1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



 Appease: To placate by making concessions or yielding to demands. The policy of making concessions to potential aggressors in order to maintain peace.
Dan Duff

I It wasn’t as hard to appease old Ab Crossman as we had first thought, but it was much more complicated.  We had underestimated and misunderstood Mr. Crossman from the start and the contractor, the State and local courts knew this uneducated back woodsman and ex-moonshiner could be a thorn in the side of everyone connected with this job. While we went about trying to build a ski resort in the mountains of West Virginia, Ab Crossman was just trying to be left alone and live out his last days in peace.

The small wiry figure of a man would come every day to watch the big bull dozers and earth movers as the ski-resort began clearing the land to make way for ponds and buildings.  He would watch in interest as the trees were felled and roads began to take shape. Every day he would go past the construction site and disappear into the woods.  It was no secret where he went.  There was  ice cold water springing out of the side of the hill about five hundred feet into the brush and Ab would carry a couple of gallon jugs and refill them almost everyday. 

Once when we had cut down a large hardwood tree and began digging out the root we discovered four jugs of moonshine under the base of the tree.  The construction guys made a big deal out of it.  Someone asked Ab if he knew anything about it.  His only comment was, “ I forgot I hid them there.” 

Things went along just like a big happy family until one day an electric power pole truck drove across Ab’s western fence line.  Ab who grew up taught to protect his rights met the truck carrying a twelve gage shotgun.  When he asked the purpose of the intrusion the foreman told him they were putting the main power lines in for the new ski-resort and they had permission to go over the land.  As it turned out, not only were they going over the land Ab lived on, they were going directly over his eight by twenty foot shack. Ab informed the crew that they could go north a couple hundred feet and then turn back east, but he was not going to live “under” the power line.  That is when the state took Ab to court for a show cause and to everyone’s surprise Ab revealed a little known fact.  A hand written letter from the family who previously owned the land the ski-resort was being built, gave Ab permission to live on a twenty eight acre section on which his shack stood.  The letter went on to state that Ab could live on the land until he passed from this wonderful beaurocratic ridden world to the next.  The judge, after verifying the signatures,  agreed with the letter and told the state that Ab Crossman would live on the land for the rest of his life and once he passed on, the land would belong to the state. 

Some said that Ab was given the land use because he had taken the fall for a moonshine operation in which the owners of the property  were the distillers and sellers of the shine.  Ab was just the delivery man, but since he confessed to being the owner and delivery man he was the only one to serve hard time in the county jail. 

Ab told the court he had no objections of the ski-resort being built and that he would not stop construction of anything being built on his land.  He was too old to cultivate any of it and the only thing he wished to do was to live out his days in his shack.  The court agreed and suggested the contractor divert the power poles from going across Abs shack.   The contractor then proceeded to dog leg that electric line north and then back East as Ab had wanted them to do to from the start.

Another snafu occurred when the two large sediment ponds were being built about fifty yards from Ab’s back door and  a water line going down the side of it.  Ab did not stop the construction but did want to know what all this digging and earth moving was for.  The contractor informed Ab that one was a water line which would serve the other parts of the resort and the ponds were just to catch water and keep it from going into the back of Ab’s shack.  In fact the contractor asked  if Ab would like an outside faucet off the water line. Ab said that would be nice. Then he wouldn’t have to walk up the hill to the spring during the colder months of the year.  The contractor then asked Ab if he had a TV set.  Ab said no, but he had heard there was nice entertainment on them.  The contractor informed Ab he would bring him a set the next time he came to the site. It was hard to miss the owner of the construction company when he came to the job because he flew in his private helicopter.

Everytime the contractor flew in Ab would come looking for his TV set. Finally Ab informed him that the next time he flew in without the TV set Ab would make them sorry about putting those ponds in his backyard. After Ab left the work trailer, one of the foremen said that Ab was really dogging the contractor for the TV set.  I then told the men in the trailer that with Ab it wasn’t about the TV set.  It was about keeping your word.  Ab is one of the last of a generation whose word is their bond.  If they promised you or you promised them anything, it was expected that you to keep your word.  When the contractor heard this, he made a phone call and Ab had his TV set delivered, complete with antenna before the end of the day.

After that we saw very little of Ab.  He was probably hooked on daytime soap operas and game shows.  When they turned the water on  to the main water lines we heard Ab went out and sampled the water from his frost proof  tap, but never drank any of it because he said he could taste the chemicals in it.

Ab is gone now.  So is his shack.  Few people remember Ab except those who dealt with him.  A man who wanted very little of what this world had to offer, but willing to fight for what little was his.  His appeasement was the same.  Tell him the truth and leave him to live out his last days in peace.