Friday, April 15, 2011

BEAUTIFUL APPALACHIA...A FLOYD COUNTY STORY

This essay by Jason Gallimore, describes our area very well. Sometime it's best to step back and let someone who can tell it better, do so. Jason story was published in the Floyd Magazine, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


What is Appalachia?  It is our area, and our culture – a region of the eastern U.S. of which we are a part.  The historical facts and the accompanying stories are both stirring and endless. We have an abundance of many things:  rural resources, picturesque landscapes, and a unique and talented population.
One Floyd County resident, Jason Gallimore, writes his story of appreciation –
Perched high atop a plateau in the rolling hills of the Blue Ridge, you will find one of the most beautiful rural areas in the country.  An uncommonly pristine place, which inspires not only those that live there, but many others who’ve passed through on their travels.  A place where people know their neighbors by name, and passing strangers always get a warm welcome. A place where time has stood still in many ways, without its people turning their backs on the future.  Does this sort of utopic place sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not too good to be true.  Welcome to Floyd County.
I grew up in Floyd County, and it was very much the ‘Mayberry’ experience that many imagine.  With an old-timey hardware store, ice cream parlor, barber shop, supermarket and a few local diners, Floyd provided a respite from the suburbia and sprawl that many Americans had come to know.  On any Saturday morning, breakfast at the Blue Ridge Diner was no less than a local meet and greet.  A stop at the local supermarket was sure to have you mired in conversation, a different neighbor in every aisle, stopping to speak as if they haven’t seen you in years.
I suppose my childhood wasn’t all that different from most, with one exception worth mentioning:  I was part of the last generation of children to grow up in an environment where most of the old Appalachian traditions were still being practiced.  That is not to say that the people of Floyd County have in any way shunned tradition.
To the contrary, people in Floyd take pride in their past and do a great deal to preserve it when possible. But, as technology has progressed and our lifestyles have been increasingly influenced by convenience and efficiency, we’ve lost so many of the important threads that were once a part of this amazing fabric we call Appalachia.
Does anyone really churn fresh butter anymore, aside from a demonstration at a local festival? Does anyone still tie their own brooms, from straw gathered in a local field? How many people still get their water from a mountain spring? Or wash their clothes with a lye soap made from leftover lard? While it’s true that we’ve moved beyond these things due to the progress of man, it is also important to be reminded of the beautiful simplicity that once governed everyday life in Floyd County.  It is fortunate that, for some of us, this simplicity remains, and to a greater degree than you’re likely to find most anywhere else.
I feel privileged to have grown up in Floyd, and feel just as privileged to be from Appalachia.  Life is not perfect no matter where you are…  After the joyous and carefree years of my adolescence came the usual angst.  You know that stretch of time during the teenage years, when one is overtaken with the notion that “I just have to get out of here”.  I was no different.  From the time I reached my early teens, I decided that getting out of these mountains was something I just had to do. One might consider such a notion to be strange, considering all the fond memories that I associate with growing up in Floyd.  But, like many other young people in the mountains, I set off on a journey of self-discovery far away from Floyd County.
In 2008, I was living on the coast of Maine.  Having grown tired of the long and brutal New England winters, I made plans to move somewhere warmer.  I wasn’t sure where I wanted move, but my plans were to come back to Southwestern Virginia and visit with family and friends for a few months, taking time to plan my next adventures. While I was packing my belongings in Maine, I came across a poem that I had written a few years earlier upon the death of my grandmother in Floyd. The poem reminded once again of the heart-warming sentiment that I still had for this place.  The poem went something like this:
Sometimes we drank Dr. Pepper,
sometimes we drank Sweet Tea.
Sometimes we’d pop popcorn,
how she did it still puzzles me.
She would stand by the stove,shaking the pan,
‘till each kernel was popped with love.
Then we’d sit down to watch some TV
and talk about whatever came up.
We would sit on the porch,
in a weathered old swing,
and sing until the sun went down.
But then it was time to get all fixed up,
for a square dance was happening in town.
She’d take me out on that wooden dance floor,
we would tap and shuffle our feet.
It’s moments like these in the eyes of a child,
that are just plain hard to beat.
After church on Sunday,
Grandma would always cook lunch.
What a feast she would always prepare.
Fresh from the garden she’d tended all week,
no restaurant could ever compare.
The green beans, the pickles, the biscuits,
the bread… nobody’s were better for sure.
We’d all sit around her small kitchen table;
her soul food was always the cure.
Since she’s been gone, I think to myself,
how lucky I was back then.
To look back and see the love she gave me,
I’d give anything to be there again.
So if you’re passing through our part of the mountains,
stop by—come over and see!
Her spirit will be out tending the garden…
growing love…
like the kind she gave me.
Soon after arriving back in Virginia, I was given an opportunity to live in my grandmother’s old farmhouse on Beaver Creek in Floyd.  No one had lived in the house since her death in 2006, and it seemed like this might be the adventure I was looking for. But was I ready for life in a rural holler of Floyd County? After thinking long and hard about the situation, I began to realize that maybe I was ready for another shot at life in Floyd County.  After all, there are so many things you take for granted as a child that you learn to appreciate as you grow older.  The beautiful culture of Appalachia in Floyd County is one of those things.
After moving back, I quickly realized that I had made the right choice. Floyd has so much to offer to those who are tired of the hustle and bustle of city and suburban living.  Floyd has a true sense of place, a true sense of the importance of the simple things in life.  In many ways I find myself re-living those wonderful memories that I wrote about in that poem.  And now I find myself sitting on that very same weathered porch swing, singing as the sun goes down.  It’s funny how life comes back around full circle. I’m just blessed beyond measure that my completed circle has landed me back in Floyd County.
Jason Gallimore is a producer, writer and founding member of Festival Farm Productions, LLC  in Floyd. In his free time he enjoys hiking, local history, playing music, book collecting and enjoying all the wonders of this special place on the planet that we call Floyd County.
This story was published in Floyd Magazine Spring/Summer 2011 ~Dee Wallace, Luis A Garcia

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