Eternal Life

An excerpt from my book The Soviet Union and Lincoln County USA which I hope to publish one of these days:

“Jiminy Christmas!” I think I said it out loud. There was a dip in the deer trail, and drops of last night’s rain were sliding off the green canopy. An old log disappearing into its own humus was covered with green moss, thick and wet. Large ferns hung over like fans for the potentates of nature. The soil was black and damp. It was like a piece of the Olympic rain forest. I was pleasantly tired, serene, and happy to be there, to pause and look at my kingdom.

I love walking in the forest. I had practically been born in the woods just up the bank from Coal River. The feeling is deep inside me, a feeling that only death can erase. If I pass the feeling on to my grandchildren, the feeling may go on forever. Dr. Luke Martin recently wrote to me in an email that, “… it is good to share the positive things we feel about each other. Maybe that is eternal life…the love you share leading to love shared with another and another…”

It is that deep feeling—the calm and happiness I feel in the woods—that
makes me sad beyond all words when I have been hiking and come to the top of
a trail and hear the rumble and roar of industrial bedlam and see a mountain is
being blasted away. Giant oaks and hickories, and ferns and moss-covered logs,
will never return. I don’t understand the hunger for money that blunts feeling
for what makes me whisper in awe.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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