A chapter in Cruising the Acropolis a book of short stories I am working on.


There is legend repeated throughout the kingdom of WestVirgin, especially the shire of Nlocnil.

Once upon a time, YoungPrince rode into the Kingdom of WestVirgin in a white hat and on a white horse. He saw a terrible thing and it troubled him much. Monster was removing the mountains of this beautiful land of WestVirgin. YoungPrince took WestVirgin under his wing and swore an oath to forever fight against Monster and save the lovely mountains. It was a brave gesture, for Monster’s mouth could gobble up an entire mountain in just a few gulps and spit it into the valleys below.

Monster loved riches and there was much that was rich hidden under the mountains—more money than even YoungPrince had ever seen. He fretted for the peasants in the valleys below, where the monster’s farts blew their houses from their foundations and its waste discharges flooded their homes. And YoungPrince fretted for the squirrels and bears and deer and their cousins, who had once lived in the beautiful mountains and lovely valleys. He understood that the mountains and valleys were the source and pride of all life for the Kingdom of WestVirgin. The people were proud that their land was known as the Mountain Kingdom.

YoungPrince proclaimed that the valleys and mountains, the people, the ginseng, yellow root and the minnows, crawdads, salamanders and lizards, must be saved from Monster. He put up signs saying he would defeat Monster. The peasants were happy and put his bumper sticker on their carts.

Monster laughed at the innocence of YoungPrince. But Monster was troubled because YoungPrince was rich and more riches would not turn his head. The monster had a hard time understanding this and reached for the other arrow in his quiver.

At this time in the shire of Nlocnil, named for the famous peasant Honest Eba, HighSheriff was asking the peasants to re-elect him. To split up the votes against him, he persuaded LoyalDeputy to be a candidate. YoungPrince was himself running for VeryHighOffice. He donned his white hat and rode his white horse to the shire of Nlocnil. There, YoungPrince met LoyalDeputy. He liked LoyalDeputy and contributed considerable riches to his campaign. This made LoyalDeputy a real candidate with enough filthy lucre to buy all the votes he needed to get his boss’s job. HighSheriff contacted his other opponent, who was also of low character. HighSheriff gave this man of low character jewels and gold to withdraw from the race and yield his votes to HighSheriff. So through this democratic process, HighSheriff was re-elected.

Alas! YoungPrince lost his bid for VeryHighOffice. Monster shared the riches it was digging up with ArchDuke from UpperPanhandle. Old ArchDuke had hatched from the same egg as Monster and preyed on widows. YoungPrince followed the advice of his court counselors and quit denouncing the lying and stealing at the party of the southern shires. And, to calm Monster, he changed his mind about removing mountains. YoungPrince then became YoungRuler.

In the shire of Nlocnil, there lived a powerful and wily political boss who owned a small carting business. He could sense a fortune to be made. He put YoungRuler’s bumper sticker on all of his carts. YoungRuler was flattered. He awarded the wily political boss with big carting contracts and appointed him Chairman of all the parties in all parts of WestVirgin. Some folks say YoungRuler made Chairman a wealthy man.

Now, the reason YoungRuler wanted the wily political boss to be in charge was that in his first try for VeryHighOffice, the Machine in the southern shires sandbagged the inexperienced YoungPrince and used his riches against him to elect ArchDuke, the Monster’s twin. The next election, YoungPrince held his nose and looked the other way while Chairman and his army delivered the votes.

In celebration, YoungRuler danced a happy jig with Monster. The beast’s foul breath fell on YoungRuler and turned his white hat black as coal.

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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