On my walls here at work, there are pictures of paths.
If I could follow them, these paths would lead around the Cranberry boardwalk, down to the falls of Hills Creek, around the rocks of Beartown, down to the Hawks Nest overlook and to the site of my great-grandfather and great-great grandfather's homesteads.
But I'm miles and miles away, so these photos represent the path home, for West Virginia is and has always truly been home.
My ancestors first crossed the mountain from Winchester into the bosom of West Virginia long before she became a state. The Whites, Stalnakers and several other families settled around Beverly in the mid 1700s.
They fought man, beast and Mother Nature for the privilege of making their homes among her mountains.
They helped carve out her roads and towns, though at the time they were more paths and isolated cabins protected by a nearby fort.
So independent were the people of Beverly that in 1777 they petitioned Richmond for their own government. Their reasoning was both because the journey to Winchester or Monongalia County was long and dangerous, but more, as they said, because "we flatter our selves we are able to build and support all public buildings necessary for a County Town."
In 1778 my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Lt. John White, was shot from ambush as he searched for deserters during the War for Independence.
The dispute still lingers over whether this ambush was carried out by Indians or the deserters he was seeking.
My great-great grandfather fought with the 20th Virginia Cavalry during the Civil War, my grandfather for liberty in World War II.
My father and brother continued to protect West Virginia through their service in the State Police.
Another brother remains on active military duty.