William “Bill” Price, A Special Man in my Life

How Bill Price and I became friends, I have forgotten. What I can never forget is the powerful, positive and lasting influence he brought into my adolescent years. The experiences we shared for a few years were of the stuff that dreams are made of.

Bill was on the faculty of Salem High School as the teacher of the “Opportunity Class”–a group of boys who were either slow learners, delinquents or potential “drop-outs”. Much of his work with these boys centered in woodworking and crafts. Bill demonstrated a wide range of interests and skills. He built fine furniture, collected old guns, had a repertoire of West Virginia mountaineer stories and songs and was keenly interested in archeology–locating and studying Indian sites and collecting artifacts. The 4-H youth program was close to Bill’s heart. He devoted much energy and time to the 4-H activities and programs at Jackson’s Mill.

Being accepted in the Price family was heartwarming to me. Ruth, Bill’s charming and beautiful wife, mothered their three daughters–Frieda, Wilma and Jean. Ruth’s mother, Grandma Martin, made the family complete, with Bill as the devoted and adored father. (I may, in some degree, have filled the role of a son and brother.) Freda was in my age range and I could well have sought a romantic relationship had she not kept it on a “sister-brother” level.

Archery was the major interest around which the friendship between Bill and I focused and developed. Saxton Pope’s book, HUNTING WITH BOW AND ARROW, fanned the flames of our enthusiasm for the sport. We made our own archery equipment, ordering lemonwood bow staves and Port Oxford arrow shafts from the L E. Stemmler Company in New York. We gave names to our bows and even to individual arrows, guided by their characteristics in shooting and flight. Bill crafted one short bow from an osage orange limb. It must have had an 80# pull. (Bill was a very strong man.) He named the bow, “Old Horrible”. Most of our shooting was at random targets at varying distances as we hiked on the hills around Salem. Hunting for game was nonproductive in that area.

Bill and I had a memorable trip in my model T Ford to the Price family farm in Preston County. We slept on the floor in front of a fireplace and sometime in the night Bill woke me for my first look at the aurora borealis (northern lights). During that trip we had great fun shooting many arrows at bull bats (night hawks) flying low over a meadow. We would shoot all of our arrows, retrieve them and shoot again. The birds were not in danger but there were exciting close misses.

Astronomy was another of our interests. We would spread a blanket on the ground in an open field, lie on our backs, and with a flashlight as a pointer search out the constellations. I have continued to be an enthusiastic “skywatcher” through my years, graduating to the use of telescopes built by my wife, Madeline’s father John Watts. (More of this later in my story.)

I deeply regret losing touch with Bill Price in his later years. He died of cancer. A book, MOUND BUILDERS–INDIANS AND PIONEERS, authored by William B. Price is in my library inscribed by Bill for me. I cherish it.

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