3. Glimpses I: Seen and Seer.

The seen defines the seer. O word felicitous! For your author apprehends the Bald Truth! “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).


   Author employing HaruSpex.            Image by Fred First, 2013.

Granted, every person sees a different Floyd County. Little Margie Keith as she watches her father butcher hogs; a farmer watching with satisfaction as his tractor turns noise and grass to hay; a former soldier returning or settling; a tourist descending from the Parkway passing a sample yurt, then the ugly-rusty relic of a water tower; an old-timer pulling turnips at dusk before they freeze; a driver zipping across one branch or another of the Little River to work in an adjacent county; a family drifting or paddling down the same river and encountering a party of back-to-the-birthday-suiters at Anahata Community.  

If you begin at The Stoplight and drive northward on Rt. 221, then make four left-turns,and don’t mind dust or mud on the vehicle, you will come to Anahata. (A place not to be confused with the secluded road Ananda Way, another borrowing from Sanskrit.) Centered in a handsome lodge built on a hillside, it has a large kitchen in which hangs this sign: “Observation without evaluation is the highest form of intelligence. J. Krishnamurti.” This corollary was asserted by Napoleon Hill, a motivational writer: “Another weakness found in altogether too many people is the habit of measuring everything, and everyone, by their own impressions and beliefs” (Think and Grow Rich, 1937.) But the very singling-out of a phenomenon from the blur of background–in this chapter and in all of Floydiana–constitutes a judgment. “Such-and-such is worth noticing, such-and-such is significant.” 

You might think of this series called “Glimpses” as Floyd County’s “Metropolitan Diary”–a feature of the New York Times–except that the vignettes are selected and written by one person rather than chosen from submissions. Codex Floydiana itself is a montage. Although graced by other writers in the community, it was produced by someone who is gregarious and yet monastic; curious yet opinionated; wealthy in relatives and friends; socially and politically liberal. He is intellectual enough to understand fungible after three trips to the dictionary–and enough even to create words that would make Webster jealous. His can make fine ethical distinctions: female boxing, No; female wrestling, Yes. Traveled in the extreme, he is devoutly secular–both free-ranging characteristics that shape his ebook Angel in Goggles: Earthly Scriptures (Amazon.com). You are the beneficiary of this author’s impressions and beliefs. Read and grow rich!

All this plus a prophetic dimension lent by the HaruSpex!

Its circumference bears eleven gems, an odd number that is proudly prime, authentic, maybe idiosyncratic (think of lords a-leaping). The set runs clockwise, counterclockwise, and both at once. Yet it complements the central jewel to form a concurrent, harmonious dozen. A Cyclopian zodiac? This even number–ten plus two–is multi-divisible. The Platonic basis for egg cartons, it also provided the ancient formula for knuckle-reckoning, whereby the index finger of one hand pokes the knuckles of the other: 3 X 4 = twelve. Prepare for the bald yet bejeweled truth!

“Coexist.” This is the unambitious but peaceable demand of a bumper sticker frequently displayed in the county. Not much choice, practically, but still thought-provoking. There tends to be a wide political rift between what I’ll call the Soapstones–who arose from the local rock–and the Bridgestones, who rubber-rolled here from elsewhere. But the county’s unlikely mix of citizens, besides being stimulating, may be tranquil to a surprising degree, thanks partly to the in-migrants of the early 1970s who to some extent may have inoculated the natives against xenophobia.

tableA three-year-old saw the new table created by Phoenix Hardwoods and protested, “It’s just a piece of wood!” Cup by Jayn Avery.

  • A mother in Charlotte was startled to find her infant’s skin tinted red, green, and yellow, then recognized the cause: a tie-dyed onesie bought in Floyd.
  • Randall, sailing on the Queen Mary 2 with Marjory, felt anxious about facing the immigration officer. A half-century earlier he had crossed to England on a freighter-passenger as a semi-vagabond and endured a grilling at the dock in Liverpool. Standing in line this time, he reached the uniformed officer who smiled, whap-stamped his passport, and declared, “Nice shirt.” Bought at the Floyd Country Store, it was a Roper Western, sort of a  cotton-painting. About eighty horses galloped in a line toward the viewer: brown, black, gray, and blue-gray against white, they kicked up dust along the chest, the top of the long sleeves, and the back.
  • A ceramic dish marked dP and purchased some years ago on the 16 Hands Studio Tour rests on a mantel in Yorkshire, England.
bowl Image

Photo by Thea Collin.

  • A young visitor watched as an adult prepared coffee: “Is that the kind with the rooster on it that you grind?”
  • Maya, a four-year-old who lives at Anahata Community, was visiting the Wells family with her dad and friend Unica, six years old. Maya was taken aback by the forehead of the host, your author, which was red and scaly from medicine prescribed by the dermatologist for pre-cancerous lesions. Coincidentally the girls had been playing Hospital Worker, so the younger found a dandelion flower and began rubbing it on the skin as she swayed while chanting, “Mother Gaia, heal this wound.” Afterward her colleague gently rubbed it with a leaf. Maya then held up a pair of fingers and proclaimed: “Two days.”
  • A beautician combed out a child’s matted hair and gave her a haircut.  “I can’t pay for it,” said the mother, who departed with her offspring. (Someone else covered the bill later.)
  • A pastor was teaching children who sat on the first step to the altar. She was explaining that when we have enough to eat and drink, Jesus wants us to help other people. “Plenty!” exclaimed Jack Le Roy, almost five years old, who knew the name of an organization of “Neighbors Growing and Sharing Food in Floyd, Virginia.” His mother works on school gardens and drives with her own mother to Christiansburg to fetch day-old bread.

So dog must be in. Photo by Fred First.

  • “I just saw a horse in a pickup!” Another time, as traffic moved along the highway, a big dog stood at the front-right corner of a truck bed. “I thought that was a statue—until it moved.”
  • Just before gulping some coffee, the author felt an item on the tongue and spat out a brown marmorated stink bug.  
  •  Walking to the door of her house, daughter Katie stopped to press the back of a hand against her forehead. Her neck ached, too, and not long afterward she lay crying in pain from chills, evidently a thirty-third birthday present from a tick.
  • “I only got lost once,” declared a mentor at Virginia’s Blue Ridge Music Festival, “and had to turn around just past Bethlehem Church Road. There was this pig—gigantic–as large as a rhinoceros!” One couple was moving into a house when they were met by a welcoming committee. “Two pigs wandered into our yard. The mother sow was about 300 pounds and the baby was about 150. Chomp-chomp-chomp in the clover.”
  • “My roommate shot a raccoon that would chase the cats. We thought he’d missed until a smell came up from under the porch. It was This Big—forty pounds!”
  • A closed peanut butter jar, stored in a carport to feed birds, went missing and the plastic spoon was left punctured.
  • Driving or walking down the twisty steepness of Annie Lane, a person might see the hill across Rt. 221 rise higher and higher, and perhaps glimpse a horse that seemed to float as if in a dreamlike Chagall painting, its tail a black ripple. And what is that hairy black sheeplike animal? On Alum Ridge Rd., the author approaching Rt. 221 saw a fence made of cows along the ridge to the right. About fifteen silhouettes called to mind the side-view of a train, each cow-car separated from the next in a line.
  • A dog challenged hikers on Penn Road, followed them with a barking and a hair-raised lowered profile. Another, big and fast, turned away only when a hiking stick slammed onto the pavement in front of its charging muzzle, which clamped a chew-toy in a kind of multi-tasking.
  • A large, dark bird stood on a high tree branch and spread its wings to the south as if to proclaim, “To me belongs all within my sight—land and welkin, feather and fur”–the dire effect somewhat compromised by the resemblance to a flasher’s raincoat.
  • Walking near Rush Fork, one person found a dead crawdad that had evidently climbed higher and higher as the creek rose and lost its way.
  • In April along the CCC Camp Trail (off Rt. 8 near the base of the rampart), hikers made out a black snake that stretched over a few shiny loops, proprietary above the lintel of a barn. Further along they assumed that the bark of a dead tree had not scratched itself off into the scraps ‘way below.
  • As the author sped along Rt. 8, a larger-than-housecat bounded across giving him just enough time to vow never to bell it.
On the hill far to the north, a big patch of snow lay between dark forests. A cloud hastened across the sky, and as its shadow moved down the slope, it was followed by a bright white avalanche. After continual frigid weather and recurrent snow, one escapee drove to the coastal plain–only to behold gray mountains on the horizon and to dread more flakes, even after he recognized the upthrusts as clouds. In spring, Storkers Knob once again made its gradual disappearance across Dodd Creek Valley as the calendar dropped leaves. Exiting the Jacksonville Center one windy day, a driver could stop, look across Rt. 8, and admire a river of grass that flowed northward without changing its place.

  • For a couple of years the new Church of God just south of the town limits directed a beacon into the dark sky. A contrast to the nearby Living Light yoga center, it symbolically and practically advertised what a highway sign called a “Revival Every Night.” This concept seemed to blend oxymoron with AA. That was their business, but of public concern was the light pollution that partly compromised a silver-spangled black sky, not to mention the carbon dioxide created wherever the electricity was generated. On April 20, trash—some thrown, some blown–disappeared from a stretch of Rt. 221 thanks to a community effort sponsored by Falling Branch Methodist Church.
  • A tractor pulled away from Falling Branch Church with a wagonload of hay bales and people. It rolled alongside a field that held the relic of a Delco generator that once powered a farmhouse before rural electrification. As kids jumped off and on, the party rolled up a slope and then along a tracked path. The driver stopped and everybody hiked through trees and big rocks—and suddenly beheld a fast-moving stream ‘way down in a ravine so steep that a careless person could roll into rapids.
  • Another secret waterfall, actually a two-phase plummet, can be apprehended from below it. Without divulging its location, some hints follow. Start at the Firsts’ house and hike down Goose Creek Run until you come to the place where a man came home one foggy night, walked up the front stairs, tried to put his key in the door, and found neither door nor house. Turn off there and hike if you can on steep, rocky inclines until you hear water. Look up and in some disbelief. A brave or foolish person can play on the rocks of the halfway ledge with their pools dug out by rainwater.

canningFactory* On Canning Factory Road, whenever a vehicle nears Rt. 8 on a slight rise, the pavement seems to end at a hill and become a ramp that requires a good throttle-and-pitch to get over the pasture.

  • Near the inside edge of town across from houses on Woods Gap Rd. is a kind of park: a pasture, fence, great hardwood tree, and sometimes a horse. Because the corner with Barberry Rd. is blind, the appreciative driver must be extra vigilant.


       September by hay calendar.

  • At the West End Market on Rt. 221, a customer must go inside to pay for gasoline, but as compensation he or she can lift the top from a red metal cooler, reach in, grasp the intimate ripples of the original small bottle of Coca Cola, and lift it from the ice and the 1950s. One time out at the pumps a rough-looking guy climbed into his pickup, ignored the seatbelt, and drove away. On the left rear bumper (politically apt location) a sticker read “Village Idiots for Obama”; on the right, another declared something more positive about Jesus Christ.
  • A driver of bountiful scalp, your author, turned abruptly from Main St. into the alley across from the Courthouse. He blasted the horn at several people who were window shopping, then, as they approached, rolled down the passenger window and played dramatic classical music at top volume, evoking laughter from everyone except a person who appeared at the end of the alley, where he was unloading goods from a vehicle.
Photo by Janine Drum.

         Photo by Janine Drum.

Randall was not the only one to spy an unusual tractor-trailer that laboriously turned into a parking area of a gasoline station, but he was the only one to hurry over (just behind his overactive nose). The trailer had two side doors at different places and was decorated with some initials and the name Shelor. Several guys seemed to appreciate his curiosity, and they answered questions with grins. How long? 73 feet bumper-to-bumper. How many cylinders in the tractor? Six. Isn’t that a bit minimal? It can go 130 miles per hour. What’s in the trailer? A racing car. Also a lounge with a microwave oven. They opened a door to reveal a red Chevrolet painted with the number 98.

  • A truck more voluminous than a pickup was determined to overtake a vehicle, so out it charged toward a compact car in the opposite lane; the latter braked as the truck swerved back over the double yellow line with its driver hunched forward tensely. On Black Ridge Rd. a large SUV zipped downhill, around a curve, and so close to the middle of a narrow bridge that the oncoming driver prepared for a side-view mirror crash and the passenger behind him said “I think I’ll sit on the other side.” A visitor planning to turn into Annie Lane was tailgated by a tanker truck: “I put my emergency blinkers on, so he stayed three feet from me.”
  • A woman turned off Locust and drove down steep Old Hensley Rd., next to Winter Sun. Talking on a cell phone, she wore no seat belt but had a license plate that read “Prayer.” Another woman pulled up to the corner of Main and Oxford, seatbelt over shoulder and cigarette in hand. A man hauled a rugged camouflage-painted canoe on his big SUV and held a cigarette with his tan hand.
  • “I can tell that your VW van isn’t from Floyd.” “Because it doesn’t have rust?” [Laughter.] Reply: “I was thinking dust.”
  • A tow-truck drew away from tire-tracks in the steep, snowy ditch. On its bed, a car that had just driven from Florida pointed backward as your author in the driver’s seat rode like the marshall of the Humiliation Parade.
We're not in Florida anymore.

We’re not in Florida anymore.

  • A woman carried a red-and-white sign down Old Hensley Rd.—BAKERY OPEN–shading the side of her head with the stake. At the end of the workday someone uprooted a sign from next to Rt. 8 (near the fake cow) and carried it downhill toward a truck: FRESH SEAFOOD.
  • “I see that you have a Lions Club decal on your rear windshield.” “No, the ‘L’ stands for a scope manufacturer. My husband likes guns.”

sign at dump

  • At the transfer station, one person tried to understand a crudely-lettered sign attached to a tree. He took the right fork, which was wrong, and dumped recyclables over the top of a high bin. A worker reproached him, saying “I’ll have to empty it” and met with hostility the reprobate’s offer to do it himself.
  • In front of a church in Willis: “Remember: Hell is Un-Cool.” Once again red metal panels were planted in many a yard reminding passers-by that Christmas was not properly commercial but looking like FOR SALE signs. Anonymous red signs with white capital letters appeared around town. One said HATERS NEED LOVE. Although it disappeared, ACCEPT YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS remained in another location.
  • “Hay for sale, horse quality” read a sign near the Blue Ridge Parkway. The billboard on Rt. 221 near Annie Lane obscured the mixture of tall pines and hardwoods with photos of burgers that turn to gutters. A “Republic of Floyd” sticker adorned the family’s Subaru: “I’ll keep it on,” vowed a friend, who bought the car and drove it to Florida. If a person leans to the left behind a post supporting the porch of a grocery store, Slaughters’ becomes Laughters’.