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Even an MRE gets some thanks
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Eighteen years later, Steven McDonald can smile about his 2003 Thanksgiving meal, wolfed down between flights out of the Baghdad airport.

“The meals consisted of MRE’s,” the retired airman explained.

And how were they that day?

“Terrible,” he said with a chuckle.

Then he gave a little credit to the Meals Ready to Eat, as they’re officially known.

“Some are good and some are not,” he acknowledged. “We’d usually trade ’em around. Some people like different things.”

The 24 MRE’s available in 2003 ranged from beef stew with mushroom gravy to jambalaya to chicken with Thai sauce.

The Air Force provides somewhere north of 50 million meals a year to personnel around the globe.

Meals come in a variety of forms — entrees in base dining facilities, boxed flight meals, and individual meals, rations and group rations in the field.

And MRE’s, which get some overhaul every year, but still get labeled as “Meals Wretched to Eat.” (For the record, Chicken with Thai sauce left the menu after 2004. The mushroom gravy version of beef stew is gone, but basic beef stew remains).

Oh, and did we mention that they have a shelf life of “2 to 3 years” in 75-degree temperatures?


In Baghdad, in 2003, MREs were the only option for McDonald’s crew on Nov. 27.

“It is Thanksgiving Day and we’re flying,” the 1976 Fort Ashby High grad recalls. “We were in between missions, waiting on a load and eating lunch.”

The busy schedule was typical for the 32-year veteran of the Navy and West Virginia Air National Guard who retired in 2013.  

“For months we were flying out of Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time,” he explains. “One day we’d go to Afghanistan and the next day we’d go to Iraq.”

The C-130 carried cargo of all types —food, munitions, personnel.

But even with a hectic schedule between 2 war zones, and MRE’s to chow down, McDonald has one overriding memory.

“I hate to say it, but I loved it.”

Romney loses a round at PSC
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Central Hampshire Public Service District can look for a new water source, despite Romney’s protests, the state’s Public Service Commission ruled Friday.

Romney lodged a protest with the commission on Nov. 9 over CHPSD’s plan to look for a water supply. Just 10 days later — and on the same day CHPSD responded to the complaint — the commission denied Romney’s request.

“Interim relief is only proper where there is risk of immediate and irreparable injury,” the order noted.

In its complaint, and in a 541-word ad the town put in last week’s Review, Romney said that CHPSD’s search for another water source puts the town’s water system in financial peril. CHPSD buys its water from Romney under a 10-year contract signed in 2015.

Romney’s water budget relies on the sales to CHPSD; otherwise town residents would face much higher rates to sustain the water operation.

But, CHPSD General Manager James Hoffman, noted Friday, his utility has an obligation to find a secondary water source.

“Ever since Flint and what happened in Charleston we’ve been pushed by the County Commission to pursue a secondary water source,” he said, noting 2 high-profile cases of the last 5 years.

“We’re not trying to not buy water from Romney,” he said. “We have no intention at all of buying any less water from the town of Romney.”

That’s an assurance that Romney indicated in its ad last week that it needs.

“The Town of Romney is in no way opposed to additional water infrastructure in Hampshire County, but only seeks to ensure that CHPSD's obligations to the people of Romney are met,” the ad read in part.

Romney’s complaint was spurred by a County Commission decision to give CHPSD money from the American Rescue Plan to pursue locating a secondary water source in the central part of the county.

While the PSC ruling turns down Romney’s request to keep CHPSD from doing any work on a water source, the commission staff said it will continue to investigate the issue.

‘Right in the place we live’
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Shopping small and local this season brings holiday cheer to buyers and businesses alike

Small, local businesses, that is.

Black Friday brings massive sales at every level, and for businesses here it’s no different. Romney businesses like Anderson’s Corner and the White House on Main are opening their doors to folks this Friday offering large sales to kick off the Christmas shopping season officially.

“We do have some amazing Black Friday sales, just for Black Friday,” revealed Patty Anderson, owner of Anderson’s Corner. “And there will be a diamond trunk show Friday and Saturday featuring antique, European-cut diamonds and antique jewelry.”

With Black Friday sales helping businesses get folks in the door, there’s more of a trend toward shopping locally this year following last Christmas’ cyber-heavy shopping season. Since the pandemic hit small businesses hard, savvy shoppers like Romney’s Savanna Morgret are choosing to browse at local businesses this year instead of simply clicking around.

“I’m kind of getting away from supporting those giant companies,” Morgret admitted. “Our small businesses here aren’t having those supply chain issues. These items are handmade and homemade here, right in the place we live.”

Kiersten Alderman is the owner of Capon Bridge’s Bent River Trading Company, which opened officially in September. She said that supporting small, local business owners has always been important to her, and her store’s early fall opening provided her with the opportunity to continue that mission through the holiday season.

“Our business was founded with the purpose of supporting small WV business, and we keep that as the central theme in what we try to do every day,” Alderman explained. “Every one of our vendors is a small WV business, and the stories and people behind these businesses have been amazing to get to know.”

Bent River Trading Company partnered with Bent River Woodworks, a community favorite in Capon Bridge, and Alderman said that allowed her store to provide some of the lowest consignment rates to her vendors.

“We do our best to help our vendors grow outside of their sales at BRTC through direct referrals and advertising,” she added. “Almost all of our 120-plus vendors have had sales in our 1st couple months of being open. What we didn’t count on was how fun it would be to work with these folks.”

Alderman’s “neighbors first” attitude is one of the main benefits to supporting small businesses this season: you know the people behind the items you buy, and you know your money is staying right here in your community.

Morgret added that there’s something special to her about knowing those names and faces behind local goods.

“We’re a part of the community now, and all those people that put blood, sweat and tears into having their business, I want to support that,” she said. “I mean, you went to school with them. You know their kids.”

It’s also no secret that supply chain issues have been wreaking havoc on stores (both big and small) over the last year, and it likely won’t ease up as Christmas approaches. Anderson pointed out that shopping in-store gives consumers an edge when it comes to buying gifts.

“I’ve found that my problem is that you can’t tell what the quality (of an item) is until you get it,” she said. “It’s so nice to pick something up, put it on and know exactly what to expect. The reason why (Anderson’s Corner) is successful is that we carry good quality things and stand behind them.”

Avoiding supply chain woes and the inevitable toss-up when it comes to the quality of an item you ordered online are just 2 reasons why it seems this year, more shoppers will be back in aisles.

Morgret also pointed out that shopping small might encourage other business owners from outside the area to consider Hampshire County as a place to grow.

“If people aren’t supporting our small businesses, we aren’t going to have growth,” she explained. “It’s not really the most business-friendly place, and no one will want to start fresh businesses in our town. Shopping small encourages people to put roots down here and stick around.”

Board accepts $2M bid to build CB gym
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ROMNEY — The 1st official step to getting a new gym at Capon Bridge Elementary School is to accept the lowest contracting bid, and that’s just what the school board did at their meeting last Thursday.

The board formally accepted the apparent low bidder Harbel Inc., a Cumberland-based construction company in The Belt Group, who submitted a bid for $2,305,000. The 2nd-lowest bidder was only around $79,000 away from Harbel’s bid.

The original projection for the cost of the gym addition at CBES was $2.7 million, so Harbel’s bid actually was under projection by about $400,000.

Harbel Inc. has a varied resume, having received recognition for construction projects from local municipality buildings, churches, banks, schools, healthcare facilities, colleges, restaurants and more.

The CBES gym project includes a regulation-sized gymnasium attached to the school. One of the initial designs for the project saw the school with a gym that was just shy of regulation size by a few feet, but the board decided to take the plunge and make it bigger.

“We decided to make it a regular gym, and not keep it 4 feet short,” board president Debbie Champ reassured.

The bond call did not cover bleachers or bathrooms in this new gymnasium, but there is a set of bathrooms near where the gym will be built that will be open and available when the gym is, including after hours.

After Superintendent Jeff Pancione’s recommendation that the board accept Harbel’s low bid, board member Dee Dee Rinker made a motion to continue, followed by board vice president Ed Morgan’s second.

Also listed on the non-consent agenda for last Thursday’s meeting was a recommendation from Pancione that the board issue a letter of assurance to commit additional funds to cover the estimated costs listed on the 2021 bond, but Morgan moved to table that item because it required “further discussion.”

The next school board meeting is Monday, Dec. 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the board’s central office. 

Buck season has its moments to start
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Local DNR officials are in a quandary.

“There’s certainly plenty of deer out there,” Wildlife biologist Rich Rogers said at midday Tuesday.

But …

“It’s been real slow,” Rogers said. “It’s down in this area; I don't’ know about the whole state.”

Well, DNR wildlife resources chief Paul Johansen said later Tuesday, the state is doing just fine after opening day.

With 72 hours to check in, 1st-day numbers could only be classified as estimates on Tuesday.

And at 2 p.m., “just shy” of 12,000 bucks had been checked in, Johansen, close enough to last year’s opening-day total of 12,965, and this total still had 2 days to grow.

“It’s going to be a good year,” Johansen predicted.

 Whatever the challenges hunters face — CWD, Covid-19, weather, the mast crop — Monday’s start of buck season across West Virginia had hunters up, happy and shooting.

“There is something about rifle season that keeps me awake the night before the opener, just like a little kid waiting on Christmas morning,” outdoor columnist, HHS English teacher and avid hunter Josh Crawford said Monday.

For teenager Ella Staley, opening day was a way for her to connect with family — this year in a special way.

When her grandfather passed away over the summer, she had a great sense of loss and a special inheritance.

“I’ve been hunting with him my whole life,” the 19-year-old WVU student from Augusta said. “He gave me his hunting hat, so yesterday I used that so he could be with us.”

And wearing granddad’s cap, she headed into the woods Monday with her dad, uncle and other grandfather.

Ella took down an 11-point about 3 hours into the season, the 1st kill on the 1st day of the season on the Staley family’s new hunting property here in Hampshire. 

Buck firearm season began its 2-week run under cold and cloudy skies.

Most counties are open to concurrent antlerless season at the same time.

Hunters are allowed to harvest 2 deer on the same day, but only 1 can be an antlered buck. The 1st deer does not have to be legally checked before harvesting the 2nd deer on the same day.

However, all deer must be checked and the confirmation number recorded before hunting during any subsequent day. Hunters are reminded that game checking is critically important for good deer management.

Although most hunters check in by phone or app, the DNR district headquarters in Romney is on hand for personal check-ins.

Rogers said he wasn’t surprised by Monday and Tuesday’s low check-ins.

“The bow season was really slow too,” he noted.

The reasons? It could be food supply for the whitetails. “It was not a great acorn crop this year,” Rogers pointed out.

More likely, he said, is a combination of factors from fewer people hunting overall, fewer hunting in Hampshire because of Chronic Wasting Disease, or Covid-19 keeping people close to home.

“It could be a number of things,” Rogers said.