(04/06/2021)

A Pine Crik Hollow Home

Former Pine Creek resident David Charles Kirby, the son of Roy and Eva Buck Kirby, recalls his life and times growing up in a remote Pine Creek hollow and in Calhoun County.

He attended a one-room school taught by his mother and graduated from Calhoun High School in 1954, with a BS degree in agricultural engineering from WVU (1959).

Professionally he is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator and Professional Engineer in WV, OH, and PA, having worked 22 years as Loss Prevention Engineer with Factory Mutual Engineering; 20 Years as Process Safety Engineer with Union Carbide in South Charleston; 12 years a Sr. Principal Engineer with Baker Engineering & Risk Consultants of San Antonio, TX.

He is married to the former Betty Estep of Mt. Zion, their children, sons, Dr. Kris N. Kirby, professor at Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts; and Gregory D. Kirby, of Parkersburg, Safety Engineer at Cytec, Willow Island, WV.

Kirby's recollections reflect life from the Great Depression to the fabulous 1960s, earlier tales can be found under People, Humor and History.

Motorcycle Stories (Part 3)

Slab Camp Calhoun County - Slab Camp, right side pipeline right-of-way from Sycamore creek to Mount Zion ridge was a bitch. Ernest Poling, father in law of Mike Ferrell, said he wouldn’t lead a horse down that hill. It had an old sluffed-off timber road crossing it about two thirds way up. One had to jump the old road, hit on a near vertical bank, and continue another 200 ft. to the top. Technique was to max out in second gear, shift in the air while jumping the road and hit the steep part full rpm, then delicately use body movement to balance rear wheel traction (not too much – flip backwards, not too little – loss of forward propulsion). Try as I might, I could only get within about 50 ft. of the top. I needed more speed and power.

For $150 Yamaha sold a GYT (Guanine Yamaha Tuning) Kit, which included a new head (to raise compression ratio) a new tuned muffler and exhaust system, and some trial and error carburetor jets. At the benefit of increased high end horsepower increase you were severely punished by less low end power and torque. Horsepower curve peak was moved up from 7,000 rpm to about 10,000, rpm with absolute on-the-pipe rpm of about 13,000. Two cycle bikes do not have a rpm red-line. I also changed front sprocket to one that had two more teeth, to give me 10% more speed.

Bo Gainer, my neighbor on Pine Creek always had a motor cycle. I remember once I was at his when he came riding in from Akron, Ohio, with a passenger. When he stopped the passenger crawled off and went to the yard fence, put his elbows over the top, and puked like a buzzard. I said “What’s wrong with Bernard?” Bo said “Aw, we were riding through New Comers town, hit a slick spot in hot tar, went down, and he swallared his chew”. Anyhow, Bo Bought an old Honda 300 Dream took off lights and mirrors, put on a knobby rear tire, and hill climbed a little as the bike way too heavy for much. Tim, his oldest son a teenager, started riding it. Tim was a great kid and gifted rider, and started riding with me some. I think I was the only one trying to climb Slab Camp, and I would often see if Tim could go with me. It might be handy for someone to contact Jerry Stump, local ambulance and undertaker. Tim accompanied me on several rides, and with the new GYT Kit I began making it over the top. After several trips, and beating down the hill a little I started making it most of the time with Tim observing. Finally I told Tim to do exactly as I said and he could ride my bike over the hill. He was talented, and a quick learner, and after about three evenings and several tries he made it. If one made it over the top there was an alternate trail back to the bottom, this avoiding dragging the bike off the. When He got back I don’t think I have ever seen a happier kid. He said “I have to show Dad”. A few evenings later, Bo loaded Bertha and the small kids in his station wagon and came over to watch. We positioned ourselves, and waited. Leading up to the hill climb is a grassy long- radius turn from tree lines on each side. Where we were positioned as audience we could not see where Tim was starting from because of the tree line. We heard him fire it up, and here he came with the bike screaming like a banshee. Bertha started praying “Oh Dear God In Heaven…”, Little Creed started bawling to the top of his lungs, and Bo jumped to the edge waving him on yelling something I couldn’t hear. By the time he passed us he was doing at least 45 mph and 12,000 rpm. He made a magnificent ride – I heard rpm bump up a little as he shifted from second to first during the jump, and we saw him wheelie over the top of the hill. He took the alternate path back. When he showed, Bertha began giving thanks to God, Little Creed quit crying, and glee spread all around. He stopped where I was, reached the bike to me, and said “Your turn”. No kickstand - I leaned the bike against a tree. No way was I going to make a ride, and possibly be shown up by a teenager.

The GYT Kit was painfully loud, and one had to ride at four or five thousand rpm just to get any horsepower. It was not good for a rough hill, and I put stock stuff back on after a few weeks. You might say that I spent $150 just to get up one hill.

1973 MX - In 1973 I bought a new Yamaha 250 MX, and lengthened the frame three inches. I no longer needed a GYT Kit to get over Slab Camp.

I never was good at doing wheelies on level ground, as witnessed by wheeling my new bike over backwards in my front yard, demonstrating my ability to my brother in law. I was wheeling over backwards, rear wheel leading front when I hit one of our shrubs. That Jill poked me over frontwards, and I went down sliding across the circular part of our driveway into the neighbor’s yard. Except for tearing off the rear fender up to the first brace not much damage was done except fora few bruises on my part. I later replaced the missing fender part with a manicured Prestone jug. My new neighbor who lived immediately across the street had been trying to sell me life insurance since he had moved in. He strode over and announced “You can tear up that life insurance policy application that I gave you”. He was serious as a heart attack – he never mentioned insurance again.

Bell Ford - Mike Ferrell and I rode a lot together. Once we rode down to the mouth of Bee Creek, and were going to ford the Little Kanawha River at Bells Ford. This was a wide place in the river with mostly riffles, and a narrow section of rapid water only about 2 ft. deep. He went first, and the fast flowing water, although only about 2 ft. deep at the crossing, swept him sideways into a deep pool where only his seat and handle bars were sticking out of the water. He pushed it out to the other side, and informed me to hit the swift part low, and ride upstream at an angle to avoid his catastrophe. I did so, not avoiding the consequences of being washed sideways – handlebars & seat – pushed out to his side. No big deal. Remove plug and turn bike upside down to drain water sucked into cylinder. Drain carburetor of water and wash with fuel from the tank, wipe and blow distributor and points, remove and shake air cleaner, or leave it out altogether. We rode back up Rte. 5 through Grantsville and up Pine Creek to Farm. Only visual consequence of event was white foam evolving from transmission where water and lube oils were being emulsified. Crank Case – no problem in two cycle bikes.

Riders from Ohio - Another time, Mike ask if it would be OK if he brought some acquaintances from work (DuPont, Washington Works), to hill-climb. Said they were award-winning Enduro riders from Ohio. I, of course, said “Yes”. They all showed up one morning. The Ohio riders showed up with bikes in trucks with so-and-so riding team brightly painted on the doors. Four of them, all decked out with pants woven from some synthetic material with bright stripes sewn down each leg, and matching shirts. Unloaded were four of the newest, prettiest, biggest enduro bikes of the time - all at least 350 cc. or larger. My normal riding apparel was a pair of jeans, not necessarily clean, a long sleeve shirt, and a baseball cap. Although I did start wearing a helmet after suffering nasty burns to my right ear from the exhaust system of my bike which was advancing in the wrong direction on a climb. The climb, incidentally, was the big-inch line that much later made national news with the blowout near the I-77 interstate crossing.

Anyhow, I felt embarrassingly inadequate. There I was with my beat up 250 cc Yamaha with half of a 1 gallon plastic Prestone jug replacing the back portion of my rear fender, bent handle bars, tear in seat, one-half of my clutch lever broken off, etc.

We had a dandy hill-climb near the mouth of Bee Creek, where a pipeline right-of-way crossed. The bank on the Grantsville side was rideable on a good day. The side going west was one bad-ass hill. It had some small slips down the middle, and you had to zig-zag from tree line to tree line missing the slips, whilst maintaining momentum for the climb. I don’t know what the top looked like, because I had never observed it. I figured the new riders with the big bikes would explore it and report back.

The shortest route to Bee Creek was up the pipeline right-of-way in the holler in straight in front of our farm house. It wasn’t a bad hill. I could ride my son Kris’s 125 Yamaha up it. It was a little bit of a speed hill, but Mikes Bultaco Alpina trials bike had lots of torque, not much speed, so he chose to take the tractor road to the ridge to meet us at the top. There was a small creek crossing, steep bank for about 100 ft. leveling off to a flat, then the main hill was maybe 100 yards to the ridge. I couldn’t believe it. One of the guys never even made it out of the creek up to the flat. None of the other three could make it to the ridge and wore out before giving up trying. I felt sorry for one with the new Husqvarna, who ended up tearing off a tail light, bending handlebars, and bleeding from several abrasions – may have even broken a finger on one of his dismounts.

I went to the bottom of the hill, and we all took the tractor road to the ridge. Mike and I took them a pussy ride down Big Run (had another name at that time) up Pine Creek rock base road, and home. They took an early quit.

Mini Truck & Emergency Room Visit - The memorable emergency room visit that I alluded to earlier, I shall describe now.

Along my tenure of motorcycle trades I acquired an Italian made “mini truck”. It had a fiberglass cab, windshield with manual wiper, 90 cc engine, motorcycle handlebars, transmission, one front and two rear wheels. The tubular frame was wish-boned behind the driver’s seat, with about 6 inches of ground clearance. The mini truck generated a few stories on its own, including when Don Stalnaker rolled it over in the creek, catapulting the two kids occupying the bed out on to the creek bank.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and I decided to take the mini truck a spin. Because of the low horsepower and torque of the engine it was beneficial, and almost a requirement, when starting out to paddle a little bit with the feet. In this case, my paddle- stride was excessive and I let my right foot go back enough to catch my heel under the frame. My foot crunched as toe passed heel, and I dragged my toe, in the aft position, several feet. I had run over my own damn foot. It did hurt pretty bad, and Betty intimidated me into going to the emergency room. I insisted on going alone, as there had already been an emergency room visit earlier in the day when Kris was the victim of running into one of our stone planters when going out to catch a football. As I was checking in at the reception desk all hell broke loose. People were hollering and yelling and running up and down the halls with gurneys, etc. There had been an awful car wreck with several serious injuries usurping my place in line. Finally, after I had stood there several minutes in pain, which seemed like hours, a First Sargent nurse came to me and said “Well, what’s wrong with you.” I peeled off my sock, and my wound had progressed to look like an inflated rubber glove exhibiting all colors of the rainbow. She yelled to a young nurse (I imagine she always talked that way) to get a wheel chair, elevate his foot, and get him to X-ray. Where upon she did. I climbed in and she elevated my right leg on a stirrup designed for that purpose, to what seemed to me to be the height of my head. I slid forward in the seat to minimize a leg cramp, and we started down the hall. Some kid had dropped a sucker stick. Now, it doesn’t seem possible that a mere sucker stick could impede the progress of a wheel chair in any way, but it did. When we hit the sucker stick in my forward off-balance condition the wheelchair rocked forward, whereupon the nurse yanked sharply back, and dumped me out on the floor. My injured foot hit last, but not with the least impact. On a pain scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being worst, I guarantee you that my pain registered a 12. On the other hand, I could see how funny it was, and I loudly laughed and cried simultaneously. I writhed around on the floor a bit, and while hospital help had been sparse up to that point, suddenly help seemed to be coming out of the walls. They quickly sat me on one of the gurneys (surplus from the earlier victims), and wheeled me to X-ray, with a couple of doctors just walking along as observers. Photographs indicated no fractures, and I limped/hopped out. I don’t recall being billed for the visit.

Motorcycle Stories (Part 1)

Motorcycle Stories (Part 2)

Editors Note: Watch for David Kirby's Motorcycle Stories (Part 4) next Tuesday ... beginning with Bear Fork Nemesis ...


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