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Steve Smith

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[Rear View] West Virginia Entomologist Makes Television Debut

Rearview

May 28, 2015

“Hollywood” recently came to the scenic hills of West Virginia and Richard Whitman, Whitman Exterminating, was right in the middle of the production. Whitman and his Beckley, W.Va.-based pest management company are being featured in several episodes of Barnwood Builders, a DIY-Network show about antique barns and log cabins.

The nine-episode show follows Mark Bowe, a West Virginia master craftsman who salvages antique barns and cabins, re-using the wood to create stunning, modern homes.

Whitman has known Bowe for years and serves as Bowe’s entomologist. “Mark goes out and buys antique barns and structures, tears them down, marks and labels the wood and then brings them back to his storage yard. The wood is refurbished and then used to create new structures. Before the reconstruction, Mark cleans and treats the wood, and I do the wood-destroying organism inspection and treatments for him,” Whitman says.

So, when a television production crew decided to make a show out of Bowe’s exploits, Whitman and his company became part of the story.

Whitman is featured in two episodes. One features Whitman conducting a pest inspection and treatment of some of the antique logs. Whitman also happens to own one of Mark Bowe’s reconstructed log homes so, in another episode of the show, Barnwood Builders features a detailed look at Whitman’s home.

“It’s the first time I’ve experienced anything like that; it was lots of fun,” Whitman recalls. The shoot consisted of two camera crews and a total of about 10 people. The first shoot was 45 minutes long, which resulted in about two minutes of “screen time” for Whitman. The second shoot consisted of about two hours filming inside and outside of Whitman’s home, which translated to about 10 minutes of the actual hour-long episode.

“The crew was great to work with and it was interesting to see what goes on behind a television show. It was kind of funny because you would be having a one-on-one conversation with someone for the camera, but then, out of the frame, there would be eight people standing close around you with cameras and equipment. It felt like being in a football huddle, but you just tried to keep cool and act natural,” Whitman says.

The structures Bowe makes are impressive, using wood that is 100 to 200 years old and older. “You are talking about logs that are 8 inches thick, 20 inches wide and, in some cases, as long as 50 feet,” Whitman says. “These are hardwood logs and each log is almost the size of the original tree it came from. The hardwood is not like the softwood used today. Usually the heartwood — the center of the log — is quite large, so there isn’t much sapwood around the outside edge. The insects don’t attack heartwood, so oftentimes the logs are pretty well preserved.

“And they’re all hand hewn, with dovetail joints and look really impressive,” Whitman says.

The houses that result from reconstituting these antique logs sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than a million. Bowe has constructed more than 200 homes nationwide, including structures at Monticello, Abraham Lincoln’s Boyhood Home, The Greenbrier and The Homestead.

Barnwood Builders started airing last October on the Great American Country network and also currently runs on the DIY Network. As they say….check your local listings.

Whitman started Whitman Exterminating with his father in 1972. The company employs 14 and offers complete pest control and fumigation, as well as landscaping and lawn care. Whitman is a 1999 PCT/Syngenta Crown Leadership Award Winner and is co-author of the NPMA Field Guide to Structural Pests. — Steve Smith

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