Over the Labor Day weekend of September 3rd, 2021 I headed to the 15th annual Sheets Run String Swing on Middle Island Creek in Friendly, West Virginia. This blue grass music festival is an annual event held by my family to celebrate traditional bluegrass music, libations, family, and friends . My family has had camps on Middle Island Creek for as long as I can remember and I have spent many weekends, hunting, fishing, riding ATVs and spending holidays at my fathers, grandfather’s, and Uncle Nicks camp. Times have changed but the annual festival has continued through the years and I am thankful for that. I had not been able to make it for the previous 3 years due to being in Peru and then the covid plandemic so I was excited to be able to make it this year.
As I had done in years past I decided to come the back way through Cow House Road and then onto Shiloh but I quickly realized after crossing a new bridge that this road is no longer a road and is now a series of deep mud bog pits. Ironic a brand new bridge to nowhere some politician must have got some money in the pocket from a gas company. I decided to give it a go and I made it through the first two mud holes but almost got stuck in the third and decided to back out and approach from the another way. Eventually I made it to the field beside Powell’s hole which is a fishing and swimming spot. As I approached the string swing a-lot of activity was going on including the hooking up of electricity and setting up the stage plus various people arriving and setting up camp. I stopped at the stage and said hello to everyone including my cousin Nick, Uncle Nick, Tony, Trapper, Rob, and many other friends and family. After talking for an hour or so I headed to the back of the field to setup my campsite.
After my campsite was set up I went down to finish helping set up the stage and also finish running the electricity which is always enetertaing. Trapper maneuvered the tractor with Rob high up in the bucket in order to set the line. I had this job in years past and did not envy Rob. After everything was finished we headed up to my cousin Tony and his wife Melissas campsite whom are always kind, hospitable, and have plenty of seating. Tony made burgers on the grill and Mellissa had made other delicious food. We sat talked, ate, and told stories catching up on what had been going on in each other’s lives. Sadly alot of times this is the only occasion many of us get to see each other. After talking for awhile longer it began to get dark and we started a campfire. Brian and his friend started to play a variety of bluegrass, rock, and classic Appalachian folk songs. My cousin has been playing for many years and is a very talented musician he enjoys classic bluegrass, folk music, as well as rock. Everyone sat gazing at the fire and listening to the music, at some moments singing along. Everyone had a great time that evening and I really enjoy the night before the String Swing.
The next morning I woke up in my tent and headed down to the creek to do a little fishing unfortunately I did not catch anything worth mentioning but had fun by the creek throwing rocks and thinking of the many good memories I had there throughout the years playing in the creek catching hellgrammites. I then headed back up to my Uncle Nicks camp with my cousin Rob to see what was going on and help Uncle Mark clear some of the paths on the property that are used to access deer hunting trails. I enjoyed going back on the property I hunted so much as a young man and have so many fond memories of. After riding around the property on 4-wheelers, setting salt licks, and clearing trails we headed back to the String Swing. I decided to setup a table and sell the Alpaca goods I had leftover from what I had purchased in Peru. To my pleasant surprise many friends and family were eager and happy to support and purchase these amazing hand made items that had traveled so may miles to arrive in the US. http://www.AlpacaTruke.com.
After selling the remainder of the Alpaca dry goods I played corn hole for awhile before heading to the local grocery store Witchys to pick up some supplies. The back roads to the store wind through the hills along the creek which make an enjoyable ride. My cousin Nick, Rob, and I shared stories of years past at camp on the way. After getting everything we needed at the store we headed back the the festival and we started setting up for the fireworks. My cousin Nick goes all out on fireworks for the festival and I enjoy helping him light them off. Once the fireworks extravaganza concluded the band began to play. My cousin Brian has been in many bands with his most recent being Bourbon Moon https://www.bourbonmoon.com. At this String Swing he would be playing with his friend whom played stand up bass. They played a variety of song including traditional bluegrass and folk songs including “Walk Away” by Tom Wait, “Red grenadine” by The Grateful Dead, and “This Mountain” by Steve Earle. After they concluded playing the band Brian had hired from Virginia “The Thunderbirds” a four piece female bluegrass/country band started setting up and then began to play. They had a nostalgic energy about them and are very talented. They played a variety of music including songs like “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” by John Prine, a bluegrass twist on “It ain’t me babe” by Bob Dylan and as the night got later locals in the crowd started shouting and requested songs, one extremely drunk one-legged women in particular but all in good fun and the band handled it with grace and mostly obliged.
As the night proceeded one member of the band became overly intoxicated after drinking a little too much moonshine and moved to sitting on and playing a slap box because she could barely stand up. They still sounded amazing and this girl sang with all of her heart and soul which everyone enjoyed and appreciated. The other members of the band and the manager who happened to be a younger guy who went to the same high school as me where getting irritated. The band played a few more songs and closed out the evening with “Wagon Wheel” and them carrying her off stage and into the van which I could tell was not a first. They put on a great performance and enjoyed the energy of the audience who wanted them to play until dawn. My cousin Rob closed the night out with his heartfelt String Swing tributes song.
The next morning I woke up to rain and a very water soaked ground. The weather forecast called for flooding and if Middle Island Creek floods you are trapped at Powell Hole on Sheets Run which is were the festival is held. Its one-way in and one way-out plus you have to cross the creek unless you want to try the back way which is the way I tried to come in through the mud bogs at the beginning of this blog. I wanted to stay another day but the weather was not cooperating. I walked over to talk to Rob, Tony, Melissa, and my friend Jeff and his wife who made were nice enough to offer me some coffee. We talked for awhile before I started to help clean up. After hanging out for awhile longer hoping the rain would stop I decided to pack up my camping gear. Uncle Mike showed up to get the side by side. Rob had been driving. I helped Uncle Mike and Rob load the side by side onto the trailer and followed them back to Moundsville before heading home and the end to another great String Swing weekend.
Coming soon: 15th Annual String Swing on Weighing The Heart Youtube Channel: