Bookmark and Share

Community Resource Mapping

Danny Cook and Mack, James Creek

Danny Cook, his wife, and their friend Mack live together on a small quiet parcel of land at the head of the Right Fork of James Creek in Boone County, W.Va. The property is owned by Danny's sister and has been in the Cook family since before the Revolutionary War. The mountain above, now scarred by mountaintop removal coal mining, bears their family name. The Cook family is proud of their deep roots in the area. Danny and Mack never want to leave James Branch, but they are currently embattled with the coal company to save their ancestral land and protect the community of James Branch from being bought-out and destroyed.

Both Danny and Mack share a similar vision of prosperity for James Creek--starting with the termination of mountaintop removal, they hope to see their community turn to and thrive on tourism and recreational land use. For example, their mountains could host ATV races, a go cart course, and a mini golf course. For the local residents, they hope to see a community center where people can come together, kids can congregate, play basketball, and hang out.

Danny worked as a Boone County ambulance driver, then he transitioned to working in a nursing home, and now he volunteers with the local fire department. Danny thinks of himself as serving his community in both his fire fighting and his efforts to preserve Cook Mountain.

Danny recently gathered signatures on a petition to designate Boone County Route 26 as a veterans memorial highway in honor of Civil War Veteran, William Chapman Cook, who is buried near the town of Twilight. After Danny stopped work with the ambulance service he considered starting his own private ambulance business, but barriers with the Boone County Commission stood in the way of his efforts. Danny has a new ambition to start a greenhouse and sell flowers in James Branch.

Mack has worked mostly as a mechanic, and it's still one of his big hobbies. While he says he has always wanted to open his own auto repair shop, Mack explains that he has never had the capital, nor the familiarity with new cars, to pursue this dream. He spent several years driving coal trucks, and now spends his time hunting, exploring and foraging in the woods as much as he can. He is a qualified heavy machinery operator from years working in a logging yard and he can do plumbing and carpentry work with competence.

Mack could never afford to open his own business despite his $30,000 tool box of mechanic tools. He feared the lack of money available to people in his community would cause them to continually be asking him to do work for free or give him a hard time. Newer cars and technology was also a barrier for Mack because he only has the equipment and expertise to fix older cars which have fewer computer-run components.

Mack and Danny have both found that starting a business in Boone County needs to be approved by the County Commission. They say that corruption in the County Commission is a barrier for potential business owners, unless they have personal connections with people in the commission.

Mack and Danny would like to get more members of their community involved in stopping mountaintop removal. They fear that James Creek will be bought out in the near future and more mining permits issued.

Written by Robert Goodwin