“We travel the U.S. exploring places we have never been, and some we have. Living a different lifestyle than most, something out of the norm. Constantly searching for the proverbial “More”. We choose to live life on Our terms, and cherish every day on this journey. We hope having a sense of who we are will help you understand why we do what we do. Sooo…. We wanted to tell you a little about us. We decided to each write something. Hope you like it, here it goes….
Hi. My name is Donn Ketchum, the fourth born after 3 girls(Bonnie,Teresa,TJ), I was destined to be the favorite son. Ha! Born into this world in the hot month of August 1972. Looking back, I feel like I never had a direction until I crossed paths with nature. At a young age I could tell that dear ol’ dad wanted nothing more than to see me become the next “Bruce Lee”. I was not into hitting on others, so that was not for me. The next standard hobby for a teenage boy, being a Motorhead.Yes, from bald tire burnouts, to late nights rebuilding jeep motors. I tried to immerse myself in the auto life, but something was missing.
In my early 20’s I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Nicholas Bukkyone of my best and dearest friend. He showed me a side of nature I didn’t know existed. ROCK! After years of scouting out new cliffs around Hocking Hills, my love for the taste for something different continued to grow. My oldest sister Bonniehad told me for as long as I can remember “Blood, pack ur bags, and just GO!” Not being as experienced as “Bonnie the Blacksheep”, I was unknowingly on the right path for where I wanted to be.
After trying my hand in the world of design drafting, it wasn’t long before I knew I wasn’t “the desk job kind of man”. I needed to work outside. Working on houses seems to be the work for me. My attention to detail drew me closer to fine wood working. I have lived in the western U.S., from Colorado, to Arizona, to California, for half my life. I have been working with wood, and climbing rocks for all of it. Moving to West Virginia seemed the way to go. If you have been to The New, then you know the rock there is dreamy. Phenomenal rock climbing, and the towns lack of an active “wood butcher” allowed me to express my creativity in many aspects. I soon had a modest wood working shop set up, and I was booked up with business.
Finding someone to spend your life with doing what you love is a rarity. Finding Jodi, my wife, at the New River Gorge was all in the blueprints of my life. And the plans were looking good. Having Jodi in the shop truly added a burst of what i wanted in life……..
Well, I guess it’s my turn. Hi Jodi Ketchum here. I was the first-born of 3, the “what the hell are we doing!?” child. My Sister and brother(Carolyn & James) came 9&10 years later. I remember living in New Mexico when I was 4, and starting school in Rhode Island before we all settled in Beckwith, West Virginia. We lived at the mouth of the holler**(see regional note). I hated it!! Although, for as long as I can remember I loved being outside. Everyone called me a Tomboy, and I lived up to the name. It was NOT easy growing up in rural Appalachia. The kids(adults too) were tough, and mean. So, I got tough, and continued to believe that one day I would leave West Virginia. Well, by the time I was 21, I was married/divorced, had a baby, and ROOTED in West Virginia. UGH! Don’t get me wrong, WV is an amazing place. Especially if you
So, I worked hard and played hard for 20 years. Co-Raising a beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, and establishing myself. By 2007 I owned a modest cabin in a lovely holler** on Elliot cutoff rd, had a good job, and successfully kept my daughter alive and well for 19 years. I was rooted even more , but NOT happy….
When we first met I was working at Gumbo’s Restaurant, in Fayetteville WV. Donn would come in for lunch every now and then. It was always a treat to see him, he made me smile. In fall of ’07 I, with a partner, started a small shop in town. We called it The Hobbit Hole. It was a mix of old and new, with some consignment too. I did not hesitate to ask Donn if he would like to feature his art in the shop. He happily agreed. Finally our paths would cross again! For the next year we would see each other just a little bit more(that was OK with me). 2007 to 2009 were rocky for both of us. Failed relationships and crazy lives. Life seemed like an uphill battle. In August ’09 a friend invited me to a surprise birthday party she was planning for a friend of hers. Her friend just happen to be Donn. I had always wanted to get to know him better. That day I was struck with what felt like a lightening bolt. All of a sudden I felt like an awkward teenager. And his girlfriend made me so jealous that I couldn’t even look at her. Luckily no one else noticed.
My life was busy, with 2 pups and a job, the fall flew by. Before I knew it December was here. And I guess that was all the time we needed! One day, out of the blue, my phone rang. It was Donn! “How ya doin’?” I was good… Hell, BETTER than good! I was at work, so he invited me over for a beer and an after work rap session. I gave a big YES , and stopped by after my shift. It was amazing. We talked, and laughed, and really enjoyed each others company. We enjoyed a few more of those late night conversations that week.
When I woke up on friday Dec. 18th, a sense of panic struck me. It had snowed 3 feet while I slept. I was snowed! Way in. I lived at the END of the holler**, Trapped! No power, not much food, and my water was limited as well. I had not prepared for a snow storm. I had begun calming myself when the phone rang. It was Donn, “How ya doin’?”. ” I’m Ok…. kinda snowed in tho.”,immediately he said, “What are you gonna do? You can’t stay out there, come to Fayetteville, you can stay at my place I have a spare room.”. He insisted that I pack up the pups and bunk up with him in town. I was hesitant, but what else was I gonna do? So…. a couple of hours later I was dug out by a friend with a big truck, and the clearance to be on the closed interstate, and on my way to Donn’s. We were great roomies. The pups and I stayed in the guest bedroom. Donn would even watch them for me while I worked. I would have to say, those were the BEST 2 weeks of 2009. HANDS DOWN!
It wasn’t long before we were inseparable. Being almost forty and being in 20-year-old love is AWESOME, but being almost forty we knew ourselves, and we both knew that we loved each other. On march 9th 2010 we decided to get married. Immediately we set a date for Sunday14th, and kept it hush-hush. We ask our good friend Eric Autenreith to marry us. We told him it was gonna be small, just the three of us. He insisted we have witnesses. I think he just didn’t want us to get married alone. I told my best friend Stacey,and asked her to be there. She was thrilled, and ready. Donn asked his good friend Ken Springer. Ken was excited, and more than happy to be there. I would have to say it was THE BEST WEDDING (under $100) EVER! Afterwards, we called our families and told them the good news. We got mixed reactions, but all in all everyone was happy for us.
For the next year we worked, and played(just a little), and I spent more and more time in the shop with Donn. I started making wooden beads for jewelry, and I loved helping Donn when he needed it. Donn worked alone for the most part, and he worked a lot.. His only employee, good friend John Price had just moved that summer. By November we decided that I would quit my job and come work full-time in the shop.
It was great for a bit, but Winter time is always tough in Fayetteville, it is a seasonal town. This may sound weird, but we decided one day that it wasn’t fun anymore, and we needed something “More”. Bob Marley sang “if ur not livin’ good, gotta travel wide”. He was spot on!
Well, After making our decision in January to leave, we knew we had some planning to do. Not known for our dallying we began the process of elimination. Eliminating all of our worldly possessions, and our dept. Then deciding what route we would take? What about the woodshop? Yard sales, goodwill, storage, renting the house in Fayetteville(which we lived in). What about the dogs? And closing up my house on Elliot cutoff. If we wanted to make our departure date of April 1st we better get it together. We hustled, and by April 1st we were almost ready. I think we actually left on the 8th.
Well, that is it. How it all began. Hope you liked it, and stay tuned…..
**Regional Note: One feature of Upper Southern English and specifically of Appalachian English is its pronunciation of the final unstressed syllable in words such as hollow, window, and potato as (r). Holler, winder, and tater are merely variant pronunciations reflected in spelling. As a noun, holler has the specific meaning in the Appalachians of “a small valley between mountains”: They live up in the holler underneath Big Bald Mountain.