To appreciate the landscape of Floyd County even more keenly, notice instances of solid geometry. These underlying regular forms endow objects with a certain power–maybe because they hint of an existence in Plato’s realm of the intellect. Yet at the same time they appeal to the earthly eye, perhaps indirectly to the tactile and kinesthetic senses. Run your hand around the edge of a banjo’s resonator and feel the wheel-shape, then heft the instrument. Or as you walk around an ancient smelting-furnace, a truncated mountain of rocks, go ahead and embrace and lift it if nobody is around.
Free-form hills, fields, streams, forests, shadows, clouds, and sunlight contrast with the solid shapes animals and individual plants. And certainly of artifacts: rustiques with their wheels, rods, oblong boxes; ubiquitous farm buildings, still-used or dilapidated; yurts and geodesic domes; churches, mills, chimneys, a cannery….. Often their 3-D elements are usually complicated by each other and often by their natural surroundings. Below are scenes that have a strong geometric pull.
Furnace used in the 1800s to smelt iron for pots and pans. (Hanging jacket for scale.) Located next to and under Old Furnace Rd. SW. A truncated four-sided pyramid (1) made of irregular oblong rocks placed lengthwise and (2) deeply incised by somewhat pyramidal arches.
Randall watched Fred First disappear into this four-trunk cluster of tulip poplars and return–with this photo as a souvenir. Although resembling pyramids or even triangles in the image, in life they are tapered cylinders that project from the alluvial plain of Nameless Creek. Along with the barky grooves, the fractal patterns of the branches are also geometric.
Barn constructed by Noah Simmons (1827-1901) or his son. Hipped roof made of four triangles of equal dimensions form a pyramid upon a cube. T. Hollinger: “One and a half Platonic solids. A cube and half of an octahedron, two of the five regular polyhedra.’
Steps of The Station on S. Locust St., December 1, early afternoon. Shadows of metal bars are twisted and bent spatially by slabs (treads and risers) that extend both inward-outward and upward-downward.
Tractor pull. Photo by Jane Avery.
Former silo near Oxford and Maple Streets, downtown Floyd. A cylinder, it is composed of square and shoebox forms (i.e., bricks), braced by a ring, topped by cone, and incised by an oblong rectangle.
Chimney of defunct factory, the Donnkenny Building, behind Food Lion in the town of Floyd. Tapered oblong box? Truncated square pyramid? Obelisk sans pyramidal cap?
Upcycled lamp by Susan Icove. Samuel Hope Wells plays the former basket that is attached to once-flexible hose, itself connected to a former metal spotlight-shade. Twelve longitudes in search of a globe. Photo by Marjory Wells.
Chimney opposite 801 Penn Rd. NW. Bottom segment made of irregular cobblestones; top, of brick. Shape: flattened flared vase? Its regular, solid, vertical, partly-colored, two-sided masonry contrasts with the straight-on metal fence (a rectangle of rectangles) as well as the foreshortened wooden fence, all this geometry set off by shapeless fields and dark blobs of cow and shadow.
Tool museum/ geometry exhibit hung upon one wall of Smith’s Grocery and Hardware, 8470 Floyd Hwy. N, Copper Hill. Note calendar turned to January 1953, month of General Eisenhower’s inauguration, month the Floyd Theatre played Trigger Trail with Randy Scott and John Wayne, and year that Willadean H. Hylton began working at J. Freezer & Son.
House of Jayn Avery, Zephyr Cir. SE. Original place built in 1929 by the farmer. Note interplay between rectangles and wedge-shaped roof; between the flat side and the depth of roof overhang, receding left side, and oblong box of chimney. Also note contrast among rectangles: of and within windows, of oblong narrow siding boards, of oblong ladder with its step-squares. Colored frames accentuate the rectilinear. The whole shebang contrasts with rambly tree-branches.*
Solid tubes or large cigars. Photo by Marjory Wells.
Steeple of Fairview Church of the Brethren, corner of Fairview Church Rd. SW and Cox Store Rd. SW. An elongated, four-sided pyramid, it tops a box anchored in a wedge (of the roof-peak) and decorated by wheel-shapes.
Not to forget the human form, here making dramatic, three-dimensional lines–all richly complicated by contrasts with prints on clothing as well as horizontal-and-vertical wood-strips of the sauna at Zephyr Community, c. 1990. By permission (l. to r.) Berry, Dolphin, and Amy, 2017. Photographer unremembered.
Theologeometry near town on Rt. 8 South.
Former canning factory, corner of Rt. 221 S. and Canning Factory Rd. SW on Howell Creek, where Margie Keith worked the night shift. Warped geometry of roof-planes, siding, window, door-opening, and fence rails contrast with the twisting tree–yet hint at a resemblance because the rectilinear is mainly wooden and tends toward the irregular.**
Minimalist study of planes, depths, shapes, and materials. Photo taken from window of Black Water Loft.
Primitive Baptist (?) Church on Morning Dew Ln. SE. Organic-form shadows play in counterpoint with horizontal slats, roof slant, tall vertical box, and foreshortening,
Pine Creek Mill, Shooting Creek Rd. SE. Box and wheel. ***
Rows of grab-me mugs at Blue Ridge Cafe. Column-segments with slight concavity, one end open, one closed. Tubular grab-me’s.
Octagon top-disked, railed vertically and horizontally, and tilted.
* Jayne (“Celestial Gatherings of the 1980s”) tells more about the ladder. My dad was a Congregational minister born and raised on a Connecticut farm. I would learn about his hands-on, fix-it nature in the summers when we went to my mother’s family house for our month long summer vacation. Having lost the old farm to development, my dad took the upkeep of my mother’s family house into his hands. Painting the shingles, patching the old clapboards, cleaning the gutters, he spent a lot of time up on the ladder.
When he died and my mom left the house, of all the antiques and historical items we daughters had to divide up to take home, the ladder was one of my first choices. I needed one just to keep up the repairs on my own house here in Floyd. But I also loved the feel of it as I climbed up knowing I was stepping into the very footprints of my dad. Eventually, being a wood ladder, it started to deteriorate and I had to stop using it. Then Charlie Brouwer did one of his ladder installations at the Jacksonville Center, inviting people to bring in a ladder with its story. It filled my heart to see my dad’s ladder as a part of an amazing work of art. When the installation was taken down, I brought the ladder back wondering what I would do with it and then saw where it was meant to be. Hanging from the chimney of my house, painted with vines and flowers that reach up into the sky, it is the ladder between me on this earth and him in the heaven that he believed so deeply in. It connects our souls.
** According to Blue Ridge Roadways, S.B. Huff built the factory on Howells Creek, site of Shelor’s Mill. The factory’s heyday extended from the 1930s into the ’50s. A Guide to Southwest Virginia, 2003, p. 37.
*** See Webb and Cox, pp. 288-89. They believe that water power at a nearby site could have driven a bellows and perhaps the hammers that crushed ore.
The rimmed wheel comprises two depths of spokes that resemble pieces of pie. Its endless stairway is formed by tread-and-riser. The wheel rests on a truncated pyramid. The sluice that once fed water is a box made of horizontal boards and vertical struts. The structure to its right has two columnar legs that rest on the ground and begin to converge as they rise to support something. The legs themselves are braced by several horizontal struts. The building is an oblong box (wider than high) atop a foundation of oblong rectangles (one solid and one a vacancy). It supports a wedge (the peak) of lighter-colored wood. The structure has three windows that are placed and sized with a slight (and pleasant) randomness. All three are oblong and comprise a total of 28 panes (square in the larger windows, oblong in the smaller). Another oblong rectangle is formed by an inset doorway (covered by a slab of wood). The visible side of the box is covered by thin, horizontal slabs of wood–punctuated by a dozen oblong rectangular holes. See Webb and Cox, pp. 116-21.