News & Features » News and Features

Word & Image

Roy Barnhart, 61: Artist, Farmer, Vietnam Vet



I was born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania, near the hills of West Virginia. Back there you gotta look straight up to see the sky. And I grew up basically a juvenile delinquent all my life ... got in trouble a lot. Me and my buddies used to ride our ponies. Everybody hated us 'cause we had our ponies. They just hated it, they hated us. But anyway ... we did pretty good. We started riding rodeo and dating all the cheerleaders in high school and basically had a good time. We grew up and we graduated and went our separate ways. I went to the military and I hadn't seen them for eh ... 10 to 15 years. I got out of Vietnam and went to college and I went to prison after that. Got out and hooked up with my rodeo buddies again. Don't know how that happened, but we did. Wasn't for long, though, then we separated again.

I hooked up on the railroad and came down here to Virginia … in '78. Met my wife, she was a topless dancer I met in a bar, got married and had three beautiful girls. She died in a car wreck and I … basically raised those girls on my own. No regrets, no remorse. I loved every minute of it. And if it was up to me they'd all be livin' here [in Mechanicsville]. ... Most people want their kids out of the nest. Not me, I'm different.

I've had quite a few women, some of them were good some of them were bad … of course that's with anything. And now I'm with Chrisy, she's ... I don't know what I'd do without her. She's wonderful, she really is. I miss her, when she's at work, man I miss her. She needs to be right here with me. I showed her the way here, how to drive that tractor and soon she'll be riding these horses with me. She knows a lot about this place, more than any other woman wanted to learn. And someday we hope to go out West and run a ranch out there or just punch cattle for awhile and come back here if we have to. ...

I studied art in Penn State. ... I went to Waynesburg AIP [Art Institute of Pittsburg]. When I was in prison I took classes at Penn State, ended up teachin' at Penn State. … Painting is my hobby, I love painting. I can't get away from it. I just need to do more of it. Plus I do a lot of Native American work and I love that. I do dream catchers and talking feathers and anything with feathers or leather I do. I guess it's from my background. My grandfather was Cherokee and he used to build Conestoga wagons. He was a mean man but he was a good man. … He taught me the right way. Taught me how to cowboy, taught me how to build fences and I hated all that when I was growing up and now I'm doing the same thing right now. I guess that meant something.

Add a comment