Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 6, 1975 · Page 64
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 64

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 6, 1975
Page 64
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Page 64 article text (OCR)

Thinking Big on the Bayou By Aistia Wilson Associated Press Writer NEW ORLEANS AP-The Louisiana Superdome has been called "The World's Biggest Pimple." "The Ninth Wonder of the World," "The $163 Million Misunderstanding" and "The World's Most Useful Building." It has been Topic A in Louisiana since 1966--in legislative debates, court fights, newspaper headlines, and saloon squabbles. It has survived almost two dozen lawsuits and a year-long investigation by a special legislative committee. It currently is the subject of inquiries by city, state, and federal agencies. The Superdome rises 30 stories, squatting just off the central business district on 55 acres that used to be an industrial slum. Its roof covers 13 acres, and Houston's 50,000 seat Astrodome--once called the "Eighth Wonder of the World"--would fit inside. Sections of Superdome seats slide on rails to change the arena's shape, and seating capacities can be altered from 19.000 for basketball to 80,000 for football or 97,000 for conventions. Giant television screens suspended from the roof offer instant replays, but the screens can't be seen from 64 private suites or from many of the middle-level seats. The exterior is striking. The Su- perdome is a huge circular structure whose curved aluminum sides are burnished gold in color and whose white dome is made of plastic sprayed on a steel framework. Opening day was supposed to have been nine months ago. The Dome now is scheduled to open Aug. 9 with an exhibition football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Houston Oilers The Superdome began as a modest dream 10 years ago--a project of businessman Dave Dixon, who wanted to attract a National Football League franchise. Then Gov. John J. McKeithen latched onto the idea, and expanded it. He wanted an Astrodome East, not just a $35 million football stadium. The governor wanted to "outbig" Texas. An amendment to the state constitution created the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District. The amendment was ratified by a 4-1 margin in a statewide referendum. Disgruntled losers filed the first lawsuits. They argued in court that voters Exploring Panther Knob were fooled into thinking they were approving a $35 million football stadium when the decision already had been made to build a much bigger, more elaborate, and more expensive structure. The suits delayed construction for 18 months, until the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear arguments. By the time bids were received early in 1971. construction estimates had soared. The lowest bid was $93.5 million, without the interest costs, the inflation and the "extras" that eventually drove the cost to $163 million. Officials of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District decided to accept the bid, get construction underway, then ask the legislature for additional money to complete what came to be described as extras. These extras included four elevators to supplement the six included in the $93.5 million estimate, furnishings for 64 suites whose huge windows overlook the arena below, carpeting for ramps and halls, and facilities for stadium employes. It was a request in 1973 for $8.25 By Earl L. Core million to pay for these extras that sparked a year-long investigation by a special legislative committee. The committee's 145-page report, issued last March, called for changes in the staff of the Stadium and Exposition District and suggested that state and federal laws might have been violated. The committee said that true costs might have been misrepresented and there might heme been nonft nts of nteest in award no nontracts. Two examples from the legislative committee's report: *The heating and air conditioning contract was awarded to one of the higher bidders, a firm that includes an official who said he had contributed $10.000 to the political campaigns of men involved in the Superdome project. *The the controversial $6.3 million advertising pylon outside the Superdome employed two city councilmen as attorneys and took Mayor Moon Landrieu and five others involved in Superdome construction to Las Vegas to see a three-foot model of the pylon. U.S. Atty. Gerald Gallinghouse. state Atty. Gen. William Custe, and Orleans Parish District Atty. Harry Connick say they're studying the Panther Knob is a high point (4,490 feet above sea level) in the North Fork Mountain range in Pendleton County, near the Virginia boundary line. So remote is it that it is rarely climbed, but to a naturalist it is well worth the effort. So far as known, Dr. Per Axel Rydberg of the New York Botanical Garden, was the first botanist to explore the peak, visiting it in June, 1925. Dr. Rydberg had a "club foot" and those of us associated with him at the garden center were familiar with the sound of his foot dragging on the floor as he walked out the halls. But this did not stop him from climbing the highest peaks of the Appalachians, and some of the highest of the Rockies, too; his "Flora of the Rocky Mountains" is the authoritative botanical treatment of that region,, and one of the most lovely of the "plants of alpine summits there is fittingly named Rydbergia. Dr. Rydberg's report of his exploration of Panther Knob included mention of a group of plants so remarkable that, despite his reputation as a botanist, they were somewhat dubiously received by students of the West Virginia flora and were only questionably accepted as additions to the state's known flora. But more than 20 years passed, apparently, before another naturalist went to check on his discoveries, although a projected excursion had been a favorite subject of conversation for years. At last, on July 9,1946, the long- planned trip became a reality. I was accompanied by P. D. Strausbaugh, head of the biology department, West Virginia University; H. P. Sturm, a nature photographer- business man of Clarksburg; and H. A. Davis, a widely-travelled naturalist and authority on the genus Rubus (raspberries, blackberries, etc.). Conditions had greatly changed The Louisiana Superdome, the world's largest indoor arena rises 30 stories. legislative committee's report. Mayor Landrieu has not commented on the committee's accusations, but other officials of the Stadium and Exposition District have explanations for their critics. They note that the Stadium and Exposition District--by state law- i s composed of the governor, Jieu- · tenant, other top figures from state i and city governments. It would be: difficult to find a major business- · man who had not contributed to one · of their political campaigns, says Ben Levy, executive director of the Superdome organization. On the wall of Levy's office is a poster which says, "When you're up to your hips in alligators, it's hard to remember that the original objective was to drain the swamp." "We'll weather it," he said. "We weathered it when they said the stadium foundations wouldn't hold up and . . . seagulls would peck holes in our roof. We'll weather it now." in the neighborhood since Kyd- berg's day, and the rough, narrow dirt roads leading through the mountains had been replaced by broad paved state highways. At Cherry Grove, on the North Fork River, we stopped to inquire for directions and were told that Panther Knob was best reached from the road leading towards Blue Grass. Virginia ("Crab-bottom", in 1925). "But," our mountaineer informant queried, "you don't intend to go up there today, do you?" The morning was not and humid, with clouds hanging low on the ranges, the peaks mostly hidden from view at least part of the time. But we had driven a long distance and were now reluctant to give up the trip, gambling on an improvement in the weather. Clouds circling peaks So we took the road up Dry Run, driving a mile or two towards the Virginia line, stopping just short of the top of the pass. From this point the rugged cliffs crowning the summit of the knob were in view, a scene of wild grandeur, with dark clouds circling ominously about the peaks. Lunches and collecting cases were removed from the cars and appraising eyes began to sweep the slopes to determine the most practicable route for the ascent. Numerous long "razor back" ridges sweep like buttresses from the main range, and atter some discussion we selected one of these that seemed to lead to the desired point on the summit and began the laborious climb. The first part of our course led through meadows and pastures, uninteresting from the botanical point of view. Presently, however, on the higher slopes, we entered a typical Alleghenian forest, composed of red oak, sugar maple, shagbark hickory, and other trees. Only a few sprouts around dead trunks or 6m CHARLESTON. W. VA. stumps reminded us of the fine chestnut trees that Rydberg saw in 1925. The chestnut blight had wiped them out. Occasionally we saw the white alumroot (Heuchera alba), a plant new to science that Rydberg first found here. As we approached the summit we found the vegetation beginning to change. Gradually the common hardwood trees gave way to evergreen pines. Naked cliffs, at places more than 100 feet high, form the precipitous western rim of the mountain top, but we finally penetrated these at a low point and came out upon a nearly flat tableland that stretched away for many miles in a northerly direction. This plateau had proved a great surprise to Rydberg. He said "the flora here was scarcely Allegheni- an. It seemed as if we had suddenly been transported-to the sand-barrens of New Jersey. The area had evidently undergone little change since his time and pines were still abundant, many cone-bearing but scarcely as tall as a man. Mixed with the pines were many northern herbs, as blue- bead lily (Clintonia borealis), bristly sarsaparilla (Aralia hispida), stiff clubmoss (Lycopodium anno- tinum), and dwarf correl (Cornus canadensis). Wild red raspberry (Rubus strigosus) was occasionally seeen. There are great stretches of open land, covered with several kinds of low heaths, as minnie-bush (Menzies9a pilosa), blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium, V. Va- cillans, etc.) «and huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata). The blueberries were just beginning to ripen and with them were many low- growing "sarvis" bushes (Ame- lanchier sanguinea) also with ripe fruits, which "H.P." facetiously referred to as those "delicous red blueberries." Showy red lilies (Lilum philadelphicum) decorated the drab plains. Two grasses unknown to us, and an unknown sedge, were collected My6, 1975, Sunday Gazette-Mail among the blueberries. These were placed in the vasculum for keying later and proved to be among the prizes of the trip. The grasses were species of mountain-rice (Oryzop- sis asperifolia and Oryzopsis cana- densis), both new for West Virginia, both here at the southernmost known extension of their range. The collections were made just in time for the Panther Knob stations to be included by Agnes Chase in the new "Manual of the Grasses of the United States", published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1951 with a dot for West Virginia on the range map for each species. The sedge was Carex polymorpha and its collection likewise represented a southern extension of its previously known range. : Red Spruce is frequent At noon we sat eating lunch with feet dangling over low cliffs of lichen-blackened white medina sandstone. "Strausie" was the first to note an unusual plant combination in the disintegrating sandstone at the base of the cliffs* -Here was the incredible mixture of species mentioned by Rydberg: beach-heath (Hudsonia tomentosa), a typical sand-barren plant that adorns the dunes along the New Jersey coast, with silvery nailwort (Paronychia argyrocoma), a plant of exposed crags of the higher Appalachians, and three-toothed 'tinquefoil (Po- tentilla tridentata), a plant of the boreal forest and' Arctic tundra; ranging as far north as Greenland. We still believe there is no other place on earth where these three plants could be photographed together. In the afternoon we passed through a deep depression and headed for the more prominent cliffs of the next knob to the north. Red spruce (Picea rubens) is frequent at spots, as is paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Red pine (Pinus resinosa) is here at its southernmost known stand. State Magazine, July 6, 1 At last, at 4 p.m., we reached the cliffs and in the crevices of the rim we found the saxifrage (Saxifraga michauxii) that Rydberg had noted, but which is even today unknown elsewhere in West Virginia. With one exception, we had confirmed the occurrence of each ' member of Rydberg's list of unusual species, while adding three others hitherto unknown for the state. The one exception was white spruce (Picea glauca) and we are inclined to feel that perhaps Rydberg mis-read his field notes with respect to this species. We have no reason to believe that white spruce is found south of northern New York. A fittingly dramatic departure from this scene of such fascinating discoveries was provided by the elements. Though the clouds had hung low and heavy all day, with occasional rolling of thunder, no rain had fallen and we were beginning to think our mountain prognosticator had missed his forecast. But when I turned to call out the discovery of the saxifrage to my fellow-explorers, an astonishing sight met my eyes. Rolling in from the east across the barren tableland, a black storm cloud was rap-. idly bearing down upon us, brushing the mountain top as it came. In a moment we were enveloped in flying clouds, furiously dashing rain, the crash of thunder, and the flashing of lightning. There was no shelter. After a short but vain search for an overhanging cliff, we gave up, and set out, already thoroughly soaked, for the long wet retreat to the valley, through steadily pelting rain, leaving Panther Knob to the fury of the storm. But our mission had been accomplished. And we came back in later years, time and again. Almost always something new came to light. And many other people came, too. In time it became a kind of a naturalist's special hunting around. Dr. Eugene E. Hutton, Jr., a physician-naturalist of Elkins, relates the story of one of his trips: "We were soon high above our cars,... and still climbing through an open field where we observed the rare long-bracted green orchid (Habenaria viridis). This plant was worthy of a picture, since it is circumpolar in distribution, being reported from Arctic Asia and ... Alaska-Yukon. "After a few hundred feet elevation we were in the woods, where there was hardly a trail except that made by deer, but this was John Findley's fifth trip and he knew the way without a trail At the 4,000 ft. elevation level, the red oak was just coming into leaf, although it was the llth day of June, 1972, and the bracken fern fronds were darkened by recent frost. At this point Dr. Kyle Bush called pur attention to the black and white warbler, the oven bird, the red eyed vireo, the indigo bunting, and the scarlet tanager. "As the slope leveled out to the 4,500 ft. elevation, and with two miles of hard climbing behind us, we followed a deer trail through scrub oak, rose azalea, and choke- berry, with open blue sky above. John Findley was in front and called back that he had found the beach heath. I was looking ahead to see, too, and missed seeing the rattlesnake scurrying off to the other side of the large flat stone over which I was walking. But a commotion behind me attracted my attention, when Mrs. John Findley and her niece, Margaret, saw the rattler crawl under another large stone. This was Stuart Robbins' first encounter and he said, 'I saw and heard it and that was enough'. "We decided this was a good place to have lunch, where the sounds of nature were so unusual -a rattler under a rock, the hoarse croak of a raven overhead, the songs of the prairie warbler, the yellow throat, the tohee, junco, and robin - all at the 4,500 ft. level". The Lady Was a Pirate By Dome R. Hoag KINGSTON, JAMAICA, July 6, 1720 -- As Mary Read was brought into prison this week, the rest of the world breathed a sigh of relief -- for in her short, violence-packed lifetime Mary Read had been one of the most ruthless yet at the same time daring pirates ever to hoist the Jolly Roger or cut a throat with a saber. She was also a women through and through, and it was that which brought her to her final tragic end. Born in the slums of London after her father had died at sea, Mary virtually grew up in the streets. Her mother worked long hours as a barmaid in a tough, waterfront pub; and to keep her pretty little daughter from being molested, she dressed her as a boy. This was a mixed blessing, for as a boy, Mary had to learn to fight. And learn she did. She became so skilled with a knife that she was known as the toughest kid in the neighborhood. At 13, the authorities told her mother that Mary would have to start dressing like a girl and go to school. Mary tried skirts and books for two weeks, found both dull, so she climbed back into her trousers and ran away to sea as a cabin boy. Five months later she was encouraging the crew to mutiny. Under her urging, the men seized the ship, killed the officers, hoisted the Death's Head flag and became pirates. For a while Mary served under command of a freebooter named Jack Rackham, then she got a ship of her own. Two years later she was being hunted by practically every government on earth. A reward of a thousand pounds was put on her head. Across half the seas of the world she ranged with her crew, burning ships, pillaging coast towns, filling the ship's hold with treasure; fighting, drinking, duelling, and killing. She was absolutely fearless. Once when her crew of men cowered in the hold, afraid to come up and fight, Mary was so infuriated she shot five of 'them herself. "I'll teach you cowardly swine to be more afraid of me than you are of the enemy!" she screamed. She wasn't even afraid of the threat of hanging. In fact, she even approved of it. "If it wasn't for the noose," Mary would say, "everybody would turn pirate, and the rest of us would starve!" But the joker in any girl's life, even a lady pirate's, is apt to .be a man . . . and that was true even of Mary Read. Tough as she was, this tanned, muscular, hard-drinking woman went completely feminine one day and fell head over heels in love. The "*man of her fancy was a mild-looking young man whom she had captured during a sea battle. He was .Richard Fleming, a young naval officer with pink cheeks and a gentle voice, and Mary couldn't take her eyes off him. She had him brought into her cabin, and boldly announced that she was going to marry him. "Marry a pirate?" the young man shouted. "I'd rather walk the plank!" "Then walk the plant!" Mary bellowed. But a few minutes later she relented and gave orders that he was to go unharmed, and ~~ have the run of the ship. That same night Fleming got into an argument with one of the crew and recklessly challenged the pirate to a duel. Mary heard about it ... knew the youth hadn't a chance . . . so two hours before the duel took place she picked a fight with the pirate herself and ran him through with her sword. Fleming was so moved by this act of devotion that he actually agreed to marry her -- and did. But Mary's career was nearing its end. A year later she was captured, taken into Jamaica, tried for piracy and condemned to hang. But hang * she never did. At the last minute the judges commuted her sentence to life imprisonment. Why? Because Mary Read, the swashbuckling freebooter who had terrified the seas, was about to have a baby! She lived only a short time afterwards. Her wild and headstrong life had ruined her health, and she died in prison four months later. Mary Read, one of the ten greatest women pirates in history! (Copyright Doane Hoag 1975) ·CHARLESTON. W.VA.Mm

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