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Community Resource Mapping

Elmer Mays, Horse Creek

Elmer Mays lives near the head of Horse Creek Hollow. He and his father moved to Horse Creek to timber. His father timbered until he was laid off, and went to work in the coal mines. Elmer has timbered his whole life, with only a brief stint as a junk collector in the coal mines. He is a skilled woodsmen, collecting ginseng, mushrooms, hunting, ramp digging, and gardening.

It is hard for Elmer to imagine a prosperous Coal River Valley. “Everybody done moved out. It’s hard. If I didn’t live here all my life - if I was buying a piece of land, I wouldn’t come here. It’s not going to get better here. They don’t want it - they want everybody in Beckley.” The migration of people, and businesses, to Beckley is a source of frustration to Elmer. “Too many people go to Wal-Mart. It hurts everybody around here.” But, he adds, most of the stores in the valley don't have much and are more expensive.

He is in a personal struggle with Massey Energy over his well water. Last spring an abandoned Massey mine blew out and flooded his property, tainting his water. Since then, he has been trying to get clean water paid for by the company, but he thinks the company just doesn't care.

As a lifelong lumber jack, the opportunity for job creation in the Coal River Valley that he sees is a furniture factory. He says the area has the land and the timber, but the factories are overseas.