I’ve got some secrets for you

Not really secret secrets, but a whole lot of tidbits that I’ve been snooping up over the spring and summer.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been writing a few stories for our local Laker Magazine. And even better, they are history-related; researching them has taken me all over the place, which is awesome when you move to a new spot.

So check this out.

In May, right before the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, I wrote a piece about the National D-Day Memorial that’s just up the road from us in Bedford, Virginia (it’s on page 24). I also added an article about Moneta, Virginia, which featured in the 1991 Disney movie, What about Bob? (Of course, you knew that movie was filmed at Smith Mountain Lake, not Lake Winnipesaukee, because it’s easier to spell it was early fall when they began filming and chilly New Hampshire was busting out in colorful leaves.) That one is on page 66.

In June, I wrote about Huddleston, Virginia (page 32), one of the communities near the lake that was, at one time, a more substantial town. It was named for Henry Huddleston Rogers, a guy who used his own funding to build a railroad to transport coal from the fields in West Virginia down to the ports in Hampton Roads. He also had some famous friends…

In July, I got to share some information about Wirtz, Virginia (page 36), which is a very tricky place to actually find. This article also includes a huge shout-out to the folks at the Franklin County Historical Society, because I bothered them so much I think I started to get on their nerves a little bit.

In the August issue, I had a piece about some very unusual residents of Penhook, Virginia (page 34 and SPOILER: they were German POWs, working as farm labor during WWII), and the mistake that gave the community its name. In researching the story, I was able to drive by the dairy farm that still stands on Route 40, and also make the acquaintance of the marvelous man whose wife had been tasked with bringing water to the prisoners working on her grandfather’s farm back in the 40s.

I added the page numbers for the links, above, because I know you’re busy and I really just appreciate you even taking a minute to (a) peruse these li’l projects and (b) even read this blog after I’ve neglected it for so long. But the Laker Magazine is really a gorgeous showcase of what makes SML cool and lovely. It is definitely worth looking through.

I hope you enjoy that end-of-summer reading! If you ever cross my path in person, rest assured that I have multiple copies of the hard-copy magazines to share. 🙂

Doing a Good Thing

Checking out the Peaks of Otter is always a good thing.

There are a whole lot of things to do down here at Smith Mountain Lake.

As summer has roared in, the powerboats have roared in with it, toting wakeboards and waterskis while they zip around Sea-Doos (or, in our case, kayaks) all over the lake.

You can volunteer with any number of excellent service-oriented organizations and spend time at any number of churches. You can exercise at the YMCA or at the Carilion Wellness gym, or get your Zen on at the Vita Zen yoga studio. All this without even going into Roanoke!

But lately, I’ve been doing something that has really been making me happy: working. Since May, my former employer from Northern Virginia has given me plenty to do, writing stories about George Mason University faculty research. And since January, I’ve had the opportunity to learn some really interesting about the history of local communities here in Franklin and Bedford Counties.

It’s cut down on my driving around and exploring, but I’ve come across some interesting things that I’ll tell you about in the weeks to come. Because I’ve found that while exploring a new area is fascinating, so is digging a little deeper into it. Talk to you soon.

Riding that Bobbing Cow

Last post about our recent bovine visitor, I promise!

When we discovered on Friday that a drowned cow had somehow attached itself to the underside of our dock, I reached for a common resource: the crowd-sourcing answers on Facebook. I first asked the Smith Mountain Lake resident’s group:

Then I shared the post with my friends to get their take on the whole thing. And did I! It received 100 comments, many of which expressed sympathy for the cow or concern about the situation, but listen, my friends are funny. People uploaded a number of à propos GIFs, including the Jed Clampett “What in tarnation?” from Lorenda.

As well as a link to that Top Gear episode where the fellas were visiting the American south and that wag Jeremy Clarkson tied a dead cow to the top of his car, from Chris L.

Also, a lot of commentary:

“You like your steaks REALLY rare,” observed Michael H.

“Did the cow know you don’t even eat meat??” – Ilham, who knows me well.

“If this is what happens when you move out of [your former neighborhood], we’ll be staying here forever” – former neighbor Dan S., seconded by Kristin S.’s “You got that right.”

“Hope you get to moooove it soon” – Cathy C.

“VA more TX than TX?” – from native Texan Seán C.

“That’s not exactly the right way to marinate beef.” – Derek T.

“Anne, you don’t live in Fairfax anymore, do you? I need to keep up better.” – Karen T.

“Holy cow!” – Robin M.

“So, you’re saying he moooo-ved along? Can’t see hide nor hair of him? I’m milking this for all it’s worth. It’s udderly awful. We all hope she has moseyed along and she won’t be ‘herd’ from again. You made it seem very amoosing, though!” – Beth H., who was clearly bovinely inspired, with the cow as her muuuuuse.

“Rich ecosystem in your lake there!” observed science-minded Ilse

“Should you decide to form a bluegrass band, Boathouse Buzzards would be a great name.” – Danny C.


“Anne you get instant country street cred if you form a bluegrass band,” Tosh, who added, “Welcome to the country!”

And there was some on-point advice:

“If you get an invitation to the Appalachian Power hamburger cookout, I suggest you politely decline.” – also Danny C.

“Dear James Reynolds, You may want to cross ‘Tri-County Lake Administration’ off the list of potential summer employers” – concerned auntie Sarah E.

Most of the neighbors in the lake’s residents’ group had sincere (and ultimately, very helpful!) suggestions, but also some wit:

Terry B. echoed Jim’s preferred solution to the dilemma: “Call in the catfish.”

“BBQ?” offered Bob T.

“Go heavy on the smoke flavor,” advised Jim C. He got more specific: “When you grind your hamburger you mix in some country sausage to hide the flavor, as do many deer hunters when they grind venisonburger- 😎

And upon learning that the cow had moved on: “Well, phooey. I was going to suggest dynamite, Anne.” – Betsy A., who, as part of Lake Writers, has an eye for a plot twist.

Real heroes don’t wear capes.

Visit with Ghosts

I made it back to the Franklin County Historical Society today; while I think I’ve done all the research I need there for my project, I really wanted to see the museum on the second floor.

The FCoHS is housed in a 1925 home, beautifully preserved. They do not allow photographs inside without arranging it ahead of time, so I cannot show you the wonders that I saw today, but if you check out their website, you can see some for yourself.

Flags are rolled up for rainy days

One does not simply roll around the museum on the second floor of the FCoHS. I was escorted by Ruth, who explained to me that she was also a newcomer to Franklin County, having lived here a mere 25 years ( in contrast, her husband’s family has been here for generations). The Society’s museum packs into its spaces an immense collection of artifacts, clothing, military (including Confederate) uniforms and memorabilia, and documents. Ancient church organs, land grant documents from the 1700s, and reminders of the tobacco industry that had enriched Virginia compete for attention, and it’s worth a look around and behind everything, because every object may well hide another.

Ruth explained that the “tobacco room” and the moonshine exhibits were being moved to the annex in the back of the building, which is not open to the public yet. I was able to capture it from the outside, though; it’s the sight that greets you as barrel up the driveway to the parking lot behind the FCoHS office.

The museum absolutely does its job, reflecting a devotion to the people who have lived in Franklin County since before the Europeans settled it. This visit reinforced for me that I still have a lot to learn about the place.

Taking it on the Road

Roanoke’s Arts Commission has teamed up with Ride Solutions and the Greater Roanoke Transit Authority for a contest called Writer on the Bus. This is part of an annual project where Valley Metro buses will display artwork from the city’s Regional Public Arts Collection, while a writer rides various bus routes and creates a unique work of literature.

Don’t you think that they could use a blogger?

I don’t think that blogging is what they have in mind in terms of an art form (the informational post lists short stories, plays, poetry, and essays), but how cool would it be to ride throughout the city while chatting with folks on the bus and taking pictures of the neighborhoods. I would love to have the excuse to do that, so keep your fingers crossed for me, if you will.

Step Up! (And Come Visit Some Nice Houses)

One thing I quickly learned about living out here on Smith Mountain Lake is that volunteer opportunities abound. Whether at the Booker T. Washington National Monument or at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop, volunteers are warmly welcomed.

Soon after my first visit with the Newcomers group out here, I found a volunteer gig that is just up my alley: I am now working with the board of the Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour as their PR person.

Soon after my first visit with the Newcomers group out here, I found a volunteer gig that is just up my alley: I am now working with the board of the Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour as their PR person.

The Home Tour is a terrific annual event out here at the lake. It’s been going on for 28 years, and it allows people to check out a number of homes (by land or by boat, so cool) and help out local charities along the way.

Each of the homes — last year, eight residences were on the tour — pairs up with a particular charity. The charities line up sponsors for “their” homes and volunteers to help show the home. In return, they receive 100% of their sponsors’ donations, as well as a share of the visitors’ ticket sales. It is an impressive operation, and I have been spending a bit of time trying to come up to speed.

The board is a great group of enthusiastic and engaged lake residents, and I’m honored to be working with them. You can expect to hear more about the tour as the year goes on!

Is There More Here?

My father-in-law is a super nice guy who thinks I’m aiming too low with the blog, and instead thinks I should be concentrating on writing a book about our adventures here in the wild west(ern part of Virginia). And because he’s a kind and supportive person, I simply say to myself, “Okay, Jim’s dad, you keep on being a nice guy like that because there is no way I could ever do that.”

And along comes #NaNoWriMo to make me think that I can.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and I wrote about it on November 1, when I announced that I was going to crank out 1700 words a day about our madcap country adventures. Remember that?

It hasn’t worked out quite that way.

The good news: I’m over 15,000 words in. And with weather the way it was today, there was no way I was going outside. I made a little progress.

My WTForecast app was spot-on today.

The bad news: I did the math and in order to get to 50,000 words by the end of the month (the goal of NaNoWriMo), I will need to write 2,333 words each day between now and then. And the kids are coming home, starting tomorrow! And relatives start filing in on Wednesday. Math. Shoot.

So I’ll keep toiling away and let you know how it goes. I’m sure I have another 35,000 words in me because my main character hasn’t really done too much of anything yet. I’m a little short on plot and am going to have to start spicing this thing up with some action. Stay tuned.