MINERAL WELLS - "Untanglin' Barbwire" tells a story of growing up in hard times in West Virginia and the Mid-Ohio Valley.
Mineral Wells resident Leon Knopp said the book is a mix of autobiography and tales he heard while growing up in and around Parkersburg.
"There are a lot of true stories in here that happened when I was a kid," he said. "Some other tales I heard when I growing up."
Photo by Jeffrey Saulton
Author Leon Knopp holds a copy of his book “Untanglin’ Barbwire.”
Knopp said the stories tell readers about bad times and good times.
"We were poorer than snakes in money but rich in everything else," he said. "This covers a young man from the time he is real small to when he grows up, it's about growing up tough in West Virginia."
Knopp said he tries to bring out the humor of life experiences, even the bad ones. He decided to put the stories in a book form about two years ago.
"I wanted to write it because these old stories will soon be forgotten," he said. "Today's generation has no idea what the older generation went through with very little money."
Knopp said the stories are strung together in the book. Some are about experiences in his life and family members. One of the stories recounts helping his grandfather deliver mail in the snow.
"My grandfather delivered mail in a Model T Ford pickup truck and in the winter he used two mules," he said. "When it snowed he used two mules. That was back when everyone ordered things from Sears Roebuck, he would load down those mules."
Knopp said once he went along to help keep packages from falling off the mules.
"He sat me up there and told me to hang on," he said. "It was snowing hard and I couldn't see anything around me."
Knopp said they began the 14-mile route at 4 a.m., and got home two hours after it got dark.
Another story he recounts was about his uncle who tried to hurt him.
"One time he had some boxing gloves and he was going to teach me the fine art of boxing," he said. "He was about 6'4" and weighed 250 pounds and I was a gangly kid of 16. He tried to teach the fine art of boxing by trying to kill me."
After he was beat up, he told his uncle he would get a lesson.
"I said 'I'll be like the fox waiting outside the chicken pen looking for a fat rooster,'" he said.
Later Knopp bought a black powder gun and one day he was shooting at a chicken from an upstairs window. His uncle came up and wanted to shoot the gun.
"I filled that whole barrel full of powder when he wasn't looking and put in a couple of shots," he said. "He said he would show me how a man shoots."
When he fired he got a surprise from all the gunpowder.
"He was on the porch leaning against a post and I got back in the house, back to the bedroom," he said. "He touched that of and it blew all the windows out on that side of the house and the poplar siding. He fell back and took out two porch posts and the porch roof."
His uncle was knocked out and he and his aunt had to use a wheelbarrow to get him back in the house.
"My aunt was out milking a cow and when she got back she said 'What is going on here' and I said 'I'm not sure but I thing he was trying to remodel.'"
Knopp, a Parkersburg native, said he has lived in Mineral Wells for more than 40 years. After a three-year tour in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s he started a business called Leon's Refrigeration which is now run by his son as Gage Refrigeration.
In his spare time he is a wood-working hobbyist and has built some shelving and displays for his daughter's antique shop.
Knopp and his wife of 49 years have five children and raised several other foster children.
To get a copy of the book call 304-489-3036 or contact Leon Knopp at 2046 Chesterville Road, Mineral Wells, WV 26150. The book is on sale at Dad's Primitive Workbench store, 268 Front St., Marietta.