“Bus on a Rock”
Bruiser Cole’s Camp at Gauley Bridge
By Anna Sale
Walter “Bruiser” Cole, 81-year-old Gauley Bridge resident, enjoys the view from his “Bus on a Rock” fishing camp at the confluence of the New and Gauley rivers. Photograph by Michael Keller.
Author and reporter Anna Sale originally produced her story about Bruiser Cole for television. It aired on public TV’s Outlook program the week of June 16, 2005. She graciously agreed to develop the segment into a magazine story for GOLDENSEAL, as part of our ongoing collaboration with West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Outlook airs over West Virginia Public Television on Thursday evening at 9 p.m. and on Sunday at noon. For more information, visit www.pubcast.org, or phone (304
I couldn’t tell quite what it was out there in the middle of the river, but I knew it was something unique. I had driven this road for years. Just after crossing the bridge on Route 60, where the Kanawha River is formed by the Gauley and New, it always caught my eye. I’d have to squint to appreciate the details – the flagpole waving the U.S. and West Virginia flags, the year-round Christmas lights decorating the front porch, and, perched on top of those river rocks, what looked like a bus.
But could it be? According to Randy Kise, a Gauley Bridge native, yes, it could. A Greyhound bus, in fact. And I’m not alone in my curiosity.
“There’s people all over this country that stop and take pictures,” Randy tells me. “Everybody wonders how in the world it got out here.”
The Fayette County town counts fewer than 750 residents, so I assumed the community would have the landmark’s story straight by now. But when I called around, I found out otherwise. I called a local campground, checking on a rumor I’d heard that the bus and camp were available for rent. Not so, the woman on the other end of the phone tells me. She didn’t know who kept it up, but heard it dated back to sometime in the 1960's, when a group of college students pulled an old Greyhound bus onto the rocks. There was another story that the bus was a casualty of a long-ago flood and was swept into the river, where it got stuck on the rocks.
I called the Gauley Bridge Museum, but no one picked up the phone. Finally, I called the Sonoco gas station, where I’d stopped more than once for gas and a hot dog. This time, the woman on the phone knew immediately what I was looking for. “That’s Bruiser Cole’s place,” she tells me.
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