Oh how nice it might be, to go back in time to shop in stores where just about everything was hand/machine made and locally grown in America. Not that foreign made goods and produce are not acceptable today, they certainly are, overall. My point is that life seemed much simpler early in the 20th Century. Choices were much more limited than they are today, and people interacted with store owners and employees more than they do today, such as standing in line at a chain grocery store check out, with automated scanners and payment terminals. I share with you some recent photos I made at two General Stores in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Enjoy.
Category Archives: Photo Stories
For a good portion of the fifty-plus years I have been married, I’ve watched my wife perform magic with thread, needles, and her skilled hands. She’s like many other ladies in that regard who sew and make wonderful items, and in the case of this brief photo story … quilts … colorful quilts. I’d like to introduce you to a quilting and sewing shop in Stuart, Virginia. Stuart is one of my favorite locations to visit, being that it is located about thirty or so minutes from home. When I go there, my camera is always in hand.
Stuart is home annually to the very popular “Strawberry Festival” and hosts other gatherings of this nature, attracting thousands from across the region. The town is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and takes its name from the famous Confederate Civil War hero, Major General J.E.B Stuart. Sitting in the middle of the town on Main Street is “Quilted Colors.”
When you enter the shop you are immediately made aware that “colors” is what this place is all about. Susan Branham manages the shop, in addition to teaching music to middle and high school students in Henry County. Susan taught all three of our grandchildren, so I’ve seen the excellence of her abilities in that regard. I was not always aware, however, of her interest in sewing and quilting. But, through my wife, I gained a new appreciation of the breath of her skills.
Susan is offering her shop space to other quilters in the area, to display their personal quilting projects. Many visitors to the area will thus have an opportunity to see some “mighty fine work” (as is said hereabouts). For instance:
I couldn’t end this story without showing at least one photo of some “tools of the trade.” And in summary, Quilted Colors is a special place to visit, and of course to enjoy being a part of the Piedmont Region of Virginia’s quilting family. Happy sewing ladies!
My wife Barbara is an avid and skilled “quilter” who has decorated our home (and others) with her beautiful work. She has formed a strong bond with others locally, who share her interest, and I have to say after spending almost 30 years in the Army, with her having to move from place to place an average of every 2-3 years, she deserves having such close friends. Her group travels in our region of Virginia and North Carolina to visit “quilt shows” and to buy what seems to me to be an endless amount of cloth material from which to make their quilts. “Fat Quarters” they call it. I’ll call it “material.” Anyway, one place they frequent from time to time is Boone’s Country Store about an hour’s drive from home. I decided I had to go see this place myself and took my camera along. Besides the large amount of sewing and quilting products in the store, they sold fresh cooked products such as bread and pies. That’s what I was interested in, plus some homemade cinnamon hard candy. Below is what I saw, in part. Note the last image being my contribution to some “country-style” photos I normally make.
I’ve posted photo stories before about the wonderful neighbors we have where we live in SW Virginia. I’d like to continue this now by highlighting the family who lives across the street from us. This year, they decided to do some “extra” Christmas decorations about their home and adjoining yard. When I saw what was going on as the decorations were being put up, I immediately saw a great photo story just waiting for me. So, here is that story.
This is Daniel, Sarah and daughter Sophie. Daniel serves in Law Enforcement as a uniformed officer, while Sarah works at the local hospital as a Registered Nurse. Both have helped me on many occasions in numerous ways, and have always been extremely kind and generous. They are, in short, a perfect family to live near, as are others in our neighborhood. When Dan decides to “do something” he goes into the project with an extreme amount of energy and creativity, never letting anything stand in his way. Like, for example, when he decided this year to get a BIG Christmas Tree.
He found this very beautiful natural Blue Ice Cypress Tree, which he planned to locate in the high-ceiling family room of their home. Its original twelve-foot height had to be shortened at the base by a foot, because when he first drug it into the house, its top scraped across the ceiling. Once inside, and with step ladder close at hand, he decorated it and then stood by with pride looking at what he’d accomplished. I wish more people would use “natural” Christmas trees but alas times have changed. The sweet smell and touch of the tree made me harken back to when I was a young boy helping my family decorate our tree; much, much smaller I might add.
Now, let’s get to the heart of this photo story, the decorations. Unlike the popular seasonal movie, “Christmas Vacation” with a home almost completely covered with lights, Dan took care not to overdo it. Beautiful describes the results as captured by my camera lens.
Looking about the yard in front of their home, I saw several inflatable decorations which I felt added greatly to the festive scene, and together certainly serve as a prime “drive-by” attraction for those cruising through the neighborhood seeking Christmas cheer. One by one, here they are.
By the time I’d completed my photo session, the skies had darkened completely, and what I saw through my camera lens made me wish I could start all over. But, there are only so many ways to compose camera scenes, and I did not want to overdo my efforts. Keep it simple is my standard motto. But, what Dan and Sarah have created about their home this Christmas is far from being simple. It’s not easy to place all those lights, position and secure all those inflatable decorations, and to do everything in such a way that it looks (in a word) perfect. If you think young Sophie was not involved in this process, I can assure you she was. Nothing excites a child more than seeing “Christmas” all about them. Merry Christmas to all!
The weather was cloudy and a bit foggy when we arrived in Bryson City, NC early in the AM to board the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for a five-hour round trip into the Nantahala National Forest. My wife Barb and I, her brother Jerry and wife Mary Ann, along with 300 other passengers, lined up by the waiting 12-car train idling nearby.
We were greeted by a very friendly and extremely knowledgeable staff which made our trip most enjoyable, learning about the history of the region along our way. Once seated, I immediately noticed the historic atmosphere of the passenger car in which we were seated. It’s too bad we can’t routinely travel in such a manner today.
Views out of the seat windows were spectacular, as was the included lunch meal we had pre-ordered. The next photo is my sister-in-law Mary Ann enjoying the views and the second is my wife Barb enjoying her BBQ lunch while we rolled along.
Having been a passenger on trains several times in my life I knew that if I went to the open area in between cars where they connected, I could lean out the window (safely obviously) to make some interesting photos of the train and the surrounding beauty of the region.
The day after we’d completed our train ride, we drove elsewhere in the region to explore, and on the way back to our motel, we happened upon the train on it’s twice-daily journey, but this time we were across a fast-flowing river we’d been so close to the day prior. We stopped the car, and I got out to capture the following images. The last photo of the caboose at the end of the train is a fitting end to this brief story. It was, in short, a wonderful time together!
It was a beautiful sunny day this Saturday past when I went to Fairy Stone State Park near our home in SW Virginia. It’s a very popular place because of its beautiful lake and surrounding hiking trails. Only non-motor powered water craft such as canoes and kayaks are allowed on the fishing and recreational lake, so it’s usually a relatively quiet location. That is when the swimming area is closed for the season as it was the day I was there. In the summer when it’s fully opened, the noise of joyful kids and others swimming and running about the sandy, man-made beach overwhelms your senses.
As I approached the long boat dock with canoes lined up, I glanced out on the lake to see how many were out there exploring with happy paddlers on board. But, looking about I saw no one on the water; just these canoes lined up.
But when I looked behind on the dock area I saw definite evidence that there were indeed canoeists out there, shoeless and probably a bit wet.
Looking at the lake in front of me again, I saw no canoes on the water. But, that did not mean that they were not out there somewhere, probably in some remote cove looking for whatever nature had to offer them this day. I’ve paddled just about every foot of Fairy Stone Lake during the time we’ve lived here. It’s a wonderful place and the peace in spirit that results from just being there is something I will forever cherish.
Most families have a humorous story to tell concerning events in which they were involved, some significant some not. Perhaps a few of these stories might even become a permanent part of family lore. When we lived in Stafford Virginia shortly after I retired from the Army, our grandkids were visiting and while there we had a severe thunderstorm with very heavy rain and winds. Thankfully there was no major impact on us, but that was not true for a lonely squirrel who had sought refuge in a high tree above fast flowing, muddy, brown-colored storm water in a ditch along the street by our house. Young granddaughter Jennifer and grandson Michael sat with me on the front porch watching the rain, wind, and muddy water flow past when a large blast of wind hit and the unsuspecting squirrel was blown from the tree in which it had sought cover. We stared as it flew through the air headed for the muddy drainage ditch. Thankfully for the wet and probably terrified small animal it missed the water, landed in the street and then took off running away to safer territory. That rather insignificant event generated much laughter between us at the time and it still causes us to remember, smile and laugh today years after. Besides the squirrel’s “adventure”, what’s become a part of our family lore is the brown water that flowed past us in the drainage ditch during the height of that storm. Today, when it’s raining hard wherever we are, perhaps separated by many miles, we can convey to each other the severity of any rain storm simply by saying, “Brown water.”
Over the years I’ve said farewell to many pairs of running shoes, some with glee, others with sadness. When I first began running seriously while in the Army, my initial intent was to buy a not-so-expensive shoe (a step or two above “cheap”) and then use them until they almost fell apart. While I was attending a year-long senior military service college in the mid 1980’s I learned from a highly regarded running coach and advisor that such thriftiness regarding running shoes was, in fact, dumb. He asked me if my knees were hurting after I ran. I replied they did, and he looked at the well-worn heels of my shoes and told me that was the cause of my pain. At that point in my running life I set two future criteria for my shoes: 1. I’d buy a new pair at least every three-six months depending on miles logged; and 2. I’d spend what I could afford and get a highly rated shoe.
At first I tried different brands: Nike, Saucony, Brooks, Asics and New Balance. I never was a marathon or half-marathon length runner, but I was not a casual runner either. My goal was to run my pace (whatever that was on the day in question) and run as far as my mind and body told me to go, and to do so usually six days a week. When our Malamute dogs were with us, Nickie (first) ran me hard, and after he passed on Mystee did the same. In Germany Nickie never wanted to stop running and we often trooped off on the trails in the woods near our housing area for upwards to ten miles, with me hanging on dearly to his fully stretched out ten-foot long leash. Mystee being a gentle lady was a bit more conservative runner, but she had to have her daily jaunt regardless of the weather or how tired I was. During all of this I began to favor New Balance brand shoes, and finally settled on the Classic 990 series, which I used for a very long time. Then, as I aged, two things happened.
First, my knees began to tire so I started to mix my running with brisk walking. Then, as Mystee also got older we started to walk exclusively together normally around 2-3 miles, six days a week. Sadly, Mystee’s back legs and hips gave out and I was then alone every morning on my route, but with a new pair of New Balance 990’s on my feet every six months or so. More recently I had some serious health issues (cancer) which led me to undergo a bone marrow transplant with all the side effects that result from such things. For several months after the transplant I put on my New Balance shoes and wore them inside the house as I worked to regain my leg strength. Finally, I worked my way back to my normal outside neighborhood walking routine. Last winter I bought my last pair of New Balance shoes (shown above after my final walk with them). I decided last week it was time for a shoe change. I really hated to say farewell to my old friend New Balance, but I wanted something new, something that would cushion my feet, legs and knees better, while at the same time making me feel (and look) somewhat younger. So, after getting some advice from our youngest daughter and her husband (both marathon runners) I settled on a flashy pair of Asics Gel Nimbus 16.
With the help of the Good Lord and my body, I hope to be able to replace this new pair of Asics in six months of so, and then to do that again and again for many years to come. I will, however, always cherish the memories I have of all those New Balance shoes I owned and wore out. All those miles running and walking, during hot and cold weather, by myself and with friends or our dogs. Now, it’s time to make a new friend in Asics. Wish me well. Cheers!
It’s not a big backyard garden, and it’s certainly not one free of spring and summertime challenges; but, it’s unique in that it is the focus of our neighbor Al’s passionate work many days during the planting, growing and harvesting seasons. Al has taught high school Algebra and other math related subjects for almost 40 years in Virginia and North Carolina, so during the summer he has lots of time to spend with his garden, and fishing when the mood strikes. He’s from near Richmond, Virginia and is a Hokie (Graduate of Virginia Tech). His wife Nancy holds a degree from the University of Virginia. We could not have a nicer couple as our next door neighbors.
This is Al–bit dirty and sweaty but that’s the way is is with a dedicated backyard gardener. Several years ago he asked me if we had any problem with him plowing up a portion of his yard adjacent to ours in order to make a garden. He said he was concerned that drainage might be a problem when it rained hard. Having spent my professional career in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers I assured Al it would not be a problem. He said “his” garden would be “our” garden in relation to being able to share a portion of the summertime harvest of such things as tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, beans, squash, lettuce, potatoes and mostly Blueberries which grow profusely in a row of large bushes along one side of the garden nearest our house. I helped him and his son put up the wire fence and posts around the garden, in order to keep the local deer herd and other pesky critters from sharing the bounty.
Al’s not afraid to experiment, such as with his grape arbor shown below. He has grapes galore as you can see here, but soon he’ll begin a battle with birds to see who can get the ripe ones first. Same deal with the blueberries. Squirrels are an especially happy customer of Al’s backyard garden.
Besides being passionate about his garden, he spends a lot of time with other handyman backyard yard projects. His bird bath and flower arrangement looks great and he maintains several Blue Bird houses around his yard that are annual home to several loyal residents. Blue Birds can do wonders keeping insect pests under control.
I have to admit to chuckling from time to time during the summer as I watch Al battle weeds, critters, the heat and humidity, plus the need to pick and eat all he grows. I tried my hand several years in our backyard growing simple vegetables, but it did not take long for me to realize that I did not have the same level of “green-thumbness” Al has. Besides, I reasoned, Al offered to share his harvest and on his own could not eat all that was ready to pick. So, Al came over to our yard and helped me remove the fence I had placed around my garden, and I turned it all happily into grass. As I mentioned earlier, we could hardly find better next door neighbors than Al and Nancy. Sitting on my back porch from July through August, with Al’s Blueberries on my morning cereal is one benefit of that arrangement.
The Hotel Roanoke was built in 1882 and became the SW Virginia city’s social center. Its original 34 rooms grew to 384 when, in 1989, it was donated to Virginia Tech and subsequently underwent a major renovation, to include the addition of a large Conference Center. The facility is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. I recently visited the hotel and made several images to show just how beautiful it is, and how much staying there can take one back in time. The hotel is located just a 5 minute walk from the center of the City of Roanoke, with all the attractions available there.