Like tourists everywhere, visitors to our mountain town in the highlands of West Virginia often seek local goods to take home as souvenirs. The Bright Morning Inn, in Davis, WV sells a few such items, including local honey from Mt. State Honey in Parsons, packaged granola from LaFontaine bakery and cookbooks from the nearby Whitegrass Cafe. All are useful items welcome in almost any home.
There’s one souvenir that’s clearly different — the pop can bi-planes crafted by Neal Eakin in Morgantown. Mr. Eakin’s creations are whimsical, useful mostly for amusement. Created from pop cans he acquires from friends and family, with carefully matched patterns, they’re a testament to his extraordinary patience and good ol’ West Virginia thriftiness.
Neal Eakin was green before green was in. Every part of his planes is recycled — from coat hangers, cans and shoelaces. The only new part is the plastic bead that serves as nose piece for the propeller. And those have been so carefully color matched that you don’t really mind.
The Coke planes are wonderful, with their shiny red aluminum and classic cursive typography. Kids — mostly young boys — love them. I’ve seen handsome planes from Guiness and Yuengling cans, too, in esoteric colors. Budweiser planes are popular, in fact all the beer planes sell well.
But it’s my Mt. Dew planes that take the prize. Sitting on the porch, listening to the tiny tinny sound of the propellar spinning in the wind, the Mt. Dew plane is a sly reminder of why I love West Virginia and the wonderful, resourceful people who make living in these mountains so special.