The trip begins
On Friday, July 10, 2015, I set out from Hanover County late in the afternoon for Pearisburg, my mother’s hometown in Southwest Virginia. Along for the ride was my oldest daughter, Hannah, 11. My cousin, Eric, had told me that he was tearing out part of his family farm’s old 1905 barn. He is trying to save the barn from being pulled down the Giles County hillside it has majestically overlooked since 1905. The view from the barn is gorgeous. Lush green hills swell and drop, to lift trees and rocks up toward the sky or cradle them in gentle pockets with the occasional pond.
I have many pleasant memories of childhood visits to that barn. My sister and cousins and I played, rode ponies and horses, and had the run of the farm when we were Hannah’s age. It was a magical place. Anything was possible there. it was in that barn that Eric convinced me that I could jump from the hayloft into a very small pile of straw he had brushed together. I did well to escape with only a sprained ankle. It was in a field near that farm that I convinced Eric that I could drive a truck. He agreed and I had my first auto accident. I drove my uncle’s green Ford Courier pickup truck into a telephone pole guy wire. The wire sliced into the plastic and light metal hood of the truck. But it also prevented me from sailing down an embankment into the old clapboard home of Sam Eaton. I did well to escape with only a summer’s worth of yard cutting to help pay for the damaged truck. I was 10.
Now I was glad for the opportunity to visit this side of my family again and to salvage some of the wood from a place that has meant so much to me.
We were driving my father’s red 1993 Ford pickup truck, which is in pretty good condition with the exception of the radio, or so I thought. I suspected the five-hour trip would challenge Hannah who has grown up being able to enjoy a portable DVD player on long trips like this. When I was her age, we simply counted cows and buried them when we passed a cemetery, or raced through the alphabet reading signs and license plates on nearby cars.
I needn’t have worried, though. Hannah was a superb traveler. We talked. She took pictures of the scenery with my phone. She texted reports from the road to her younger sister and a friend when we had a good signal, which was not always the case. It was a little like riding with a contemporary young Edward R. Murrow.