Please welcome guest author Wayne Worth. Worth, of Clarksburg, WV, is the producer of a new documentary, Journey into the Wild and Wonderful.
Journey into the Wild and Wonderful is a video history of every West Virginia County told by folks who are invested in promoting and preserving the best of their county’s heritage. However, to understand the passion behind this project and why one would desire to undertake such an endeavor, you first have to understand the history of its producer.
My name is Wayne Worth. I was born on October 5, 1978 in Manchester, CT, and the first 10 years of my life were full of uncertainty and perpetual transition. It started when I was six months old with my biological father’s incarceration. Like many 23 year olds who experienced a turbulent childhood and spent the majority of their lives in the child welfare system, my biological father became a young adult with no direction, support, or family.
As a consequence organized crime became the means of support, employment, and family for him. It cost him 32 years behind bars, and overnight, my biological mother became a single mother. Being only 19 years old, and also coming from an abusive childhood experience, my bio-mother had her own issues to deal with (i.e. severe anxiety and depression). For six years she gave it all she had to provide me the best life possible, considering our circumstances. However, it was the abusive people (i.e. mainly significant others) that she had in her life which ultimately resulted in my admission into the child welfare system.
From the age of six through ten I was in a foster home of 18 people and then a group home of 20. My experience of family was a foster sibling, friend, or staff member of a facility who were all just temporary situations, waiting on their next destination. I can still remember vividly looking through my bedroom window at the group home, in tears, as another roommate left with a new family. It’s a feeling that no 9 to 10 year old should ever experience. It would be the last for me.
At age 11 I was adopted by a single father in Marlinton, WV. He at the time had two other adopted children (my brothers Michael and Chris Worth). My adopted father (Jud Worth) later married a wonderful lady, whom I proudly call Mom today (Margaret Worth). She brought her one-year daughter (Katie) into the family from a previous marriage, and then four years later, Sarah (my youngest sister) was introduced to the family. I became a child of the mountains.
Growing up in Pocahontas County, WV not only defined my connection to the land, but also instilled in me the value of family and community. The principles that I stand for and the success I experience in life, all originated in Pocahontas County. My experience of being supported with the utmost love and compassion for who I was, of setting goals for myself, and of being expected to contribute of myself, had a profound impact on my future, and was something that I wanted to share with the world.
At the age of 20 I moved to Huntington, WV where I attended Marshall University. In 12 years living in Huntington I had both my fair share of victories and failures. However, I lived life to its full potential. I had this thirst for learning and growing, and through that process I began to understand my contribution to the world.
I now wanted to make a difference and continue to learn, connect, and grow. That sort of desire directed me into the field of social work, where I had the opportunity to not only help others find the resources to navigate through the uncomfortable path to success, but also had the opportunity to become connected with other systems that were making a difference in the community and our state.
This process inspired me to want to learn, connect, and grow more with a state that provided me a family, community, and opportunities for success. So, in 2005 I jumped in my 1988 Chevy Corsica and drove to every county seat in West Virginia and started to learn the history and culture of all of our counties.
I later took two more driving tours (2007 and 2009) to even gain a better understanding our state. In my travels I learned that what defines our values and culture, and what is most important to us, is our history. It was my new found understanding of this that inspired me to undertake this project, Journey into the Wild and Wonderful. I now wanted to share with the rest of West Virginia our story, county by county.
I started producing Journey into the Wild and Wonderful in March of 2012, with three objectives: 1) I wanted to provide our state’s citizens and the world with an online video documentary (i.e. snapshot) of the history of every West Virginia county, told by people in those counties who were knowledgeable of and invested in preserving and promoting their county’s history. 2) I wanted to provide every eighth-grade West Virginia history teacher, free of charge, the opportunity to use this in the classroom and expand the knowledge-base of West Virginia history beyond what is learned in the textbook, for future generations. 3) I wanted to just contribute to a state that has given me so much in life, including life.
My journey started in Wyoming County, WV at Twin Falls State Park. I was very nervous. However, David “Bugs” Stover, Wyoming County Circuit Clerk and Scott Durham, Superintendent of Twin Falls State Park (my very first interviews) gave me the encouragement and confidence to continue the project.
To date, I am 42 counties into the project with 13 counties to go, and have interviewed over 90 people. I have a website and a Facebook page that has over 600 followers. To my followers, Journey into the Wild and Wonderful reminds them of the strengths of their heritage and brings them to a happy place in their own history.
The one thing that I have learned in this process is that our own personal history is connected to our overall local history. It’s what gives us a sense of pride, foundation, and direction. That is why we have fairs and festivals. They are opportunities to celebrate our personal connection to our heritage and what is most important to us. As a producer of such a project, you start to understand your own personal connection to a history and a story that is greater than yourself. A project like this changes you. As it grows, you grow with it, until you become one with it. For me, when I walk into an interview, I meet a stranger. When I walk out of the room four hours later, I have a friend for life.
I hope you get the chance to have Journey into the Wild and Wonderful inspire you as much as it has me and the 90 others I have interviewed thus far. You can follow and support this one-of-a-kind journey into West Virginia’s history told by our wonderful people by going to the website or to Facebook. Please share with your family, friends, and historical organizations. If you live in West Virginia and know an eighth-grade West Virginia history teacher, share the website with them and encourage them to use it the classroom. It will enhance their curriculum and enrich their students with knowledge of where they came from and the possibilities in front of them. It’s free! My gift of paying it forward! My gift to a state that has provided me so much…a state I call home!