"This sure is some beautiful country here," the tanned-faced man with the Tennessee accent said.
"You mean our mountains?" I asked.
"I'm glad you said that," he replied quickly. "Everyone calls these things hills and they are surely mountains to me."
We had a good laugh and both of us spoke of the beauty of the trees beginning to show off their splendid fall colors.
He was the second such person working the natural gas pipeline in the area that week who commented to me about the beauty of our land. The first worker was from Texas and he, like the other guy, have been in our area for three years working the pipelines that take our version of "Texas tea" from the ground to various processing plants.
Each of the two men commented, too, how important it was for them to return the land back to nature once their work was done. They truly appreciate what we love about our West Virginia hills and mountains.
While they enjoyed our landscape they related how not everyone is happy they are in our state.
"Some folks hate us. They say things that aren't true when they don't know anything about us. We have families ... we have to go where the work is."
They said the biggest complainers are the people who have not benefited financially from the gas boon.
Yet a third encounter with an out-of-state worker was one Sunday morning as my mother and I were about to enter church. An oversized pickup truck pulled to the curb and the man inside asked what time we had services. He quickly explained that he could not make it that day but perhaps would return another time. He then hesitated before he pulled away as though needing something more.
So I said we would pray for him. He thanked us with a wide grin and said that was just what he needed. We noticed the Texas license plate on the back of the dusty truck as he drove away.
Three encounters with these gas industry workers were all positive. They are not all young punks - there are some just as there are some homegrown punks in our communities. Most of these workers are family men and skilled workers. You can see the results of their handiwork snaking across the land, and it's not easy work. In fact, they have found it challenging to find men willing to work those huge dozers on our steep landscapes.
It's never good to judge a book by its cover and a person by his or her license plate. Hospitality is a two-way street. Most times if you treat someone with respect it will be returned to you.
Have you walked Market Street between 14th and 16th streets in downtown Wheeling after dark lately? It can be scary - and I don't mean like Halloween. I'd rather take my chances walking a pipeline at dusk with a stranger whose accent is deeper than mine.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.