Jennie at 51: Still Looking Great

Don’t know what to think about the car, but Jennie looks dazzling.

Jennie in her natural element.

Got into a fascinating Facebook chat with my favorite daughter, Jenniffer, this morning and came away with some nice photos of her–at 51–by the inimitable Jeri Layne.

Jennie and Jeri have been friends over quite a distance (Jeri lives here; Jennie in North Georgia) for a good while.

Jeri is one of those people who can do anything she chooses and do it at an expert level without a lot of effort. She’s smart and extremely creative and in Jennie, she has a great subject.

Here are some of the photos.

More natural element: she adores her German Shepherds.

I like the floral dress (and the Mustang convertible).

There’s even a Jeep in her garage.

Well, Shit! (Away Goes the Truck)

Truck rests comfortably in Carvin’s Cove.

The rain came in big drops.

I hadn’t been paddling in a couple of weeks so this morning–it being Sunday and all–I thought, shoot, I’ll put the kayak in the water and seek a little spirituality. The best laid plans of …

I pulled into the boat launch at the cove and backed up to the edge of the asphalt on a downhill slope. I briefly thought of applying the parking brake, but, nah; I don’t need it, I reasoned. First gear will hold. First gear would have held, but I had the truck in third gear.

I got the PFD, camera, water bottle and paddles out of the truck bed and put them beside the launch spot, then turned back toward the truck, which suddenly slipped back a notch. I spoke in expletives. And here came the truck. I ran toward it, grabbed the back of the cab–as if I were Captain Emeritus (as my favorite ex-wife calls me)–thinking I could stop it. Heh, heh, heh …

Wet? Yeh. Happy? Sure.

Into the drink went my 20-year-old truck. It stopped when about half of it was in the water, enough, I thought to drown it. But I got in and the dang thing started and tried to get out of the muck. The wheels, though, were buried in the mud and it couldn’t go anywhere.

I went to the boat house and asked the Carvins Cove dudes if they’d help and, sure, they said, they had a chain with a hook, and a city truck that would pull me out. And it did, without much problem.

I thought maybe I’d better mark this one up as a failure and go home and I started driving off. But, shoot, there’s no adventure in that, especially with thunder cracking and rain on the way. So I turned around, unloaded the kayak and paddled off into the rain. Smiling at my good fortune.

It got gray and wet after the truck went for a swim.

Bagpipes and BBQ at the Highland Games

Ewwww. Does the dang bagpipe stink or did you make a fluffy!?!

The real deal: Pulled pork nachos.

I’ve been going to highland games every few years since I was a teenager and the Green Hill Park version was today in West Salem, so I showed up with my Canon 80D and its 55-200mm lens, hoping to capture some lasting images. I think I got some.

I have two clans–the Buchanans and Macquarries (Americanized as the McCourrys)–one ancient and one more recent, both with butt-ugly tartans (a Christmas tree and a gay rights flag, in essence).

My buddy Marj’s feet caught my eye.

The games center on a group of exercises that bulky men and women engage in, throwing various farm implements, some for distance, others for height. There are the obligatory bagpipes (who in his right mind invented those damn things?) and drums, old Scots with their twisted hiking sticks and caps with the pom-pon on top.

My pals with the Roanoke Vikings, including the irrepressible Jeff Rigdon, almost always show up (this year with a couple of beautiful–I mean, like Be-U-ti-ful–young women), as does my good friend Marj Easterling, selling T-shirts she’s designed and printed (she’s also a Buchanan, so we’re cousins) and showing off her tatooed feet.

What’s under that kilt? Oh.

This year, the food feature was Erik LaFontaine’s barbecue ribs and pulled pork nachos (I swear to god). Jeff owns The French German eatery, and judging from the ribs, his food would make me slobber uncontrollably.

Herewith, some of what it looked like.

Camped out on a lovely day at Green Hill Park.

There was a lot of red hair. I love red hair. I won’t comment any more, but you get the picture(s).

OK, enough red hair.

That piece of metal weighs–basically–as much as my leg.

A couple of the athletes looked more like yoga teachers than Front Four members.

Other athletes were, well, super-sized.

Several of the women had arms like Batman. Or, maybe, Catwoman.

Always liked looking at boys in skirts.

Impressive pigtails (yep, they’re red).

This dude showed grit that I’d deem “true.”

Erik LaFontaine and his world famous ribs. He had 400 pounds of them on hand. Sellout? He did last year.

The announcer said this young fella is a scuba diver by trade.

Some of the athletes are patched together and held up with braces.

Jeff Rigdon led a contingent of Vikings (of the Valley).

The Viking helmets keep getting better.

Lovely Viking Julia Carter.

Lovely Viking II, Erin Langheim.

Kevin Miller has the reddest beard I’ve ever seen. All natural, no doubt.

A couple of future competitors (this rope is, like, heavy).

“Hey, Melva, where’s my wig? I got an interview for the bank job.”

Spinnin’ wheel got to go ’round. Talk about your troubles, it’s a cryin’ sin, ride a painted pony, let the spinnin’ wheel spin …

Adjusting the bagpipe. Does that make it more obnoxious?

Blacksmith puts a point on the conversation.

This is the Buchanan tartan. Ug-leeeeeeeeeee.

Oh, say can you see, the Scottish flag from here?

This bagpiper has a great look, so we begin and end with her (and the fluffy).

Where You Get Your News: A Survey

The Huffington Post and YouGov conducted a survey of 1,000 people this week, asking what happened in the news Tuesday (it was a really big news day; two of Trump’s boys were convicted to lead it off, but there was a good bit more than that).

The responses were divided into the camps that voted for Trump and those who voted for Hillary Clinton. HP/YG asked where those responding got their news. Here’s what they said:

Trump supporters: online outlets (43 percent), Fox News (42 percent), local TV (40 percent), radio news (34 percent).

Clinton Supporters: online outlets (52 percent), local TV news (41 percent), national TV news (37 percent), Facebook (28 percent), MSNBC (26 percent), CNN (25 percent).

I found it interesting–and not a little distressing–that not a single newspaper was listed among sources of news (though you could argue that getting news on the Internet would constitute some original reporting from newspapers).

There was this caveat to the survey: (People who sign up for online survey panels and participate in polls about politics tend to be more civically engaged than the average citizen …). My guess would be that these same people don’t read much outside the ‘net.

RC Poll: Sen. Kaine Drubbing Stewart

Confederate candidate Corey Stewart.

Roanoke College’s political polls have gained a solid reputation over the past few years and if the newest poll is indicative of reality (and I suspect it is), there is reason to hope if you oppose Trump and his minions.

I don’t need to summarize the findings because the college did that well in its press release, which follows:

Democrat incumbent Senator Tim Kaine holds a 17-point (51%-34%) lead over Republican challenger Corey Stewart, according to The Roanoke College Poll. Libertarian Matt Waters garners the support of 4 percent of likely voters. The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research interviewed 512 likely voters in Virginia between August 12 and August 19 and has a margin of error of +4.3 percent.

A plurality of voters (25%) see economic issues as most important in the Senate election, followed by health care (11%), education (6%), immigration (6%), honesty/character (6%), and stopping Donald Trump (5%).

Half of likely voters (50%) have a favorable view of Kaine (33% unfavorable), while a plurality (43%) still does not know enough about Stewart to have an opinion. Those who do are split evenly, with 23 percent having a favorable view of Stewart and 23 percent having an unfavorable view.

A plurality of likely voters (46%) think that Kaine’s positions are about right for Virginia, while just over one-third (35%) think they are too liberal. Voters are slightly more likely to think Stewart’s views are too extreme for Virginia (27%) than to think they are about right (24%), but a plurality (42%) are unsure.

Stewart and his role model.

President Trump, Governor Northam, and the country

A majority of likely voters (53%) disapprove of the way President Trump his handling his job, and just under one-third (32%) approve. A majority (53%) holds an unfavorable view of Trump, while 33 percent have a favorable view of him. A majority (56%) of respondents think the country is on the wrong track, while 37 percent think it is headed in the right direction.

Voters, as usual, are more optimistic about the Commonwealth with 58 percent saying the state is on the right track. More than half  (54%) approve of the job Ralph Northam is doing as governor, while only 18 percent disapprove.

Digging deeper on Trump—words and deeds

Because of the nature of the Trump presidency and his communications, we probed those who either approved or disapproved of his job performance to see if was related more to his words or his actions.

For those who disapprove of Trump, slightly more (27%) said they more disapproving of what he says than what he does (23%), but a plurality (48%) volunteered that they disapprove of both equally. For those who approve of his job performance, 86 percent said it was more due to what he does while only 2 percent said it was more related to what he says, while 10 percent volunteered that it is both.

Control of Congress

We asked only one question here, but it may well be very important. Likely voters prefer that Democrats (46%) rather than Republicans (35%) control Congress after the midterm elections. This gap is narrower than that between Kaine and Stewart, but it still may not bode well for Republican House of Representatives candidates in November. We did not ask about any specific Congressional districts.


“The news is good for Sen. Kaine and it is difficult to see a silver lining for Corey Stewart” said Harry Wilson, director of the Roanoke College Poll. “Trailing by double-digits in all the polls and with very little money, Stewart faces a daunting challenge. Kaine will flood the airwaves, and Stewart will be an invisible candidate. His only hope is to say or do things that will attract ‘free media,’ but that may not advantage him in the polls. At this point, Republicans may be more concerned with the House contests.”

“The Trump numbers are interesting. Few admit to liking his rhetoric. Supporters like his actions, while his detractors appear to dislike both words and deeds, though his words may be more troubling to them. These results should dispel the notion that his supporters are focused primarily on what he says.”


The Flag’s Still Flying at Hurley High

Photo of Hurley High taken through a car window.

Wendy Barry O’Neill, who lives in Florida these days, sent the attached photo of Hurley High School in Buchanan County, down in the coal fields taken recently, and I–like she–was taken aback by it. Hurley High is a public school in Virginia, and flies the Confederate flag on its front doors. Its athletic teams are known as the Rebels.

Hurley’s flags were at the center of a national debate in 2015, following mass shootings in South Carolina, but its officials did not relent and kept the flags, which are still flying. The community, apparently, still supports the nickname and the flags on the doors.

I don’t know the legality of flying a Confederate battle flag on a government building, but apparently there is no state prohibition. In 2015, The Roanoke Times quoted Hurley’s principal as saying, “They’re just good ol’ country folk here. They see it as like gun rights and driving pickup trucks and singing country music. There’s definitely no hate or racism associated with it here.”

My guess is that these are the same people who gave us Donald Trump.

Here’s Wendy’s note:

“In 2010-2011I lived in Grundy,  and worked for the Appalachian School of Law. Today on Facebook, I saw a picture of a friend whose oldest son is starting at Hurley High School – next door to Grundy in Buchanan County.

“The front doors–and there are four of them–are covered in a giant Confederate flag, one quarter on each door. That it is on the front doors of a school in 2018–or any year–appalls me. Surely someone in Virginia must object to that.”

Interesting Hike and Lots of Bugs

I’m not a cow, but I often eat like one.

A latter-day Daniel Boone is buried on the property.

Went out to Waid Park in Franklin County yesterday and discovered an interesting place honeycombed with hiking trails of all varieties and a small creek that accommodates small inflatable kayaks and inner tubes pretty well.

Waid Park is a former farm (with a lot of old, dilapidated farm buildings still standing–some barely) with a lot of atmosphere. It has ball fields in the upper quadrant and a large field–for other sports, I’d assume–on the far side of the creek. There is also a large corn field, one rich with feed corn right now, as I personally sampled.

As I am discovering this morning, there are a lot of biting bugs in the park, as well. I simply can’t bring myself to spray bug repellent. Just can’t do it.

This is the old farm house, covered with ivy, beautiful hydrangea and crepe myrtle.

The creek is shallow, choppy and picturesque, and it draws a lot of tubers (who can rent their equipment on site).

With recent heavy rain and dense humidity, mushrooms were everywhere yesterday including this one that was about six inches across.

This mushroom caught both the sun and my eye.


This is a small portion of a large barn, most of which has come tumbling down.

Vanity demands that I show off my new guns on my old body. (“Guns” being bulked up arms.)

In Defense of the News Media

The Recorder of Monterey, Va., is an old, small newspaper owned by my friend and hero Anne Witschey Adams, a woman who personifies the value of the press.

Today, newspapers across the country are sharing editorials that basically defend their right to exist in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

They are under attack by what is likely the worst presidential administration in our relatively brief 242 years of existence as a nation. It is an administration led by a sick despot whose primary goal in life is to have the rest of us fall at his feet and kiss his nasty toenails.

I don’t need to give you chapter and verse, but when Donald Trump called news reporters “the enemy of the people,” he echoed the sentiment of some of history’s worst dictators, people he appears to admire and hopes to emulate.

I’ve been a journalist for more than 50 years and during that time I have pissed some people off, but nobody ever said I was an “enemy of the people.” I’ve been called biased, inaccurate, stupid and careless, but never an “enemy of the people.” Because I have not been an enemy. Neither has any of the large number of reporters I’ve known over the years. They have been honest, mostly dedicated people whose primary intent was to give you information that could benefit you.

Ours is an honest, open profession when practiced as it is intended, but like most professions where people are the primary ingredient, its practitioners make mistakes, hear information wrong or interpret it incorrectly upon occasion. The best news people aren’t people who practice the craft perfectly, they are those who correct mistakes as directly, honestly and quickly as possible. The goal is to get it right.

Anne Adams, my friend who owns the Recorder in Monterey, a village in Highland County, is the very personification of the journalist both historically and in a modern context. Anne is a part of her community and she cares about her neighbors and their daily struggles. She has battled windmills and pipelines, crooked developers and their pocket patch politicians and she has taken stands that were occasionally unpopular. She has been threatened physically by the powerful while holding her children to her breast. And she has never flinched, never would flinch. She stands between them and you.

Getting it right these days means fighting back at the people who want to destroy us and, in the process, destroy the form of government that has served us for these 2.5 centuries. If we don’t stand up for those trying to inform us, we will lose them. And I can assure you that you don’t want that.

(Here is what some of the nation’s newspapers wrote as editorials today.)

Gratitude Today: Compensation for a Mistake

The Dairy Freez presented me with a peach soft ice cream.

I had an uneasy feeling about driving to Altavista this morning for an interview with a guy who seemed to fit well with a story I’m writing. It turns out I was right. About the uneasy feeling.

Altavista is a small town south of Lynchburg that is hidden so well that my GPS was laughing at me before the trip was done. It’s basically about an hour and a half from Roanoke, taking back roads through Roanoke, Bedford and Campbell Counties and not seeing much of the beautiful terrain of any of those three counties. It is a town of 3,500 people, founded in 1912.

Avoca, circa 1755, was the Altavista home of Charles Lynch.

The guy I was to interview didn’t fit the story at all and I realized that the minute I walked into his shop and saw a bunch of guns on the wall. I don’t write stories on people who profit from the sale or manufacture of guns, if I can help it and I was ready to walk out the front door when I asked if the guy in question was there. “He’s off today,” his employee said. I told him we had an appointment, so he called the guy, who said the appointment was tomorrow.

Maybe he was right, maybe not. Didn’t make a bit of difference once I saw the guns.

Regardless of who made the scheduling mistake (and my favorite ex-wife used to frequently tell me that I’m “calendar challenged”), I wiggled out of something I didn’t want to do and got to see a little town I like and even ate a peach soft ice cream at the local Dairy Freez.

So, shoot, I’m grateful that I didn’t get mad. Instead, I found something to like.