A Day of Mountain Culture at Ferrum

Hog butchering is a fact of farm life and we got a belly full of it (note the head on the table).

Found my redhead of the day right off the bat.

Ferrum College’s Blue Ridge Folklife Festival is an annual celebration of the ways of our mountains and today’s version was equally a celebration of our rain. It poured 2.5 inches of rain on the Blue Ridge Institute’s farm fields, creating a quagmire and keeping what is generally an overflow crowd to a manageable level–probably less than half the usual size.

There wasn’t even a traffic jam this year, if you get the picture.

Still, entertainment–whether you wanted to watch a leather worker make a belt (he did; for me), a brace of huge horses pull a sled, a mule jump, a hound swim or try to climb a pole, a team of country people cook cornbread and pintos, a roots music duo wail away, a knife maker work his magic or a steam powered tractor operate–was plentiful.

Billy Clements and his homemade 1901 car. He built it from scratch. That’s his grandfather’s tractor behind him.

I was especially taken with 74-year-old Billy Clements, whose family owns the tractor dealership up the road, and whose contribution to the festival was a 1901 replica (2/3 size) home-made automobile. Billy says he didn’t even know what the motor (1.5 horsepower) would look like until he finished making it. He drove the car around the soaked grounds and when it was parked, it was just in front of his grandfather’s steam-powered tractor, a really big one.

Because the rain made such a mess, parking on the Ferrum grounds was minimized, opting for a field half a mile away. The BRI furnished shuttle service and I got my thrill for the day when an attractive older woman (not quite as old as me), waved me into what looked like a full van and said, “You sit here; I’ll sit on your lap.”  Nice ride, I thought.

The past few years, I concentrated photos on the performing animals. This year, I found other topics just as interesting.

That’s my new belt ($25) being made. I’m wearing it now.

OK, so yes, I thought Alysha Fralin’s hair was natural and was quite taken by it. That smile is the last part of a laugh aimed at me.

Did somebody say mud?

Machines were big, heavy, loud and made to last.

It’s a game as old as horses and men.

Big old horses: the good …

… the big …

… and the, uh, stinky.

For horse people, this is a social event of the season.

Socializing wasn’t limited to the horse enthusiasts.

“Hogs like to smoke, too,” as my old buddy Bill Cate used to say.

Donkeys are cool.

I was right taken by this bass player and old-time music singer …

… with the green cowboy boots.

This pretty redhead offered me her seat, if she could sit on my lap. I said, “yes,” probably a little too eagerly.

Somebody has just had lunch and needs a napkin.

I ran into my good buddy T.K. Sharpley, who didn’t have her cameras with her. So I took the photo.

Now THAT, boys and girls, is a tractor. A big boy tractor.

A steam-powered ringer washer was once the latest thing for the homemaker.

Toy tractors on the tractor truck.

This old boy had some advice for us all.

Not a clue what this is, but it’s cool.

Julie Whalen had herbs to make us happy and healthy.

The marsh at the Ferrum farm.

This lady bought a knife as a present and wanted to make it more special with a photo of the knife maker, Louie Pierce.


A final resting place from a rural craftsman.

The little guys couldn’t resist a roll in the hay.

This barn was built in 1799 in Callaway, near Ferrum. It was moved to the Blue Ridge Institute farm.

A split level from the mid-19th Century.

A little girl learning a new trade.

This nice man was making baskets from scratch and offered me one of his winesap apples (which I eagerly accepted).

The pintos and cornbread were good (though not as good as mine, which are curing in the ‘fridge as we speak).

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