A Long the Way with Bill Talkington Part 2
In last week’s story I wrote about Bill and his early life. During those years he served three years in the Marines. Upon coming home he found work in construction as a lineman. After marrying Beulah in 1955, they moved to Fairmont where Bill worked for the Cofer Construction Company. Eventually they returned home to Wetzel County. He found work at the PPG plant north of town in 1956. He worked there until an exposure to chemicals caused his lung to collapse. Bill realized that another exposure could damage his long term health. In 1966 Bill started his outdoor business. Then in 1970 he and Roy Arman began their construction company, BilRoy Homes.
The reason I wanted to write about Bill, is because I always knew him as a true outdoors man. It is true he has worked many jobs throughout his life, but he has also spent much of his life hunting game animals. If you have visited his shop over the years, then you have seen his collection of North American big game animals. You will also find pictures that are testament to past successful hunts with friends and family. The inside of his shop is not only a business but a bit of the Talkington family history.
Bill began his business at his home outside of town back in 1960. He eventually expanded it to include a gun shop. Then in 1966 he had the gun shop he now has built just south of town. Back in those days Bill’s shop was the center of business for anyone wanting hunting supplies. He told me that during the good years, he may sell as many as 800 firearms a year.
I can remember visiting his shop before deer season back in the late sixty’s. Finding a place to park was a major challenge. Bills shop was the center of hunting season from Parkersburg to Wheeling. His business was more than just a place to purchase a gun or hunting license. It was a place where stories of hunting experiences were shared and friendships renewed each year. Bill could be found busily working behind the counter showing a rifle. And nearby Beulah was managing the customers keeping things moving smoothly. It may have been Bill that people came to see, but it was Beulah and her skills of managing visitors that kept things flowing smoothly in those busy days. I believe that was true throughout Bill and Beulah’s lives.
In addition to being an avid hunter, Bill was a skilled trapper. He explained in the late 60s, he wanted to learn the skills needed to be a trapper. He studied a trapping handbook for nearly a year until he learned all it had to teach him about the sport. Back in those days, trapping was an important outdoor activity for many in this area. A trapper could earn a good income from the sale of quality hides. The woodlands in and around Wetzel County supported an abundant population of red and gray foxes along with raccoons and mink. Hides harvested during a cold winter brought a good price when sold.
I was one of those who trapped in the late 70s. I earned enough money to help with my family’s Christmas. Back then there was a fur buyer named Tommy Allen who had his business in Moundsville. In December I gathered my hides and took them to him to sell. I always enjoyed the experience of visiting his shop and seeing the large variety of furs. The fur business was expanding, so Bill along with Jim Montgomery got into buying furs. It was a good business he explained as we talked of those days. Eventually Bill said, northern fur farms and changes in how people thought about trapping brought the fur business to an end. Bill paused before telling me how much he enjoyed taking his kids with him to check his trap line. It was a good time in his life. I believe hearing him talk of those days, he may now realize that he enjoyed being with family, as much as trapping.
Public opinions of trapping has caused harm to the sport. It is unfortunate that people don’t realize harvesting of foxes and raccoons helped other woodland animals flourish. Rabbits, squirrels and game birds populations have diminished with the unchecked growth of predatory animals such as fox and coyotes in recent years.
If you were to look on the west wall of Bill’s shop, you will see a tarnished coin inside a small picture frame. Just below the coin it tells of how Bill hit the coin three out of three shots with a 30-30 while it was flying through the air at a distance of 30 feet. That was back in 1958. It also explains he called the location of the last shot to hit the coin between the other two holes. Alongside his coin is another dated 1978. It reads Percy Talkington shot this dime with a .22 rifle while it was flying through the air at 12 feet. There is also a framed target dated 1962. It says that Beulah fired a shot from a Winchester rifle at a distance of two hundred yards, hitting the target. Besides the pictures of targets and coins, there are pictures of Bill along with his family. There is no doubt when it comes to the Talkington legacy of being skilled hunters and marksmen, there is a strong family bond. Bill and Beulah taught Hunter Education for the State of West Virginia for 41 years and certified 3789 students.
During our time together we talked about Bills family and the skills all three of his children have when it comes to handling firearms. At one point he emphasized that both Jon and Percy are better marksmen than he was. Both were State Champions in trap shooting with shotguns. Percy competed for a National Championship title and won it for himself. Even Bill’s daughter, Belinda goes to the shooting range regularly to practice the skills Bill taught her with handguns.
There was one more story of marksmanship Bill wanted to tell me as we were nearing the end of our conversation. Years ago Bill returned home from work. When he arrived, he found Beulah skinning two ground hogs she would preparing for supper. Now, skinning ground hogs for supper was not the important part of his story. Bill wanted me to know that Beulah had shot them with no sights on a rifle in a field 200 yards away. That was a long time ago and Bill is still amazed at both Beulah and his children’s skills with firearms.
I started this column to tell the story of Bill Talkington, a modern day frontiersmen. But as I talked with Bill, I realized his story is not just about him, it is about his family. I came to understand that he has a genuine since of pride in all his children and Beulah. And throughout our conversation he repeatedly talked of Beulah and how she was the rock on which the family drew its strength. And for him, she will always be the love of his life as he looks Through the Lens.