to tire from randomly falling through the knee-deep crust and half-hollowed ice. I finally had to stop for a rest.

It was then that I realized my dog was not with me. I knew Tippy had crossed the creek with me, so I retraced my steps yet again. About halfway down the mountain there she sat, worn out from following me by jumping from track to track. So I had to pick her up-she weighed about thirty pounds-and carry her in with me. It was simply too far to take her back to the Baber’s. I proceeded on, my lantern in one hand, my dog in the other. As one arm tired, I switched to the other. I struggled to climb the hill. I was still following my brothers’ tracks when I came to the lower end of Town Rocks. The area was covered with their wanderings-so much so that I couldn’t sort out what had happened or where they’d gone. I could only surmise that they’d become lost because they were obviously doubling and, in places, even tripling back on their own paths.

I put Tippy on the ground to rest my arms and try to figure out what to do next. I had to get away from their switch-backing and try to find where they’d jumped off the rim of a rock cliff. After over an hour of tracking back and forth, I finally found where they’d jumped. I was shocked by the height! It appeared to be a fifteen-foot drop! That was way too high for me to jump, so I backed up and found a place where I could get down without leaping. Before I slid down on my butt, feet first, I thought to myself, “If I get hurt, we might all perish!” It was a thought I had to banish in order to push myself off from that rock. Thankfully, I made it okay. But to tell you the truth, I was getting more afraid since I was no longer sure which side of Lost Flats either of us was on.

After going just a short distance, I found a body-print in the snow and guessed one of them was hurt. A little further on, I found some spots of frozen blood on pure white snow. It sent a shudder right through me. Then I heard a shotgun blast. It was very close. Unfortunately, because a mining injury had left me deaf in one ear, I couldn’t place where the shot had come from. I hollered again, but heard nothing. “Perhaps that was their last shell,” I thought. I knew then that the only way I’d find them was to continue to follow their tracks, but it was frustrating and confusing since they kept going in what appeared to be random loops.

The snow was becoming even more dangerously crusted and icy as the fog glazed across it and instantly froze. In fact, as I descended, I had to carefully slide from tree to tree, and catch myself in order to keep from falling. Finally, I recognized a little stream of water as Elk Lick Run and realized I was now on the South Fork of the Cherry River–a whole different watershed! When those boys had gone off Town Rocks, they’d gone off the wrong side. Before long, I found another body-print in the snow, beside which I found a partially burned coat! It was a bizarre and frightening symbol; something that I couldn’t readily decipher. I was so cold and frightened that for a stunned second it crossed my mind that hypothermia could be setting in on me–that I might even be hallucinating. Just as quickly, though, I regained my senses and realized it was where they’d desperately tried to start a fire on top of the snow. However, with ice on the limbs a half inch thick, it didn’t surprise me that they hadn’t had any luck. It also wasn’t lost on me that in the process they’d lost much needed clothing.

I stopped to take stock. I didn’t know what to think, but I knew that Elk Lick Road had two hairpin turns. I picked one-there were tracks on both-and was holding the lantern in such a way so I could see to walk in their tracks. Suddenly, I stepped on an arm extended from the side of their tracks and heard a grunt! I immediately got down on my knees. It was Dennis!

“What’s wrong, buddy?”

“I’ve hurt my back so bad I can’t walk,” he replied in a painful whisper.

“Where’s Delmas?”

“He was here with me awhile ago.” His voice trailed off forlornly. I stood up and held the lantern aloft.

“Delmas! Where are you?” Then I saw him. He was twenty-five feet above us on an old log road, walking in circles to keep warm. I asked him to come to me. Haltingly, he did so. He could barely talk and was scared to death. I was stunned when I realized that he only seemed to be half-sure who I was. I brought the two together. I showed him how to rub Dennis’ shoulders to keep him warm and told him to keep walking in order to keep his own circulation going.

I told them, “I’m going to look for some wood. I think I know where there is a big pine patch at the head of the holler, fairly close to where we are. Whatever you do, don’t move!”

I knew it was my only chance of finding something dry enough to start a fire-a fire I feared we needed in order to survive. So I left Tippy with them, and went about a quarter of a mile to gather wood. I had a difficult time breaking the limbs down from the ice-covered pine trees, but eventually I gathered enough dry wood to make an attempt. I took two of the sticks I’d gathered to pry out the snow and get down to the ground. Then I took my gas bill receipt, the Top Value Stamps that I was saving to buy my wife a present, a bit of pine kindling, and sprinkled kerosene over it all.

I was thankful Mrs. Baber had given me some matches, because I didn’t smoke and my brothers had used up all of theirs. Repeatedly I tried to get a fire going, watching fretfully as my matches dwindled down to just a few, and then, just two. With each failure I felt my heart pumped in my ears and the choke of dire panic begin to surround my chest. On the second to last match a brief flame emerged and sputtered out, but left a trace of continuing smoke in its wake. I blew and blew on that smoking kindling until I was dizzy and near sick. Finally, I saw a small flame emerge and directly heard the crackling of burning wood.

Still, by the time I returned, the boys looked worse than ever: ashen, blue and obviously frozen to the core. I could tell they were fading, although I repeatedly assured them otherwise-as much for myself, as for them. Delmas and I helped Dennis to the fireside. After a difficult time, we finally arrived. They wanted to climb into the fire in the worst way. In fact, when we got there they practically lay on top of it, and I had to pull them back to keep them from catching what clothes they had left on fire! Then I took off my coat and laid it on the ground for Dennis. I put Tippy beside him to help keep him warm. I made a place for Delmas on the other side. Miraculously, the growing light from the fire revealed still more sheltered wood nearby that seemed as if the Good Lord had put it there himself.

As I took my lantern in hand and headed back across Lost Flats to the Baber farm and help, I could only pray that it was enough to sustain them. In my heart, I felt that if I didn’t get back to them before the fire burned out, they’d surely freeze to death.

My first attempt to get across resulted in my making a huge circle right back to where they lay! I had no idea I was doing so, of course, until, to my disbelief, I saw their fire emerge eerily from the fog. I noted that their stock of wood had dwindled by well over half as they’d greedily fed the fire, but it was too late to look for more. Quickly, I hid the lantern behind my back so they wouldn’t see it and be discouraged by the fact that I, too, had become disoriented and lost.

I struck out again with the last energy I had. By this time the dampness had cut thru my Mackinaw shirt and to my very core. I don’t have to tell you, do I, that I was calling up to heaven and saying over and over, “You’re going to have to help me, Lord, if I’m going to make it!” While I was praying, I stumbled onto the old railroad grade at Little Laurel and knew, as the birds flew, I was very close to the Baber farm. But because of the fog I couldn’t take a chance on cutting straight up to it. So, although I was nearly too tired to lift my feet, I had to take the long way around and retrace the steps I’d taken almost eight hours earlier. Exhausted step after exhausted step I fell through the crusted surface and had to pull my feet up through the thickly crusted top again and again.

When I finally got to the Baber farm, Tessie was still awake. She’d never gone to bed. I think it was around three in the morning. She greeted me with steaming coffee, fried bacon, eggs, biscuits, and gravy. Wasting no time, I called my friend John Waselchalk and explained the crisis. He readily agreed to come with his big Dodge Power Wagon and said he’d call Perry Price to come with him to help in the rescue.

“Don, I would have called somebody, but since I didn’t have any idea where you were, I feared sending even more out into the back country,” she said fretfully. As best I could, I assured her she’d made the right decision.

I was so cold-or so much in a state of shock-that I couldn’t eat from the violent shaking of my hands; and it seemed the warmer I got, the worse I shook. It was as if the fear and cold that previously hadn’t totally penetrated me had caught up as I thawed out and had now gained access to my very innards. Soon, another group summoned by Tessie arrived at the farm and we all joined forces and started out for Manning’s Knob. The search party included Arden and Bob Bayless, and two other men whose names I no longer recall, but gratefully herein thank. The snow was so deep we had to stop every so often to knock the tops off the drifts. Just before we got to where the boys were, we spun out and a sharp rock gouged the side out of a tire. While some of the party put on a spare, the rest of us went on ahead and got the boys and my dog. When we got back, we put Dennis in the front seat, right next to the heater, and headed back out over the rough trail we’d just blazed.

When we finally got back to Richwood, it was six thirty in the morning, and the sun was coming up. My dad, Oather McClung, and my brother-in-law, Bill Pittsenbarger, were waiting at the house to see what the outcome of this harrowing night would be. I noticed some of the eyes were pretty wet and red in that room, too, as heartfelt hugs, greetings, and thanks were exchanged all around. To be honest, I had all I could do to hold back my own humble tears of gratitude.

Believe it or not, the next year I went hunting in the same area with Dennis. Not very far from where I’d stepped on his arm that cold and wicked night, Dennis shot a twenty-one pound turkey. I’ve often wondered if it weren’t that very same trouble-maker! I’m betting it was.

When I recollect on this close brush with tragedy, I can only thank the Good Lord for guiding me across Lost Flats and back to the Baber farm, where I could call for help. Of course, all lives have their traumas. In 1954, I was in a bad rock fall in the mines and was pinned for four hours before I was rescued. It was a bad experience. I’ve had others. But nothing in my lifetime stands out more than that very cold, late December night in 1962, when my brothers and I nearly lost our lives to the deep Appalachian wilderness.

Once in awhile, I think of the old patriarch, William Baber who froze to death long before I was born. I surmise that he would have been proud to know that some of his progeny had helped save three young men from coming to that same awful ending to which he’d come back in 1880.

And I’d like to say one more thing to Mrs. Baber (if she can hear me up there in heaven): A few Thanksgivings after their ordeal, my brothers said to me that those slightly stale cookies you sent for them to eat were the best Christmas presents they’d ever gotten, and that nothing-not slow-cooked green beans, mashed potatoes with butter, homemade stuffing, or even wild turkey smothered in gravy-has ever tasted as good before or since!

Pure-Orange-Sunshine-Cover

Pure Orange Sunshine

Contact me today to purchase a copy for only $12.50! This includes postage!

Review:

PURE ORANGE SUNSHINE is a true-life autobiographical novel, by award-winning Appalachian writer Dr. Bob Henry Baber.

5-Stars*****Chuck Kinder, former Chair of the Creative Writing Department of the University of Pittsburgh and renowned author of Honeymooners and The Last Mountain Dancer says this of Baber’s magnum opus, “The Lost Generation had The Sun Also Rises. The Jazz Age had The Great Gatsby. Now the Found Generation called the Hippie Nation has Pure Orange Sunshine. Bob Henry Baber is the grand poet of revolution and loss and redeeming love. Somehow this good old outlaw boy survived the ultimate hillbilly-hippie hero’s descent into the portals of hell not only to brag about it, but to sing that journey’s tall-tale from the West Virginia mountaintops with words as beautiful and funny, haunting and deadly as sharp shiny weapons.”

5 Stars*****Of Pure Orange Sunshine, P.J. Laska, Soupbean Poet, National Book Award nominee, renowned essayist, translator and philosopher, adds, “A love-in, a peaceable kingdom, is set upon by the domestic arm of the U.S. war machine that a year earlier shot down eight students at Kent State. From the opening riot to the final illumination, Bob Henry Baber’s novel is an iconoclastic truth-telling companion on the trail of how we got to where we are.”

*****

Pure Orange Sunshine touches on Appalachian/American history, Appalachian in/out migration, politics, Mountaintop Removal, and many other Appalachian and national political issues.

Based in part on notes smuggled out of prison where he landed after being shot with a 38 and charged with attempted murder of a police officer at a 1971 Easter “Love-In” riot instigated by the L.A.P.D., Baber’s piece de resistance is a true story that combines stream-of-consciousness narrative with intense lyric poetry. The book’s psychedelic cover art is by renowned artist, Deborah Dorland, of Richwood, West Virginia.

Pure Orange Sunshine follows the character of Jesse Webb from his post-riot hospitalization and imprisonment, through his initial release, hitchhiking trip to Richwood, West Virginia, and final return to California for trial. Pure Orange Sunshine has it all: prison, love, rock and roll, revolution, politics, strikes, courtroom drama, death, and redemption.

Pure Orange Sunshine has been over four decades in the making, and is the condensing of the book Baber first wrote from 1979-1983 as his doctoral thesis for the Union Institute under the mentorship of Gurney Norman, the former Poet Laureate of Kentucky, and the late Jim Wayne Miller, the father of modern Appalachian poetry.

Baber says of his book, “After nearly ten years of re-writing and editing, two would-be publishers, and a successful but uncollectable lawsuit against one of them, I’m simply glad to be present for the birth of my baby and to happily count its intact fingers and toes.”

“Pure Orange Sunshine takes as its themes the thin line between resisting and becoming what we despise, the personal frustrations we take out on our mates, the nature of social change and compromise, the excesses of government, and the power of the pen versus the sword. Although the book unfolds primarily on the west and east coasts, the core of the story is set in the lush, but strip-mine ravaged high peak of Webb Mountain, West Virginia—Jesse and Maria’s short-lived post-riot Appalachian retreat,” Baber states.

We hope you enjoy the book and seek reviews, invitations from Appalachian institutions and universities throughout the country to do readings & book signings, and to conduct creative writing and English, Political Science and Environmental classes throughout the region.

For more information or to schedule a reading, contact Bob Henry at bob.baber@glenville.edu 304-462-4125 or 304-904-2440. To order signed books send $12.50 for soft backs (including shipping) to 526 Kanawha St. Glenville, WV 26351. Pure Orange Sunshine is also available from your local bookstore, or call 888-795-4274 ext. 7879 or order online at www.xlibrus.com; www.barnesandnoble.com; www.amazon.com

*******

For Immediate Release March 2012 PURE ORANGE SUNSHINE, by award-winning Appalachian writer Bob Henry Baber, has now been published.

Based in part on notes smuggled out of prison where he landed after being shot with a 38 and charged with attempted murder of a police officer at a 1971 Easter “Love-In” riot instigated by the L.A.P.D., Baber’s piece de resistance is a true story that combines stream-of-consciousness narrative with intense lyric poetry. The book’s psychedelic cover art is by renowned artist, Deborah Dorland, of Richwood, West Virginia, and Baber’s author picture is by Mark Romano, of Cowen, West Virginia.

Pure Orange Sunshine follows the character of Jesse Webb from his post-riot hospitalization and imprisonment, through his initial release, hitchhiking trip to Richwood, West Virginia, and final return to California for trial. Pure Orange Sunshine has it all: prison, love, rock and roll, revolution, politics, strikes, courtroom drama, death, and redemption.

Pure Orange Sunshine has been over four decades in the making, and is the condensing of the book Baber first wrote from 1979-1983 as his doctoral thesis for the Union Institute under the mentorship of Gurney Norman, the former Poet Laureate of Kentucky, and the late Jim Wayne Miller, the father of modern Appalachian poetry.

Baber says of his book, “After nearly ten years of re-writing and editing, two would-be publishers, and a successful but uncollectable lawsuit against one of them, I’m simply glad to be present for the birth of my baby and to happily count its intact fingers and toes. While I believe Pure Orange Sunshine has strong potential for literary and cinematic success, any ‘pretty baby’ contests it may win I will think of as a gift in addition to its publication. Like Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, the most famous book of poetry ever written in America, Pure Orange Sunshine is self-published. However, unlike Whitman, I don’t plan on writing rave reviews of my own work under pseudonyms, although it’s a tempting thought! No, these days, through the miracle of internet marketing, Facebook, Twitter, etc. the publishing field has been remarkably transformed and somewhat leveled, thereby affording authors the opportunity to “make it or break it” through their own efforts. Ultimately, as in all works of literature, the book must speak for itself. I believe Pure Orange Sunshine will, which is why I’ve put my money–and promotional efforts–where my mouth is.”

“Pure Orange Sunshine takes as its themes the thin line between resisting and becoming what we despise, the personal frustrations we take out on our mates, the nature of social change and compromise, the excesses of government, and the power of the pen versus the sword. Although the book unfolds primarily on the west and east coasts, the core of the story is set in the lush, but strip-mine ravaged high peak of Webb Mountain, West Virginia—Jesse and Maria’s short-lived post-riot Appalachian retreat,” Baber states.

Chuck Kinder, former Chair of the Creative Writing Department of the University of Pittsburgh and renowned author of Honeymooners and The Last Mountain Dancer says this of Baber’s magnum opus, “The Lost Generation had The Sun Also Rises. The Jazz Age had The Great Gatsby. Now the Found Generation called the Hippie Nation has Pure Orange Sunshine. Bob Henry Baber is the grand poet of revolution and loss and redeeming love. Somehow this good old outlaw boy survived the ultimate hillbilly-hippie hero’s descent into the portals of hell not only to brag about it, but to sing that journey’s tall-tale from the West Virginia mountaintops with words as beautiful and funny, haunting and deadly as sharp shiny weapons.”

Of Pure Orange Sunshine, P.J. Laska, Soupbean Poet, National Book Award nominee, renowned essayist, translator and philosopher, adds, “A love-in, a peaceable kingdom, is set upon by the domestic arm of the U.S. war machine that a year earlier shot down eight students at Kent State. From the opening riot to the final illumination, Bob Henry Baber’s novel is an iconoclastic truth-telling companion on the trail of how we got to where we are.”

Baber will be doing media interviews, book signings and readings throughout West Virginia, Appalachia, New York, California and other states at art centers, bookstores, colleges and universities, and other venues for the next year.

For more information or to schedule a reading, Bob Baber at mayorbobhenrybaber@yahoo.com, or call 304-462-0320 or 304-462-4125 or 304-904-2440.

Additionally, through the generous support of GSC’s Student Activities, the first 25 people to arrive can make FREE tie-dye t-shirts provided by the Town Square Café and Controled Excentrics of Sutton, West Virginia, run by GSC alumni Tamara Cicogna (thereafter, additional shirts can be made for the nominal fee of only $10 each.) Also expected for the event is Mark Romano, who took the author’s cover photo and who generously donated over a thousand dollars worth of framed photographs now on permanent display in the library. Complimentary drinks and light snacks will be provided by the library.

For more information contact Annette Barnette, Director of Public Relations, at 304-462-4115 or annette.barnette@glenville.edu or bob.baber@glenville.edu 304-462-4125 or gail.westbrook@glenville. edu 304-462-6161 ***

Appalachia Rising

Bob Henry recently read his poems at the Voices from the Mountains event at Appalachia Rising, an event which took place in Washington DC, September 25-27, 2010 is a national response to the poisoning of America’s water supply, the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains, head water source streams, and communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia. Appalachia Rising strives to unite coalfield residents, grass roots groups, individuals, and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining and demand that America’s water be protected from all forms of surface mining. Click Here to read more on the offical site.

Appalachia Rising

by: Bob Henry Baber (For Jeff Chapman-Crane)

There will come a dawn
When, like trees in June,
The Appalachian people will reclaim
What can only so long be denied.

On that morn dew will soften the moon
And up from dark hollers they will rise,
Moving with the persistence
Of tendrils reaching towards light
And floating like burning fog
Along rocky spines and inclines
To the tops of the mountains.

They will not be thwarted.

Like the ancient blizzards of childhood
They will cover the scars of greed
With a vision of crystalline purity.
Even the dinosaurs
And yellow caterpillars of the fossil age
Will be buried beneath the muffling quiet
Of their accumulation.

All will rest. Life will be a slow melting.

And after many springs and much rust
No one will remember
When the land was made slave
To red law and lust.

Mountain Party

By Bob Henry Baber

The Mountain Party isn’t one lone voice
crying in what”s left of the wilderness.
We are many voices-a diverse choir of believers
keeping the faith forever.
We”re the voice of the Massey miners who are afraid
to speak out for safety
for fear of losing their jobs,
the voice of single working women
who can”t make ends meet or pay their utility bills,
the voice of surface-miners who deep down
hate what they”re doing to their mountains–
but have no other viable alternatives to feed their families,
the voice of first generation low-income high school students
who can”t afford to go to college or find a decent job,
but who can, if they want,
find Oxycontin aplenty around the next dark corner,
the unemployed factory workers whose jobs have fled
first to the right-to-work south, and then to China,
of seniors who can”t afford their meds,
of the little first-grader riding a long strange bus
to a newly consolidated school far, far from home,
and we”re the voice of small dying towns like Richwood and Logan and Williamson
who have no capital and no advocate in either capitol to help them get some
so they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps,
and we”re the muffled sound of over-burdened headstreams
which no longer exist, except in memory or imagination,
and of trees that once stretched like waking cats and grew into sunlight,
only to be ruthlessly pushed out of the way
and buried for nothing, to get at the coal,
and we”re the haunting sound of isolated family cemeteries
crying in the lost grey sea of relentless stripping,
and we are
the angry witnesses of Blair Mountain labor and land
being both repeated and erased
before our very eyes
but not forever,
for we are the collective body of reverence and remembrance.

The Mountain Party will not lick clean coal”s filthy boots
and turn blackened teeth toward t.v. cameras and smile pretty
simply to win an election but lose history.
We will not say the emperor”s is finely clothed
when his engorged belly extrudes the fat of profit
and his butt is showing when he stoops to new lows and new lies.
We are not coal”s enemy
unless its” profit motive sends 29 men directly to their death
and calls it “an act of God” just like they did after Buffalo Creek.
For shame!
We are not coal”s enemy
until it lops off entire mountain ranges and calls it good and reclaimed.
And we will be heard above the black din of commerce
masked as progress and heralded by the coal association
in slick press releases circling like vultures around the gilded dome.

The Mountain Party is not an apologist for the past,
but the harbinger of the future.
We are not the party of the privileged,
but have the privilege to speak for those whose voices have been drowned out by big money
We are the party of bluegrass music, rock salt and stone,
blood, kin and bone.
We are the pen of the budding Appalachian poet
about to re-write flowers into existence,
the clear-cut forest striving to regenerate itself,
& polluted mine run-off trying to lick itself clean.
We are young entrepreneurs with ideas
that will change West Virginia and the world for the better,
we are emergency workers going on midnight calls to save lives,
the committed teacher at a small rural school
helping to create yet one more inspired student,
state workers conscientiously and consistently doing their jobs
sometimes under harsh conditions and with little thanks,
cooks, waiters and waitresses,
surveyors, pharmacy technicians, and nurses,
tree cutters and tree huggers
all on the same page of paper
proclaiming fundamental change.

We are not one voice, but many.
We are the party of celebratory dancing and peaceful evolution.
We are the voice of electronic change skittering across the internet,
the voice of righteous anger
directed towards for the greater good.
We are the voice of the common man and the common place–
both of which are uncommonly good and worth preserving.v
Now we will sing together in many colors
calling forth a future:
bright as daylight
clean as a hillside spring,
and true as a million maple leaves
rustling in the crisp fall wind.
We are throwing locust logs that will burn long and hard
on the fires of environmental and social justice.

Not just one, but many, we are the Mountain Party.

Word Warriors

By Bob Henry Baber

When the mountains are leveled from east Kentucky to the Virginias,
And they will be – just as surely as the sun will rise to shame grey Unceasing carnage-
When the sweet old ladies of Sylvestor
Are blown away by coal dust;
And the next “impossible” sludge spill has spoiled thousands of miles of water,
Flooded hundreds upon hundreds of homes, and likely killed people

Unrest assured
The gigantic toxic permanent markers,
Man’s cursed indelible graffiti on the landscape-
Will be so noted
In indelible ink-
Tiny word monuments
Scrawled on recycled paper
Garnered in chapbooks
Etched in time
And tucked into corners of consciousness

From which they will never be dislodged.
We too will leave our mark – not of profit, but of pride,
Of the fight, well-fought.

Like so many others
Our pleas are falling on ears
Made deaf by machines and money,
But our protests, too,
Will stand the test of truth
And ill compare to the struggles
Of hundreds of other indigenous justice movements around the world,
Weakened people who stood strong
Against the cold metal blade of destruction masked as progress;

They will be the testament of resistance
That future generations of coalfield refugees
And people who love mountain ranges everywhere
Will hold deep in their psyches
And pass along to the children of their children.

That is why we must continue to keenly speak-
Despite the bleak outcome
Already foreseen-

So that our progeny will hear and know
We poured our bloody poems
On barren ground

Lived and died trying