Morgantown to San Francisco

This an excerpt from a rough draft of a memoir that I am writing called Morgantown to San Francisco:

If you dig people, whether they be straight or “hip,” here is a way to do it: Go to Yosemite Valley and pitch your tent in a straight camping area—you can distinguish straight from “hip” areas at a distance by the number of large campers parked in the area. The straights don’t really want to go camping, they take comforts of home to their camp ground—lawn chairs, radios and TV sets, canned food, table cloths, neat clothes and little flaming pots on poles to ward off mosquitos. They get dangerously close to bears with their cameras.

They want to be friendly. Give them a chance, be nice to their kids, put their stuff away when it rains, tell them how to protect their food from bears. They get good vibes and become interested in you, loan you their axe (just bought for this trip), give you food and even invite you over for dinner. After dinner they talk, their fears are revealed, and their prejudices slip out. If you are White, tell them of your good experiences with Blacks and your theories on why there are riots, etc., but give them plenty of time to talk. They’ll learn from you and you from them.     And one of them might be a cop from Sacramento, a young guy only two years on the force who thinks Blacks are “funny people” who never sleep, call the cops, then turn on them. But this cop also thinks he is crazy for working eight hours a day, buying insurance, paying for a house, etc., when he could be in the wilderness fishing and living. And he doesn’t think it’s a policeman’s job to put down student civil disobedience—how can police ever be looked to as someone who can help if they are seen with four-foot clubs beating people who don’t have clubs?” He thinks it is a policeman’s job to help people.

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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