THE Abbott Studio was in a big frame factory at the end of Washington Avenue, practically on the bank of the Ohio. Less than a dozen artists were employed there, all local people. My employer, Colonel Abbott, was a gentleman of the old school. He was very religious and had at one time been commander of the state guard. Fred Lester, foreman in the shipping department, was a captain in the militia. We were great friends at first, but that was only until I became involved in the strike of the Kanawha coal miners.
We rented a bungalow in Westmoreland, a mile or so west of the factory. From our windows we could look out upon the blue hills of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. It was a pretty place, in the heart of the Tri-State region. We wrote back such encouraging reports about the climate and beauty of West Virginia that Rao and Charley paid us a visit. Afterward my father and mother came down for a couple of months. They wanted to be with us on my twenty-fourth birthday, and Dad had a notion of "looking around for a farm." As no quarter-sections of land were available in the hills, he decided to return to Chicago, where his job was waiting for him.
Our home life at Westmoreland was very happy. Living was cheap, and there was an abundance of dewberries, papaws, persimmons, and other fruit in season. The hills back of our house attracted me like a magnet. In the spring they were lovely with redbud blossoms. In the fall, mellow autumnal tints of red oak and gum set them ablaze. Every evening I used to put Vonnie on my shoulder and climb to the top of the first range in order to enjoy the magnificent view of what lay beyond. Vonnie was brown as an Indian from playing in the sun and was growing like a weed. His mother had never looked so fresh and pretty.