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Tale of the Elk


The book, Tale of the Elk, was written by William Easton Randolph Byrne, a lawyer and politician whose true passion was the outdoors. Bill Byrne, as he was known, practiced law in Sutton and Charleston when he wasn’t fishing, hunting, and camping up and down his beloved Elk River. A favorite pastime of Byrne’s was to gather friends around the campfire, telling tall tales and exchanging fish stories. His companions included both colorful local characters and prominent politicians, all of them comfortable in his company.

In 1927, Byrne began writing articles about his adventures on the Elk. From 1927 until 1931, these articles were a regular feature in West Virginia Wild Life magazine. In 1933, the Braxton Democrat newspaper in Sutton compiled and reprinted Byrne’s tales. In 1940, the West Virginia Publishing Company published the stories as a book, Tale of the Elk, which has become a West Virginia classic.

Byrne’s passion for fishing, his humor and warmth, and his love of life are immediately evident to his readers. Tale of the Elk follows its namesake river from headwaters to mouth in 49 chapters, with a 50th, largely Byrne’s poem ‘‘Camp at the End of the World,’’ thrown in for good measure. The book was reprinted in 1980 by Mountain State Press, and in a 1995 paperback edition by Quarrier Press. Tale of the Elk captures the physical beauty, political climate, and a way of life found in rural West Virginia in the late 1920s.

Written by Bill Clements