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Authors: Louise McNeill

Milkweed Ladies

BOOK: Milkweed Ladies

The Milkweed Ladies

Louise McNeill

University of Pittsburgh Press

Published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15260
Copyright © 1988, University of Pittsburgh Press
All rights reserved
Feffer and Simons, Inc., London
Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

McNeill, Louise.
       The milkweed ladies.

       1. McNeill, Louise—Biography—Youth. 2. Poets, American—20th century—Biography. 3. Farm life—West Virginia. 4. West Virginia—Social life and customs. I. Title.
PS3525.A283Z467    1988         811′.52 [B]        88-1334
ISBN 0-8229-3587-2
ISBN 0-8229-5406-0 (pbk.)

A portion of this book first appeared in
Appalachian Review
, vol. 13, no. 4, 1985.

“Night at the Commodore” first appeared in
Northwest Review
, vol. 22, nos. 1–2, 1984.

My thanks to the editors of these journals for permission to reprint.

ISBN-13: 978-0-8229-7977-7 (electronic)




To Roger W. Pease

whose earth-love and long labor went into the slow construction of this book


Now they have bridged the canyon of the Gauley

And built a lock above the Swago shoal

To float the barges past the lazy shallow

With loads of river sand and mountain coal.

Along the shore where passing Mingo warriors

Built drift-wood fires to parch Ohio maize

Cook ovens glare red-eyed upon the darkness

And belch their cinders at the fevered days.

But in the broken rushes of the inlet

Where herons rose with beaten-winged alarm

That autumn evening when an Irish rascal

Knelt by the stream to bathe his wounded arm

…White herons sleep, their folded wings unstained

By all that blood the savage Gauley drained

From pale-faced men whose kindred now possess

The last dark current of the wilderness.


Gauley Mountain
   (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1939)


Acknowledgment and appreciation to staff members
of the University of Pittsburgh Press: Frederick A. Hetzel, Catherine Marshall, and Peter Oresick.

My gratitude to Maggie Anderson, a young poet from West Virginia. Maggie believed in
The Milkweed Ladies
and, when I was disabled by an accident, volunteered to act as my agent. She was successful in placing the book, and then gave her editorial skill, her poetic intuition, and her knowledge of the mountain culture as she and I shaped and tightened the manuscript to its final form.

Many others have contributed editorial suggestions, financial aid, encouragement, and factual notes. My appreciation to Norman Fagan, René de Chochor, Walter Havighurst, Ruth Cantor, Dr. Robert Munn (deceased), Gayle Mason, Sharon Tate, Larry Groce, Thelma D. Quick, “Young Jim,” Annabelle, Rae, Doug, “J.B.,” Devon, Jean, and Reed W.

Among those who, in the period 1865–1988, saved or helped to save “The Farm”: Captain Jim and Granny; G.D. and Grace; Jim and Annabelle. Also Ward K., in his time; “C.P.,” in his time; The Slashing, in its year; and—in current time—Elisabeth, Blix, Cheryl, Doug and Dave Morrison, and Jamie C.

Milkweed ladies, so fair and fine

Won't you have a sip of my columbine?

Or a thimble of thimbleberry wine?

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