Kevin Gregory is a board member of the Pleasant Hill Waterline Association, Inc., who is also in charge of fundraising. He was present on the first day of September, along with his daughter, Adeline, and his mother, Nettie Gregory, to pick potatoes and lift the buckets onto a small trailer with a capacity of 24 potato-filled buckets. The trailer was driven from the field by ATVs to a larger trailer, where the potatoes were off loaded and later hauled to a barn for drying.
“Lee Lewis had this field set up like a military operation for the harvesting,” Kevin Gregory said. “Seventy-five large buckets were placed along the potato rows, so when the workers arrived they were ready to go to work harvesting.
“Lee had his potato gathering machine hooked up to his 4400 John Deere tractor, and it was a real antique made in Hammond Indiana back in 1918 by O. K. Champion Corporation,” he continued. “It kept needing adjustments, but it worked just fine and shoveled the potatoes in each row up on a conveyer belt screen that moved the potatoes along through the machine and rattled off all the dirt, dropping them on the ground for the pickers to harvest.”
Association President John Cobb looked into the history of the machines.
“Later that night I did some research on the internet and found that O. K. Champion Equipment Corporation was founded in 1897 and sold potato picking machines all over the world,” Association President John Cobb said. “Some were horse-drawn at first, then made for hauling behind tractors hooked up to hydraulics to lift and lower the scoop into the potato rows.
“It was interesting to find that the company was purchased in 2012 by Timberland Equipment Company and no longer makes potato machines. Now, they manufacture fiber optic cable pullers and tensioner machines.,” Cobb continued.
Board member Lincoln “Junior” Marple oversaw selection of the workers for the harvesting effort. Of the 21 workers in the field that day, some were young, like the 14-year-old nephew of an association member, young Brett Dille. Some were even younger, including the 10-year-old granddaughter of Carolyn and Lee Lewis, little Addison Lloyd. At the other end of the age spectrum was 80-plus-year-old Nettie Gregory.
Also included in the of folks that were helping harvest potatoes, sort and bag; Tammy Huffman, Gelford Fisher. Wayne Marple, Candy Wimmer, John Wimmer, Johnna Wimmer, Kevin Gregory, Adeline Gregory, Carolyn Lewis, Lee Lewis, Josh Wimmer, Ronny Claypoole, Jim Claypoole, Bob Chumney, Jeannie Chumney, DJ Slaughter, Mark Williston, Freddie Williston, Charlotte Marple, Bob Blagg, Junior Riley, and Delmas Riley.
“All workers unselfishly gave their time and their backs to this unique fundraising effort to help get potable water to themselves, their relatives, and their neighbors up on these remote ridges in North Eastern Braxton County,” said Cobb.
Lee Lewis has been delivering 50-pound sacks of potatoes for a week now.
“The good news is that we have bagged 300 bags and sold 225 for $17 each so far,” Lee said. “Once we sell all 300 bags, we will have generated $5,100 in runds for our Engineering Feasibility Study.”
Cobb remarked about the effort made during the process.
“All in all, just think about it 300 fifty-pound bags is it 15,000 pounds of potatoes. If you divide that by 2,000 or one ton then we collected, sorted, and bagged 7.5 tons of potatoes to help the cause of extending the water line to over 150 of our neighbors. Now that is an amazing effort,” he said.
“I am just so thrilled with the efforts and hard work that this small community has put forth,” Burnsville Public Utility Board head Evelyn Post added. “There is just no way that a fund granting agency, if shown these pictures, along with other fundraising articles, can possibly turn us down in the end to help us fund this multi-million-dollar project. Only in WV... We are rich in traditions of hard work and what we believe in here in West Virginia.”