The Jackson County Regional Livestock Market in Ripley, W.Va.

The Jackson County Regional Livestock Market in Ripley, W.Va. – Nathan Thomas


We spent an hour and a half driving on backroads

cracked more than your teenage cousins’ phone screen

with small tuft of hair-like grass peeking out, passing decrepit

barns with dissolving Mail Pouch Tobacco logos, and

packs of wild dogs surveying ditches for their next meal,

searching for the Jackson County Regional Livestock Market.

With the last little bit of cell service, Phil Ochs came

on my “folkin around” Spotify playlist, and he sang of

driving through the hills of West Virginia.


Upon our arrival, I imagined the

Grundy County Auction – an auctioneer with a booming

bass voice that puts Sha Na Na’s Bowzer to shame,

a smell that feels like the greatest hits collection of

all roadside truck stop bathrooms in a fifty-mile radius,

deteriorating wooden bleachers bought from the nearby

high school after a fruitful fundraising campaign, blue

banners hanging from the rafters celebrating cattle

bought and sold there who moved on to West Virginia

State Fair glory in Fairlea. And John Michael Montgomery

would be there. And that even though I do not have the means

of caring for a horse, that I just might buy a horse – or at least a goat.

That I just might find the love of my life.


Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the lack of light,

and a row of cows crying out into the cold cold night.

It was midnight.

It was never going to be.