I was engaged by my Mama to take her to the ancestral stomping grounds for a fall fling in Floyd,Virginia. This ancestral stomping grounds has been in the family for nearly two hundred years.
Rarely do we make a fall pilgrimage to Floyd. Mama planned this one last summer, and I wondered if she would really go through with it, as the weather up there is unpredictable this time of year.There is no heat in the farm house, other than the fireplace. You have to pick your battles carefully, weather wise. We were lucky; 60's in the daytime, and 40's nights. It was the calm before the Just before the late great unpleasantness, Hurricane Sandy.
Uncle John found out that Mama was going and decided, as long as the wheels were rolling, he may as well go with us. John hadn't been in 5 or 6 years, and allowed this would "be his last trip." Probably not, I think. He's threatened that before.
In the South there is an expression for one of John's temperament; "Whippy as a road lizard. Ever see a lizard run on a dirt road? We used to watch 'em scoot out in front of our bikes on hot summer afternoons as we rode back from Arnold;s store. First the lizard takes off like he has a purpose. Suddenly he slows, turns left, and speed off again. Erratic, would be the definitive word. I know, it's a Southern thing, comparing people to lizards
Uncle John has opinion about everything; it's his, and everybody in the family knows: they ain't gonna' change. Sometimes he an Virginia butt heads...that's putting it mildly.. John grew up with 5 older sisters. Mama being the middle one. I can understand why he is the way he is. The Lancaster women are not to be trifled with. Strong opinions run in the family.
John is my favorite uncle. I guess he was the youngest, as both Uncle Red and Uncle Albert were much older.John was the baby. He came to live with us came to live with us in Athens. He used his GI Bill to get his degree in Forestry. While he was living with us there was never a dull moment. John drives a big black Jaguar...this week. He has had four Jags, and countless other cars, all fast. He is largely responsible for my learning to play guitar as a kid. I have two of his guitars now. My favorite is a 1942 LG-2 Gibson, he graciously sold me.
Mama's routine at the farm consists of as many meals as possible at the Blue Ridge Cafe. Even so, you must stop at Slaughter's Market and buy enough to feed an army before you head out Franklin Pike to the farm.
One Floyd farm morning we must go the Mabry's Mill via Blueridge Parkway. After a huge buckwheat pancake breakfast, it's off to Meadows of Dan...to buy the "best Virginia apples in the world". We only have one car. It was well packed when we left Athens, and we've added bushels of apples to the pile. We worked it out. Everyone got to choose one activity... and we all participated.
Places We Have to Visit: The old Canady School, Buffalo Mountain, Slate Mt. School, Harvestwood Church.
Drive by's are mandatory: the West place, the Turner place ,the Thompson Farm. "Grandma was born there". I've heard that a thousand times.
On these excursion my tour guides will point out where the old swinging bridge across the Little River stood. The place in the river where aunt Annie drove Papa's big Dodge touring car off the ford, and into the river. She didn't drive again for 40 years. I measured how far they walked to school. It really was a hike, nearly two miles.
The REAL fun comes on the six hour trips up to Floyd, and back. Riding in the car and listening to the two of them reminisce is an experience. I learn details of the sibling interactions of my aunts and uncles no one can recount once the last sibling leaves this earth. I love those stories.
They talked about school days, who they dated, or were engaged to. John talked about The Second World's War, and learning to fly in Georgia, flying over Germany. Annie worked in the "Bomb Plant" in Radford, Va. They talked about the families they "took a room with" when they went to college, taught school, or worked away from home. They discussed the old hand crank phone system; the phone still hangs on the wall.
Mama named old horses and cows. She talked about 2 and 3rd cousins I never heard of. She recounted the tale of Uncle Judson Phleagar telling his wife " salt the the butter heavy, Ad, those Lancaster girls are coming for dinner". Salting the butter made it less palatable, Mama said.
John found the old spring and showed me where they washed clothes by the creek and then took them up to the line at the old house. He showed me were the Chinkapin bushes were along the old fence lines.
These two grew up without electricity. Automobiles were scarce, and telephone service was temporary, They had no refrigeration, except a spring house. They went through two world wars, the great depression, and saw someone walk on the moon. John and Virginia have lived vigorous, prosperous lives, and show no signs of weakening. They creak a bit, but it doesn't slow them down.
Maybe my kids will want to know about my growing up in the country. They gonna' here it, wheather they want to hear it or not.
Mama and John have their rite of passage...and by God, so will I.