SUNNY CAL JOURNAL- "Peyton Touched My Irascible Nature" - Let The Column Begin


By Bob Weaver 2001

"Writers - People who talk to themselves for a living, but many don't get paid." - Anonymous

My columnist friend Dave Peyton got canned from his 35 year job at the Huntington-Herald Dispatch last week. Gannett, a publishing chain which owns the paper, said he violated a company policy, after which he was given a choice, resign or get fired. He resigned.

His demise at the Huntington paper has touched my irascible nature, particularly when it comes to free speech, opinion and public information, but also a passion within to reach deep into my roots and speak the unspoken, particularly in the hills of West Virginia and right here in Sunny Cal.

First of all, Peyton was trashed not for any legal or ethical problem, but a "rule" which the paper refused to disclose. It is likely the paper would challenge such procedure in the public domain.

Secondly, my wrath goes beyond. Daily newspapers are now owned by corporate chains and with a few exceptions have become formatted, controlled spin sheets solely directed toward turning a buck. Most disallow diverse opinion and rarely report the newsworthy events that affect the lives of their readers.

Many have become fuzzy publications like the Parkersburg News-Sentinel, owned by the Ogden chain, rarely to offend and barely connected to the concerns of their community, except maybe sports.

I should say the fine folks who work at the Parkersburg paper are not responsible for policy, much like the Herald-Dispatch policy which hammered Dave. Our friend and Calhoun native, Gaylen Duskey, now works for the Parkersburg papers. He is an outstanding award winning writer, and has recently done much to remind folks about life in Sunny Cal.

Most of our small "mass" of readers are unfamiliar with Dave Peyton, except when he has picked-up on events reported by The Herald. You possibly have seen the crusty character on public TV's "Under Fire" or the state-wide radio program "Talkline."

Dave Peyton has moved my spirit these past few days, not just because he takes the time to come to the Village of Hur and do stories about our fledgling internet publication, but because of basic principles (not policies) to which he has adhered, like his passion to declare he has been "tempered by the fires" of West Virginia's history as a native son.

My conscious was piqued by Peyton's recollections - "I walked in the mud and dead bodies of Buffalo Creek in 1972, and heard the pronouncement from Pittson Coal: The failed slag dam and the 125 dead bodies were an act of God." I too was there for several days and I have tried to forget the sights, sounds and odors of death and devastation. I too was changed, my outlook about politics, corporations and greed in my beloved state.

I talked with Dave this week by phone about his 35 years of writing about place and time and people, and things that need to be said. Dave Peyton is a passionate man.

Dave said on his web page "I'm not just some smarmy immigrant here to save the state from itself. I was born here to save it."

Peyton says he becomes his worst enemy. He can't help it. "Your native son is blessed to live here. Your native son feeds on your spirit and beauty. Your native son intends to stay and fight - for the people, for the land, for the flicker and his bungling child."

Last week I took a day and drove from Oka to White Oak, Walnut to Nicut, Beech to Jesse's Run, Rocksdale to Hur, Joker to Annamoriah, Big Bend to Yellow Creek, Big Springs to Grantsville and on to Russett and Sand Ridge, a cruise around Sunny Cal.

At the end of the day's journey I felt renewed again. And because of the plight of my friend Dave Peyton, I decided to begin to write this Sunny Cal Journal, to scratch my writing itch and to record for you some small and big events that are important to the fabric of my life, and hopefully yours. Maybe, like Dave, I'll become my worst enemy.

This new column begins as the sun goes down for Dave's readers in Huntington.

We hope and pray he will not be silenced for long.

Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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