Our weekend in the Washington area featured two happy visits -- first an afternoon with cousins John and Susan; we have been corresponding by email for several years, now, but had not met until last weekend. We were pleased and not surprised to learn that we have many interests in common, and we look forward to seeing more of them and continuing to share family lore. Last splash of fall color
The second day was spent with Bob and Tammy, their three delightful girls, and Bob's mom Jean. They are spending the year away from the Mojave desert, exploring the attractions of the Nation's Capital. We'll be interested to see what impressions the girls bring away from their Washington year, when they return to the desert! Certainly, their history teachers will be happy. We were especially pleased to see how well the girls got along, and offer our compliments to their parents!
We headed west from the Washington megalopolis, stopping to take a stroll along the main street of ultra-charming Middleburg, Virginia, in the heart of Loudon County, which is Hunt Country. Several times on our travels we have found ourselves in places where one activity or hobby or style is supreme. Georgian Bay, Ontario, for example, requires a cottage and a boat for full participation; Vail, a pair of skis. Here in Middleburg, horses and the (fox) hunt appear everywhere, from the trophies on display in various shops to the sporting paintings and sculpture, blankets and throws with horse motifs, British country tweeds, and the like. The town is definitely charming, the houses giving a historic air, Foxcroft School is nearby, and the real estate prices make sure the clientele is exclusive. Any of the men or women we saw on the streets could Pearl Buck's birthplace have come from some high corner office in or near the Capital. The few old farmers who still raise cows in Loudon County are happily sitting on a gold mine, at least on paper. Loudon, and its neighbor, Fauquier, deserve credit for having homes with sizeable amounts of property. We are depressed when we see some of these new enormous houses elsewhere being built on postage stamp lots!
Unfortunately the weather deteriorated from partly cloudy to cloudy to definitely rainy for the next few days. The West Virginia mountains captured the misty clouds, making our beloved side roads an up-and-down, fog-beshrouded adventure. However, Fall color could still be glimpsed along the way, the scarlet sumac providing dramatic accents to the gold and bronze of the majority of the trees. Oddly, we found patches of forest where many of the trees had already dropped their leaves; then, a few miles further south we would encounter the full array of color.
And trees are central, apparently, to West Virginia's economy. South of Moorefield we passed a plant making hardwood floors. This helped explain the diameter of the logs we saw on passing trucks. But lumberyards of all varieties can be seen, from pulpwood plants to more traditional sawmills. We followed one pickup truck loaded with the outer pieces of logs. The driver had, we think, purchased the waste material from log General Lewis Inn processing and was now heading home with bark-covered fragments, either for firewood or for small woodworking crafts and projects.
In Hillsboro we passed the birthplace of Pearl S. Buck, author of The Good Earth and many more novels once required reading, now largely forgotten. She won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature. Her log home has been turned into a museum and archive for her manuscripts and it looks serene and permanent in the middle of a meadow.
We stopped for lunch at the General Lewis Inn in Lewisburg, West Virginia, a far cry from our usual cafe experiments (the day before, our restaurant had been so bad that the piped music was the best part). Here at the General Lewis, the decoration is Country Inn and charming, with flowered tablecovers and napkins, antique cruets and pewter pieces on the large windowsills, old tools displayed along a corridor. Omnivores that we are, however, we found the fare a bit on the Ladies' Luncheon side -- small portions of delicately flavored dishes. They have rooms to let as well, with antique furniture.
For us, one of the great pleasures of our travels is remembering the folk tales and heroes of our childhood, finding them remembered in many John Henry different ways in unexpected locations. Rounding a turn after lunch we came to Talcott, the home of John Henry, the Steel-Driving Man. Here the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad began building a tunnel in 1870, said to be the largest / longest railroad tunnel in the East. It took three years to complete. It was during that time that the fabled race between John Henry with his hammer and the new-fangled steam-driven machinery resulted in Henry's win and death. Although local legend has it that the actual hammer turned up during excavations in the 1960s, most folks apparently prefer to remember the story as a great American folk tale and, most of all, a folk ballad.
In 1972 a Talcott service club, the Ruritans, erected a statue of John Henry at a switchback overlooking the tunnel entrance. Looks just like the cover of the book we read as a child.
We're still typing away, and filing bits and pieces of genealogy in our database. Now that we're satisfied that it's well-organized, we're making some progress on the mountain of unfinished work. But everytime we acquire new pieces of information we dump them back on top of the mountain. Too much twisting of the neck to scan photo albums has led to the use of Capzasin-HP, made from hot peppers, which must be carefully washed off the hands after using.