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Sunday, December 31, 2006

"So What's Cool to Do in Christiansburg?" I asked.

Often when I ask people that question, about the town they live in, they assure me there's really nothing. You have to go to - in this case - Blacksburg. Or whatever other town where they feel the grass is greener. I was assured that if I went to Tech, there was hiking there.
I'll leave that for a Blacksburg assignment, though. Christiansburg has its own cool places to hike. The one I found last Thursday is the Huckleberry Trail.

The Huckleberry is 5.76 miles of paved hiking and biking trail. It begins at the New River Valley Mall and wends its way to the Blacksburg Library.

Or vice versa - but that's the way I went.

I hiked out to the Coal Mining
Heritage Park and back, having neither the time nor energy to go all the way to Blacksburg and back.

Near the 4-mile marker, there's a really neat bridge over the creek, with places to sit.

It leads , actually, to a dump site.

Complete with porta-john. Personally, I think there should be
facilities frequently located on hiking trails. Like benches, but not so often.

If you read this blog regularly, you know I like to find water. Lakes, creeks, fountains... Here's some from along the Huckleberry.

The trail runs along what was once the Huckleberry Line. The tracks are gone, but the trail crosses another rail line. There's a resting place, and a fenced caged bridge over to prevent mishaps.

I was chatting with another walker, who told me he'd taken pictures of trains on that track - I said that'd be a good thing to get a picture of - and when we reached the bridge over the active tracks - there was a train.

Cars and cars and cars of coal - He said it was going to Japan.

As everywhere - some folks appreciate nature and beauty, and some don't. There was, unfortunately, the usual trash to be seen.

These trees were planted, the plaques tell us, in celebration of births of sons, daughters, grandbabies.

At a trailside park, I found this structure, channeling the creek's water...

I wonder what was originally there? By the way the land was, I suspect a stopping place for the old railroad.

I think every town has some neat places. It just takes a bit of looking around.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I found a Christmas Tree that would fit in my Motorhome!

I stopped in at the local DAV and found this.

It's about 6 inches tall.

So I bought it and I spent this afternoon decorating the Escaper for the holidays.

I have blue and silver
and white garlands
in the windows,

Lights! They run on AA batteries.

And a beautiful poinsettia candle lamp.

With luck, I'll find my stained glass wreath which is stored in some safe location.

I wish everyone wonderful midwinter holidays - Merry Christmas, Good Yule, Super Solstice, Happy Hannukah, and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Did You Miss Me?

The last couple of weeks have been really busy. I worked in Richmond the last week of November, which meant I got to see my older daughter. We went for sushi, of course, at Ichiban, the wonderful sushi restaurant I've written about here before. One of my stores had a Curves in the parking lot - always a good thing - so I got to work out there. One of their members made a picture quilt of the ladies-working-out that many Curves have painted as a mural on their wall. It is quite neat; the picture I took does not do it justice.

When I returned from Richmond, I put the Escaper in the shop for a water pump and went off to Tennessee for Danny's niece's wedding. All the pictures I took were of the wedding, so I don't have anything from that trip to post here. I saw LOTS of places I'd like to stop and investigate on future trips to Tennessee, though, when time is more flexible.

The motorhome was not ready when we got home; fortunately my work this week was in Charlottesville, where my friend Sue lives. We went to a concert, "Music of Early Modern Europe" at the University of Virginia.
The UVA Early Music Ensemble plays on either period instruments or reproductions, and we got to hear cornetto and sackbut and viola da gamba, as well as baroque music on more familiar instruments. It would have been rude to be flashing my camera during the performance, but I did catch the stage during intermission.

The mural is behind the stage. It's the School of Athens -
and we do wonder how they got bound books and modern slates waaaay back then.

And this is just to show: if you are owned by a cat or two and you need to cover your windows, do not get mini-blinds. Mini-blinds and cats do not mix well; the cat always wins.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


In 2006, for me, Thanksgiving Day is about gratitude to Creator for the blessings of today, for family and friends, health and happiness, and the strength and resiliance to survive when those things seem absent.

(These are my Aunt, my daughters, and my grandson,

all of whom are awesome and at the top of my list of blessings.)

Historically, the holiday has roots in history. This article, which I found at, says quite a lot about that. It was written by Jacqueline Keeler, a member of the Dineh Nation and the Yankton Dakota Sioux. Her work has appeared in Winds of Change, an American Indian journal.

I celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.

This may surprise those people who wonder what Native Americans think of this official U.S. celebration of the survival of early arrivals in a European invasion that culminated in the death of 10 to 30 million native people.

Thanksgiving to me has never been about Pilgrims. When I was six, my mother, a woman of the Dineh nation, told my sister and me not to sing "Land of the Pilgrim's pride" in "America the Beautiful." Our people, she said, had been here much longer and taken much better care of the land. We were to sing "Land of the Indian's pride" instead.

I was proud to sing the new lyrics in school, but I sang softly. It was enough for me to know the difference. At six, I felt I had learned something very important. As a child of a Native American family, you are part of a very select group of survivors, and I learned that my family possessed some "inside" knowledge of what really happened when those poor, tired masses came to our homes.

When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, they were poor and hungry -- half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger. When Squanto, a Wampanoag man, found them, they were in a pitiful state. He spoke English, having traveled to Europe, and took pity on them. Their English crops had failed. The native people fed them through the winter and taught them how to grow their food.

These were not merely "friendly Indians." They had already experienced European slave traders raiding their villages for a hundred years or so, and they were wary -- but it was their way to give freely to those who had nothing. Among many of our peoples, showing that you can give without holding back is the way to earn respect. Among the Dakota, my father's people, they say, when asked to give, "Are we not Dakota and alive?" It was believed that by giving there would be enough for all -- the exact opposite of the system we live in now, which is based on selling, not giving.

To the Pilgrims, and most English and European peoples, the Wampanoags were heathens, and of the Devil. They saw Squanto not as an equal but as an instrument of their God to help his chosen people, themselves.

Since that initial sharing, Native American food has spread around the world. Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. I sometimes wonder what they ate in Europe before they met us. Spaghetti without tomatoes? Meat and potatoes without potatoes? And at the "first Thanksgiving" the Wampanoags provided most of the food -- and signed a treaty granting Pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth, the real reason for the first Thanksgiving.

What did the Europeans give in return? Within 20 years European disease and treachery had decimated the Wampanoags. Most diseases then came from animals that Europeans had domesticated. Cowpox from cows led to smallpox, one of the great killers of our people, spread through gifts of blankets used by infected Europeans. Some estimate that diseases accounted for a death toll reaching 90 percent in some Native American communities. By 1623, Mather the elder, a Pilgrim leader, was giving thanks to his God for destroying the heathen savages to make way "for a better growth," meaning his people.

In stories told by the Dakota people, an evil person always keeps his or her heart in a secret place separate from the body. The hero must find that secret place and destroy the heart in order to stop the evil.

I see, in the "First Thanksgiving" story, a hidden Pilgrim heart. The story of that heart is the real tale than needs to be told. What did it hold? Bigotry, hatred, greed, self-righteousness? We have seen the evil that it caused in the 350 years since. Genocide, environmental devastation, poverty, world wars, racism.

Where is the hero who will destroy that heart of evil? I believe it must be each of us. Indeed, when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused.

Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.

And the healing can begin.

Now here's one to foil the big bad wolf!

Working in White Sulphur Springs, WV, I visited the Coal House.

It's for sale, and there was no one to answer questions, so I don't know if the 30 tons of coal is for the garage building or the house or both...

Occurs to me it'd be really ugly if it ever caught fire!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ever make a frizzen stall?
What's that, you ask? (It's a cover for the frizzen on a flintlock rifle.)

I went to visit my friends Henry and Debora after I finished work in Roanoke this week. Like me, they do the 18th century reenactment thing.

Henry, proprietor of Fort Vause Outfitters, has just produced a DVD teaching basic leatherworking. I got a private showing while I was there, and it was very very good. He discusses tools and leather basics, and leads the viewer through making a frizzen stall and a colonial wallet.

The DVD is available from Panther Primitives, at this link:



is known as the Star City of the South -

It's got this star
up on Mill Mountain
shining its light
all year round.
I've hiked around up there
and seen it up close.

It's a 100' star, probably the largest there is.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Retrojet lag! THAT's what you get when you spend 5 days in the 18th Century and have to come back to the modern world, hit the deck running and go to work.
Last week, after working in Charlottesville VA, visiting Sue and the Alpaca, I loaded up the car and went to the Olde Virginia Primitive Riflemen, , fall Rendezvous. Spent the weekend eating, visiting with friends, making music, having fun, trying to stay warm and dry, and wondering how on earth I used to do winter camps. I remember setting up my 18' tipi in the snow! We had a wonderful time at those but I can't see me doing them now. Is it that I'm getting older or did a few winters in Florida spoil me forever?
I got home Sunday evening much too tired to unload the car but this week I got to work right here where I live so I didn't have to. I took the motorhome to work Monday and unloaded the car Monday night.
Years ago, when I had a medical billing business in my home, I used to schedule a jet-lag day after Rendezvous. ALL I expected of myself that day was to read the mail. Anything else was gravy. Can't do that now - If I've got an assignment I need to be there and functional. Which is why the car stayed loaded 'til Monday afternoon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My friend Sue has new neighbors - Alpaca.

These guys are really cute - and curious, too. We'd walked through the woods to the field their pens are in. They were all up by the barn when we got there - which is quite a ways away as you can see. But they just had to come down to the end of their runs to see who we were.

I'd seen llamas before, but these are my first alpaca.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

No, I didn't overparty last weekend - I don't even drink - but I did see a pink elephant during my travels this week. When I stopped to visit, I found he had friends.

The elephant and his buddies were up in Stafford, VA. I was also in Spotsylvania, where I found the Civil War Soldier's Life Museum. The most unusual thing I saw there was the two bullets which met in mid-air and were permanently fused together.

They had an excellent display of firearms from the period - caplock rifles, pistols, and accoutrements.

Hi-tech (for the time) artillery.

Ordinary items of daily soldier life - cards, eating utensils, pictures, shaving stuff.
I had a particularly neat weekend last weekend.
I had worked in Leesburg and Purcellville, and realized that I was very near my friends Chris and Pat, so I arranged to spend the weekend with them.
We had lots of fun.
They are involved in a demonstration project, arranging for the amazing amount of good wood cut down in the city to be actually put to good use instead of just dumped in the landfill or ground in the big chipper trucks. So we went to the Green Festival in DC. Lots of interesting booths - everything from reforestation projects to specialty organic coffee.

We also went shopping in Poolesville, MD, near their home. This

is the old town hall, which also was a bank in a former incarnation.

We stopped at Poole's Store,

which was the first business in the area and is now a museum/gift shop.

On my way back to Virginia, I had to stop and take pictures of this shop because I have never ever seen so many birdhouses!