Day 533: Stoop To Droop

After Laetitia had finished her tour of Man and War, she pondered the appearance of the Kopi Luwak coffee beans and its strange coincidence with her grandmother’s return from Indonesia. At a dinner party that evening hosted by Uncle Milt and Aunt Myrtle, Laetitia and Cousin Elsa asked their grandmother about her trip and whether she had brought home any Kopi Luwak coffee. When Grandmother replied, her face bore the enigmatic smile captured by Leonardo in the Mona Lisa. “I had a cup while I was there, but I didn’t bring any back for myself. It’s much too expensive.” Later at the party, Elsa slipped Laetitia a five dollar bill and said, “You win. You predicted she would duck the question by saying she didn’t bring any back ‘for herself.’”

This was to be Laetitia’s last tour day in West Virginia. The itinerary included several communities with unusual names. The group began by heading east to Droop. The small, unincorporated village was named for nearby Droop Mountain, the scene of a Civil War battle. After visiting the Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, the group headed west to Big Ugly, another tiny unincorporated community. Early surveyors apparently gave the area its unusual name because the rugged terrain made their job difficult. Laetitia thought about taking her group hiking in the nearby Big Ugly Public Hunting Area, but she wasn’t sure from the name whether “the public” referred to the hunters or the hunted.

After a hike in Cabwaylingo State Forest, the group arrived at Crum, where they were spending the evening. Crum is a small village of 182 residents. It became famous (or infamous) in the 1980s when Lee Maynard, a former resident, published a book entitled Crum: The Novel. The book was, of course, fiction, and had the usual disclaimer saying that only the town name was a real entity. However, many of Crum’s residents took offense, seeing themselves as inspiring some of the characters who were portrayed in unflattering ways. The book has become a cult classic.

Small, quiet, picturesque towns like Crum are often sought by adults as a peaceful place to spend their working years or retirements, but for most teenagers, such places are anathema. While members of the Mind’s Eye group were taking pictures in a park, Laetitia overheard a conversation between several teenage girls. One of them, Millicent, had just received word that her parents were moving to Droop in the near future. She bemoaned the move, saying there was nothing interesting to do in Crum, but there would be even less to do in Droop, which is smaller. Her story became the limerick of the day.

Young Millicent thought it was dumb
To live with her parents in Crum
But having to stoop
To move with them to Droop
Was a prospect that made her quite numb.

Day 532: Man o’ War

When Laetitia walked into the kitchen at the Emerald Victorian, she was surprised to find a packet of coffee with a totally unfamiliar name, “Kopi Luwak.” After she started the pot brewing, she looked it up on the Internet and found that it’s a rare specialty coffee from Indonesia with an unusual flavor derived from passage through the digestive tract of the palm civet. Though this Asian mammal has the physical characteristics of a carnivore, it eats mostly fruit, including wild coffee berries. The fleshy part of the coffee berry is digested, and the coffee beans pass through and remain in the scat. These are collected from the ground, cleaned, roasted, and sold. Laetitia found its distinct taste enjoyable, but thought she would not make a habit of drinking it, since it often sells for several hundred dollars per pound.

Laetitia scanned the materials in the library looking for inspiration for her next tour. The first thing that caught her eye was a book with the title Man o’ War. The phrase can mean a number of things: a famous racehorse, a relative of the jellyfish, or a wooden warship. This book happened to be about the early twentieth-century thoroughbred that won twenty of the twenty-one races he entered during his sixteen-month career. What interested Laetitia, though, was that during her tours of West Virginia during the previous few days, she had noticed a town named Man and one named War. Laetitia decided that she would go to War first and then to Man.

Leaving Welch, West Virginia, Laetitia took her group to Berwind Lake Park for a morning hike and some bird watching and afterward went to lunch in War. It’s a town of around 800 residents nestled among wooded hills along War Creek, from which its name is derived. The creek’s name comes from a battle between Native American tribes that took place near its source. Laetitia’s group did a short walkabout in War after lunch and then headed for Panther Wildlife Management Area for another hike and to view some wildlife before heading north to Man.

The town name Man was apparently derived from the last syllable of its founder’s name, Ulysses Hinchman. During her pre-dinner sojourn at a bar filled with happy-hour revelers, Laetitia was amused when a local fellow came in asking for directions and got a lot of flack from the rowdy crowd. Finally a man who lived in the town that was the destination went to his car and got a map so he could point out the way to the local fellow. Laetitia distilled the incident into a limerick.

When a fellow from Man in a bar
Tells the crowd he’d like to go to War
Most say, “Sign up, you sap,”
But one with a map
Shows the way for he’s a man o’ War.