Still Flooding Along the Greenway

This is the Walnut Avenue Bridge. The trees in the center are the normal demarcation between the greenway and the river.

I just got back from an attempted walk on the Roanoke River Greenway through  Wasena and Smith Parks and down toward the sewage treatment plant. Most of that is underwater still and more rain is expected today and tomorrow.

This is the other side of the Walnut Avenue Bridge, which has a depth marking on the side. It measured 10-feet over flood stage today.

My guess is that I’m going to have to find another place to walk over the next few days, a place going up mountains instead of down by the waterside. ‘Course, that has its own hazards, as I discovered a while ago trying to scale a steep hill that was wet. Hope the stains come out of my jeans.

Here is some of what the greenway looks like today.

This is the river just below the Blue Cow ice cream parlor. The greenway is under the water. The river would not normally show in this photo.
This view is near the old American Viscose Plant, with Mill Mountain in the center of the photo. At the end of the rock wall, the greenway is completely underwater.

The Right Choice for My Friend Carl

That’s Carl, back row right with the gorgeous and truly nice Perry sisters and somebody I don’t recognize. I apologize for the quality of the photo, but it’s the only one I could find.

I talked to my old friend Carl Waycaster for about 45 minutes on the phone yesterday and I will say without reservations that some friendships have their own momentum and never slow down.

I haven’t seen Carl since high school, about 55 years ago, but you’d have thought we had lunch last week judging from the conversation.

I met Carl, a dark, curly-haired, good-looking full Cherokee, during my senior year at Cranberry High School in far mountains of North Carolina. We began as football teammates and I was in awe of Carl, who to this day remains my favorite defensive football player, even though he weighed just 165 pounds and played in the middle of the line. He was tough, fast, smart, instinctive, and found his sport to be pure joy. He laughed and yelled and encouraged (teammates and opponents, whom he often picked up after leveling them) and so thoroughly enjoyed every minute he spent on the field that it had a great impact on us all.

This is me at the time Carl and I first met.

Carl had and still has a deep speech defect that made him hard to understand until you’d been around him for a while and began to speak his language. It took me a while because he talks so fast, but I adjusted and found one of God’s best people behind that speech pattern. My mother adored Carl and they were so relaxed together that she was comfortable enough to make jokes about the way he talked. Carl loved it and those two were fast friends.

I had gone into my senior year at a new school, knowing almost nobody and raising suspicion among many of the country boys as an outsider from a “big city” (Asheville, which is hardly big, but compared to Cranberry–population 62 families–was a metropolis). One guy in particular, Jackie Buchanan, detested me from Day 1 and when he found out I had a bad knee, he took a couple of shots at it one day in practice.

I watched Carl pull Jackie over to the side and have a conversation with him during practice. Carl said yesterday, “I tole him, if he ever hit you like that again, I break his neck and he know I would.” Jackie never went after my knee again, though I didn’t know why at the time.

This is Joyce. The eyes are still big and blue half a century later and she’s still the sweet, warm, kind woman she was then.

I discovered during our phone conversation that Carl had a crush on the same girl who attracted me, Joyce Watson, but she was taken by the self-same Jackie Buchanan and Carl and I kept our crushes to ourselves. Joyce told me a few years ago at a high school reunion that she felt the same way about me and I was floored. We would have been a great couple.

Carl had some tough teen years, working a 350-acre farm through long, sweaty days, but his step-father threw him out of the house when Carl was a junior and he had to live hand to mouth. He found a barn to live in and people who would occasionally put him up, but he made it through and still managed to be an All-Conference and All-Western North Carolina football player.

His life after high school sounds pretty ordinary, but ordinary is great when you face all the obstacles this good guy faced. Want a learning moment? Talk to Carl for a while and discover just how fortunate you are and just how important an indomitable attitude is.

Carl is a man whose life has revolved around the joy he found amid the difficulty. It was his choice and he made the right ones.


Back to the Woods for Smileyboy

Smileyboy is at (temporary) home on this uprooted tree today. Somebody may move him along the trail later.

About a month or so ago, I ran across a little plastic yellow man with a smiley face sitting on a small bridge on the hiking trail at Tinker Mountain. My hiking buddy and I noted the little guy, took a couple of photos of us with him and left him where we found him.

This is where I left my buddy (on the right).

A couple of weeks later, I ran into him again, this time in a tree stump at one of the 34 or so trails at Carvins Cove. I was by myself and thought, “Heck, I’ll take Mr. Smiley along for the ride.” And I did. I re-named him “Smileyboy” and he’s been my companion while hiking since.

This morning, I got a note from one of my old pals who reminded me that Smileyboy was a trail fixture and that I should not have appropriated him for my own entertainment. I thought, “Well, he’s right. Smileyboy belongs to us all.”

So I set about correcting the error and now his yellowness is back on the Carvins Cove trail, awaiting other hikers’ interest.

I enjoyed our hikes, Smileyboy.


Smileyboy, the Hiker’s New Pal

Smileyboy: Have a nice hike.
This is Smileyboy in his new hiking gear (on my belt).

I ran into this little guy, whom I promptly named “Smileyboy,” several days ago while hiking at Carvins Cove. He was sitting on a bridge, greeting the public and I left him there, after picking him up and patting his head. I ran a photo of it on this blog.

Yesterday, while hiking Tinker Mountain, he showed up again, this time smiling up from me on a stump. I thought, “this is too much of a coincidence. Smileyboy wants to come along.” So I adjusted a strap on my water bottle container, slid him in, and now, he’s going to be a permanent fixture on my hikes. You’ll see photos of him in different places in the future and I’ll welcome the company.



A Day on the Water at the Roanoke River

The kid in the center didn’t want to go off the Wasena Bridge backwards, so we accommodated him.
Here’s the solo dive off the bridge.

It’s the middle of the work-week, so I didn’t expect a lot of activity along the Roanoke River today. Boy! Did I get a surprise. The river in Wasena Park was a beehive of swimmers, tubers, divers, fisherpeople (I apologize for that, but I don’t know what else to call them), hikers, bikers, basketball players … and on and on.

It was fun to watch and more fun to take part, especially when three young teen-aged boys decided they’d show off for my camera. Cool kids taking a cooler dip.

Family floating under the low-water bridge on Wiley Drive.
The “beach” at Vic Thomas Bridge looked inviting.
Tubers hit the riffles in the Roanoke River.
This group of 20-somethings is heading back to the Thomas Bridge for another run down the river.

A Church’s Realistic Mask-Wearing Protocol


I shot this photo I Botetourt County several years ago. I call it “The Church in the Wildwood” and it is what Christians dream of as a church, I suspect.

Last week, I reported that my pal Robert Stutes, a United Methodist minister in the Roanoke Valley, told me that his church had a pretty strict protocol on wearing masks during service. This is, obviously, a church that cares about its adherents and wants them to be healthy, as well as spiritual. Here is the precise wording:

UMC protocol on re-opening buildings and face coverings: If the person does not have a face covering, they do not enter any service, indoor or outdoor. Have the greeter by the door lock the door if the person approaching the building refuses to wear a face covering. Monitor the service to ensure that everyone wears the face covering the entire time on church property and until they get back in their vehicle. If someone removes his/her face covering, they will be asked to put the face-covering back on. If the person refuses, the service will be stopped and everyone will leave. The person that violates the “mandatory face-covering rule” will not be allowed back on church property until he/she agrees to comply with all of the requirements, rules, protocols, and guidelines.

“If the person does not have a face covering, they do not enter any service, indoor or outdoor. Have the greeter by the door lock the door if the person approaching the building refuses to wear a face covering.

“Monitor the service to ensure that everyone wears the face covering the entire time on church property and until they get back in their vehicle.

“If someone removes his/her face covering, they will be asked to put the face-covering back on. If the person refuses, the service will be stopped and everyone will leave. The person that violates the ‘mandatory face-covering rule’ will not be allowed back on church property until he/she agrees to comply with all of the requirements, rules, protocols, and guidelines.”

Robert adds this caveat: “Big adjustment for us also will be requiring a signed health form from anyone who attends and requiring four days’ notice if you plan to attend! It will be interesting for these laidback Methodists. And there’s no singing and no coffee!”


Few Masks, Lots of Beauty in Botetourt

Even in the deep woods (in front of the Roaring Run furnace), a mask is a good idea.

I’m not sure if I should have been surprised at the crowd, but there it was in remote Botetourt County at 10 a.m. and I wasn’t in church. This was Roaring Run, a sweet hike in the middle of nowhere, and the parking lot was full and growing by the minute.

Kids found the Roaring Run rock irresistible.

Of course, I had the only face mask in the crowd, but that wasn’t surprising. I think a lot of Americans believe the COVID19 pandemic is over and it’s back to normal. That, of course, is the attitude that will kill many more of us as we approach 2 million cases of what is right now an incurable virus. 110,000 of us have died, but yesterday there was not a single sign of concern.

Maybe they are right. But if they aren’t …

The creek winds up the gorge.

On the way home, I stopped at the newly-open Goodwill store in Daleville, just to scope it out, then Kroger to pick up some supplies. Few masks, even though Goodwill had a sign on the front door saying people not wearing a mask should not enter. I didn’t buy anything, but it looked like GWLtd had been crowded all day and its abundant stock was dwindling. Back to normal, I guess.

The hike itself was as it always is at Roaring Run: breathtaking and churchy. It is easy to feel spiritual in these surroundings and those of us who live here, I think, understand just how fortunate we are.

This is supposed to be a view of Roaring Run from an overlook. Not so much.
The beagle wasn’t interested in a swim. The people were.
Recent heavy rain brought down a lot of trees.
This sign used to be up on the right side of the waterfall at Roaring Run. It is now about 1/4 of a mile downstream.
I have rarely seen such crowds at the falls.
I can’t get tired of this view.
Here’s what they came to see.
Looking downstream from just under the falls, where I was sitting.
Somebody just had to get his feet into the 54-degrees water. And it was lovely.


Rocks have built up a lot of color from funguses, but who cares why? It’s mighty pretty.
Here’s the furnace again (it made charcoal which melted iron) without me blocking the view.

Magnolia Blossom vs. the Heat

I shot this on my walk yesterday.

I shot this photo of a magnolia in full bloom yesterday near Roanoke Memorial Hospital. When I was a kid in South Carolina we had a huge magnolia outside my bedroom window.

Now, you know how hot South Carolina is in the summer. When the magnolia was in bloom, its aroma was so overwhelming that I had to close my bedroom window and I soon discovered that dying of the heat was preferable to dying of magnolia perfume.

But magnolias are lovely, all the same.


How To Get the Masks On (the Methodists Know)

The woman at the head of the Goodwill Industries line had no mask. She was served anyway.

I just visited Goodwill in Botetourt County a bit ago, since this is apparently the first day it has been opened in a couple of months and noticed what is becoming an increasing phenomenon: people totally ignoring signs that they are not welcome inside businesses without wearing masks. About half the patrons in GWLtd were wearing masks.

There is a simple cure for that, one that doesn’t involve violence. My pal Robert Stutes, a United Methodist Church minister in Roanoke, tells me this: “The new specs for re-opening Methodist churches require face coverings, and if someone refuses to put one on, and if that person refuses to leave, we are told to shut it down and send everyone home.”

Oh, would that ever result in some serious peer pressure?!?


Are Trump Supporters Stupid, Or Is It Worse?

Quartz photo of Trump rally.

This was written by a guy named Adam-Tony Castro and has been making the rounds of the internet. I thought I’d post it here in larger, clearer format so you can read it. There’s a lot to absorb here, but it needs to be said.

The original question, the one that inspired this missive, was, “Why do people think that Trump supporters are stupid?”

Here is what Castro came up with:

What you don’t get, Trump supporters, is that our succumbing to frustration and shaking our heads, thinking of you as stupid, may very well be wrong and unhelpful, but it’s also…hear me…charitable. Because if you’re NOT stupid, we must turn to other explanations, and most of them are less flattering.