Blue Ridge Muse News, views and musings from Southwestern Virginia Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:27:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Robert E. Lee: Patriot or traitor? Thu, 17 Apr 2014 11:48:08 +0000 Robert E. Lee: Was he a traitor to his country?

Robert E. Lee: Was he a traitor to his country?

Questions over the “legacy” of Virginia son and Confederate General Robert E. Lee are emerging once again on the campus of the university named for him and George Washington in Lexington.

A group of law students want Washington & Lee to remove Confederate flags from the grounds, “acknowledge and apologize for participating in chattel slavery,” officially recognize Martin Luther King Day and ban a neo-Confederate march on campus during Lee-Jackson Day.

Their demands, of course, are not sitting well in a town where some would prefer the Stars and Bars flying in place of the American flag on streets.

Calling the students involved in the demands part of “a hotbed of these kinds” and claiming they “are not entitled to be offended,” the “commander” of the Lexington-based Stonewall Brigade of the Sons of Confederate Veterans told Luanne Rife of The Roanoke Times the students “would be better off in Communist China than in the United States.”

Strong words by Brandon Dorsey, the so-called “commander” who still thinks celebrating a war fought to protect “states’ rights” that included the “right” to own and use slaves is a source of pride.

As a native-born Southerner, I have long been bothered by the questionable practice of honoring those who, by most measures of patriotism, abandoned their country and became traitors by fighting against it.

When Robert E. Lee resigned his commission in the United States Army and signed on to command the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, he became — under the Code of Military Justice — a traitor of the United States.

Is such an action worthy of honor?  History has varying opinions on the matter but Virginia’s insistence of keeping a state holiday that honors both Lee and another Confederate general — Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson — for their actions raises questions about whether or not the hatred that sparked the Civil War is buried or still alive and well in the Commonwealth.

Confederate flags still fly in some of some homes in our area or drape the back windows of pickup trucks that are also adorned with bumper stickers that say “Forget Hell!” or proclaim other beliefs that the reasons for the war were valid.

Anjelica Hendricks and Dominik Taylor are two Virginians among the seven students protesting W&L’s continuing “tradition” of honoring a sordid past.

Hendricks told The Roanoke Times that W&L ignores Lee’s failures as both an American and a human being when it asks students to “sign an honor contract to uphold our honor according to the honor of Robert E. Lee.  Signing that contract in the shadow of a slave owner, and beneath plaques honoring Confederate soldiers and battle flags bowing to a movement to keep black people enslaved is hurtful.”

“I’m a native of Virginia. I know what it’s like to remember the past,” she said in her interview with the Times.  “However, I didn’t feel the racism and disrespect as I did in being asked to uphold an honor that aligns with the views of Lee.”

Taylor says the university’s practice of allowing neo-Confederates, costumed as soldiers of the South, to march across the campus and hold a ceremony on Lee-Jackson Day  hurts students and faculty and dishonors the school.

Proponents of the right to honor Lee claim that he and his wife inherited slaves from her father and set about to free them.  History, however, say otherwise, noting that freedom for the slaves was part of Lee’s father-in-law’s will and reporting that Lee fought in court to delay that freedom before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation forced him and other slave owners to comply.

Which, once again, raises the question:

Was Robert E. Lee a patriot or a traitor?

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Hank Aaron’s truth about racism Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:55:23 +0000 Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron  (Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron
(Photo by Dave Martin/Getty Images)

Hank Aaron, a deserving member of baseball’s Hall of Fame and the man who broke the total home runs record of Babe Ruth, made the mistake of speaking the truth recently when he told USA Today that America is still a racist nation.

Said Aaron after noting that he received a lot of racist hate mail as he closed in on Ruth’s record and adding that he still has that mail because it serves:

“To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’ s not a whole lot that has changed.

“We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go.

“The bigger difference is back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

To prove not all that much has changed, the racists crawled out from under their troglodyte bunkers and invoked obscenities and racial slurs to claim they aren’t racist.

Notes columnist Jonathan Capehart in a piece published in today’s Washington Post:

“Hank Aaron is a scumbag piece of (expletive) (racial slur)’” a man named Edward says in an e-mail to the Braves front office obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

Edward invokes the epithet five times in four sentences, closing with, “My old man instilled in my mind from a young age, the only good (racial slur) is a dead (racial slur).” . . .

Marion calls Aaron a “racist scumbag.” Ronald won’t attend another Braves game until Aaron is fired. Mark calls Aaron a “classless racist.’” David says that he will burn Aaron’s “I Had A Hammer” autobiography.

Bring up racism in today”s society and you find those who embrace bigotry screaming the loudest in claiming they aren’t what they are.

Sadly, I hear racial slurs used too often in conversation locally nowadays.  Much of it is directed at America’s first black President: Barack Obama.

So it’s no surprise that much of screaming and yelling about what Hank Aaron said comes from those who can’t handle being called what they are: Racists, bigots, homophobes and haters in general.

We saw the ugly face of racism in the so-called, and easily discredited “birther” movement that tried to claim Obama was not an American by birth.  Much of that hate came from the Republican-dominated “tea party” movement.  Interestingly, calling the tea party a “movement” is valid only if you compare it to a similar movement called diarrhea.  Like diarrhea, the tea party creates something that stinks to high heaven and is composed entirely of fecal matter.

Does this mean all Republicans are racist?  Of course not but as long as extreme right-wing zealots dominate the party’s agenda, they will be considered part of a mass that classifies blacks and other minorities as something beneath them.

It is sad that Hank Aaron now is enduring more hate and bigotry from the racists who still exist in our society.  All he did was tell the truth and when he did, racists screamed out in pain because the truth hurts.

As it should.

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Logistical changes for FloydFest Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:21:53 +0000 123113floydfest

Parking and weather problems from last year’s FloydFest is leading to changes this year on how the summer music event just off the Blue Ridge Parkway will handle parking and camping.

The festival hopes to avoid problems that turned parking lots into seas of mud and problems with campsites.  General admission parking is now all off site and more use of shuttle buses will be put into place with longer hours for transportation.

In addition, the length of the summer event continues to grow and FloydFest now bills itself as a five-day “staycation.”

All this and more from a recent press release:

Since its inception, FloydFest, the summer outdoor music festival near Floyd, VA, has celebrated its status as a truly unique, fiercely independent festival experience that challenges the definition of the typical ‘summer music festival.’  That’s why, for its 13th year, FloydFest is bringing its fans a Revolutionary 5-day music, outdoors, and healing arts experience that will embrace the beauty of creativity, evolution, and positive change.  Among the changes taking place this year, the festival is offering attendees a full 5-day staycation, from July 23rd – 27th.  Festival-goers will also discover a bold new musical line-up, featuring an unprecedented melding of R&B, Blues, Reggae, Americana, and more.

“We are committed to constantly stretching our horizons so that we may continue to grow as a festival and as a community,” says co-founder and CEO Kris Hodges.  “We’re re-inventing themes, exploring new musical genres, and providing an uncharted experience for our fans that will both challenge and fulfill the body and soul.”

Implementing positive change requires a great deal of communication, and FloydFest has been working diligently to implement suggestions from attendees in years past that will help make this year’s festival as enjoyable as possible.  For 2014, the following important logistical changes have been put in place:


All on- site campers will be given a designated 15×15 camping area with the purchase of a Tent Tag prior to the festival.  All RV camping has been moved off the festival site to the nearby Delta lot, while the Bravo lot will be designated for off-site car camping.  All car campers will be issued a parking ticket that allots for a 10×10 parking space right next to their vehicle.


All General Admission parking has been moved off-site to the Alpha lot.  The Alpha, Bravo, and Delta lots are all flat, spacious, and easily-accessible to all types of vehicles.  To make the check-in process easier, Alpha Lot ticket check-in and parking payment will occur directly at the lot, so be sure to bring cash!  Spaces for RV’s at the Delta Lot and Car Camping at the Bravo Lot will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis during the festival, unless sold out via pre-event online sales.  Powered RV spots are currently sold-out.

Shuttle Service

Shuttles to and from the festival site and all parking lots will run continuously from 9am until 2am every day.  Each individual shuttle will be assigned a truck with an equipment trailer, so campers will never have to be separated from their gear.

Severe Weather Preparedness

Summer weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains is about as predictable as next year’s FloydFest theme, and the festival has taken every possible precaution to ensure that attendees will be safe, comfortable and able to access transportation should a severe weather event occur.  FloydFest staff have planned extensively with all local farmers, garages, and area law enforcement regarding severe weather preparedness and evacuation procedures.  Harboring fears of an on-site mud pit?  Fear no longer – this year’s festival site will feature gravel pathways from the entrance all the way through the main field.

“Our top priority has been and always will be the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of our attendees,” says Hodges.  “We received a lot of great feedback from last year, and we’re utilizing it to ensure that we bring FloydFest fans the safest, most enjoyable festival experience that we possibly can.”

For more information and the full 2014 ‘Revolutionary’ artist line-up, visit, or call 1-888-VA-FESTS.

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The winter that just won’t die Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:03:14 +0000 120813ice1

Thought we had written all that needed to be said about cold weather and winter this year.


The thermometer hovered around 22 degrees this morning as a mid-April cold front moved into the area and promised cooler days and another below freezing night into Thursday morning before starting to edge back up as the weekend approaches.

Some county residents saw snow spitting along with the rain into late afternoon and early evening Wednesday.

The National Weather Service says to expect highs in the 50s through Friday and then back into the 60s for the weekend.

Call it Mother Nature’s revenge or just a last gasp of the Winter that wouldn’t die.

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A public battle with no winners Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:57:19 +0000 Floyd County's Board of Supervisors:  County Administrator Dan Campbell (left), Joe Turman (Burks Fork), Lauren Yoder (Locust Grove), Case Clinger (Courthouse), Virgel Allen (Little River) and Fred Gerald (Indian Valley)

Floyd County’s Board of Supervisors: County Administrator Dan Campbell (left), Joe Turman (Burks Fork), Lauren Yoder (Locust Grove), Case Clinger (Courthouse), Virgel Allen (Little River) and Fred Gerald (Indian Valley)

A word used often in the ongoing public debate over the budget crisis facing Floyd County is “unreasonable.”

Those who support the school board’s push to obtain up to $2.2 million in funds for the coming fiscal year say the board of supervisors is “unreasonable” to expect the education system to exist on funds that appear, more or less, on a level with the current year but really represent a five percent cut of nearly a million dollars.

And supporters of the supervisors’ desire to hold the line on taxes say the school board is also unreasonable to claim it cannot function effectively on a $20 million budget that eats up two-thirds of county expenditures.

School Superintendent Kevin Harris Monday presented the school board with a list of “alternatives” that he said are necessary to consider in dealing with the funds that supervisors are allocating for the new fiscal year that starts on July 1.

Those “ideas” include elimination of teachers, assistants and other staff not required by the state, cutting athletic programs, sharing of some positions between schools and eliminating art, music and physical education teachers.

Some claim the talk of cuts is more rhetoric than reality and feel school officials can, and will, find a way to reallocate existing funds cover most of the expenses.

The debate, which often descends into name-calling by both sides, stems from a stagnant economy and a $30 million overall budget that is so tight that country administrator Dan Campbell said it best three years ago when he noted that Floyd County, like so many residents  in normal life, “lives from paycheck to paycheck and, in our case, those paychecks only come twice a year.”

“Twice a year” is when property taxes are collected from county residents and the local government is so cash-strapped that it must depend on a $1.8 million revolving line of credit to cover times when there isn’t enough money in the bank to meet expenses.

Floyd County’s school bus fleet is so old that much of the rolling stock has more than 200,000 miles.  That point was driven home Friday when a bus crashed after something broke in its running gear.  Thankfully, no students were on board and the driver was not injured.

But the school system is not alone in dealing with an aging fleet of vehicles.  The sheriff’s department, which depends on police cruisers to deal with the county’s growing crime rate, needs at least two new cars this year to replace just part of a fleet where most cars have 150,000 miles or more.  The rescue squad and fire department needs new ambulances and tanker trucks.

Many county residents ride the roads on cars, trucks and vans with far more than 100,000 miles on the odometers.  More than a few who live and cope with life here face a federal income tax day Tuesday without enough money in the bank to cover what is due.  A restaurant owner in Floyd locked her doors earlier this year after falling $15,000 behind in local taxes.  Another business owner faced a threat of criminal charges after bouncing a check on state taxes.

Those who support the school system’s efforts to force the county board to raise taxes this year say education comes first, even in a cash-strapped local government.  Opponents of increased taxes say claims of a five percent shortfall in funds due to nearly a million dollars in carryover funds from year is smoke and mirrors from an entity that should be able to provide public education on $20 million a year in a rural county.

Others call the battle a clash of egos between a strong-willed school superintendent and an equally-determined chairman of the board of supervisors.

Right now, the majority of supervisors oppose a tax increase and remember that Burks Fork supervisor Diane Belcher and Little River’s Kerry Whitlock lost their bids for re-election in a GOP canvas in 2007 in large part because they voted for a tax increase a year earlier.  Former board chairman David Ingram lost his bid for re-election three years ago after he voted for the county’s last tax increase.

Some feel that no matter what happens in this latest debate, it is a battle without winners and one where the losers will be the students who depend on a struggling school system and a cash-strapped county government for an education.

School superintendent Kevin Harris

School superintendent Kevin Harris

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The tax man cometh…or maybe not Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:12:31 +0000 041514taxesApril 15th, the calendar says, is the deadline for filing federal income taxes.

For some, maybe, but for most it isn’t.

The deadline really applies only to those who owe taxes.  If you have a refund coming, you can file late without a penalty.  Many do.

If you didn’t make enough last year to file a return, you don’t have to do a thing except struggle to live on an income that is too low to owe anything to Uncle Sam.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, about three-quarters of those who need to file income tax forms have money coming back.

So they can file now and get a refund sooner than later, or they can file later and let the government have use of their funds without paying interest.

If you owe money to the government, you can file for an extension until August 15 but you will have to submit what you think you owe with the request.

Confusing?  Of course it is.  It’s taxes.

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Down by the old Mabry Mill stream Mon, 14 Apr 2014 07:13:27 +0000 Mabry Mill, sporting new water buckets and more

Mabry Mill, sporting new water buckets and more

Looks like repairs to the water wheel for Mabry Mill did not require removing the iconic item from the structure and shipping it off to North Carolina after all.

Instead, the wheel, sporting new parts, remains in place as work continues on one of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s most popular tourists spots as both the restaurant and visitor area prepare for seasonal openings at the beginning in May.

New water buckets, updates to the support structure and other items are visible on wheel at the Mill and work continues not only on the wheel but on other buildings and structures that are part of the attraction.

The restaurant, under a new vendor with a 10-year contract, is sporting fresh paint and other improvements.

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Beating Warner: Impossible dream? Sun, 13 Apr 2014 17:54:30 +0000 Mark Warner on stage with former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.  Both now serve together in the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Doug Thompson)

Mark Warner on stage at the Friday Night Jamboree in Floyd with former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine. Both now serve together in the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Doug Thompson)

The latest “Man of La Mancha” moment for Virginia Republicans is the incredibly impossible dream of unseating popular Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the former governor who is about as close as they come to a sure thing in political circles.

Even worse, 4,000 GOP delegates come to Roanoke on June 7 with the the laughable task of picking among four sure losers for the questionable role of running as the hand-picked candidate of the party of the elephant against Warner in his first re-election effort.

Leading the list is former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie, now a lobbyist living in Fairfax off his golden years as part of the Bush bunch and one who thinks he can repeat the success of former Democratic National Committee boss and current Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe.

Challenging Gillespie is Stafford County “congressional policy adviser” Ton DeTora, Air Force veteran Shak Hill from Centreville and businessman Chuck Moss in Prince Edward County.

The GOP can, and will, nominate just about anybody — as they proved by picking rabid right-wing zealot E.W. Jackson as the party’s lieutenant governor.  Jackson, a fundamentalist preacher from Chesapeake, got into hot water and cost his party votes every time he opened his mouth.  The race for the second spot on the ticket was the first one decided in last year’s election.

If the GOP selection is Gillespie, and most — including University of Virginia political guru Larry Sabato — see him as close to a sure shot, reporters will have a field day with the man who, as an aide to former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. drafted most of the party’s “Contract With America,” the highly-touted campaign tool that helped the GOP secure a majority in the House of Representatives in 1994.

The “Contract With America” was both a political tool for victory and a sham that was quickly ignored and forgotten by the GOP when they seized power.  It promised term limits — the first idea dropped by Republican after victory — and an end to pork barrel-laden legislation.  What followed was largest influx of pork in history.

Gillespie, a New Jersey native, has enough skeletons in his closet to bring on a din of bone-rattling noise.

Warner served as one of the most popular governors in history and replaced popular Senator John Warner (no relation), who retired in 2008.

Virginians put the new Warner in office with 65 percent of the vote against another former governor — Republican Jim Gilmore.  Warner carried all but four counties.  Even heavily Republican Floyd County gave him a majority.

Republicans say they will use Warner’s support for President Barack Obama as a campaign issue against him.

An interesting ploy, since Obama carried Virginia in 2008 along with Warner.  Did the party of the elephant forget that?


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All-Timesland Buffaloes Sun, 13 Apr 2014 08:21:18 +0000 Caleb Tanner:  A record season at FCHS

Caleb Tanner: A record season at FCHS

Two Floyd County High School basketball players scored spots on the first teams for both boys and girls and a third made second team for the girls in the 2014 All-Timesland lineup Sunday.

Senior Caleb Tanner, who wrapped up his senior year with a new state record for career scoring, is player of the year for the boys team while junior Carley Lytton made the top five for the girls.

Sophomore Ragan Wiseman made the second team for the girls in the roundup, which is an annual recognition published by The Roanoke Times.

The recognitions come in a year when both the Buffaloes and Lady Buffaloes made it to the regional playoffs.

Carley Lytton

Carley Lytton

Ragan Wiseman

Ragan Wiseman



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To tax or not to tax Sat, 12 Apr 2014 11:18:29 +0000

If speakers who have appeared at recent meetings of both the School Board and Board of Supervisors represent an accurate demographic of Floyd County, a tax increase is overwhelmingly favored to support increased needs of a new fiscal year budget that goes into effect on July 1.

Some supervisors, however, say comments from the constituents they represent run overwhelmingly against a tax increase.

Here at Blue Ridge Muse, emails run about 50 – 50 for and against paying more taxes to support budget increases primarily for the county school system, which currently accounts for about two-thirds of the $30 million plus budget.  Same for comments during breakfast at Blue Ridge Restaurant during the week.

So what really is the will of the voters?  Unknown at this point.  No formal public opinion polls exist on the question in Floyd County.  The last three county supervisors to lose re-election bids point to their votes in favor of previous tax increases as primary reasons for their defeat at the polls.

Perhaps the question should be put to voters in a referendum in an upcoming election.  That might gives voters a chance to say what they want at the ballot box.  That might also be dangerous because tax increases usually lose in public referendums, particularly in areas where conservatives dominate elections.

Most supervisors tell me a tax referendum would probably fail because Floyd County is, by and large, conservative.  They are probably correct about the right-wing makeup of the electorate.

The current Board of Supervisors is all Republican.  Among elected county officers, only Commonwealth’s Attorney Stephanie Shortt is not a card-carrying member of the GOP.  She runs as an independent.

Republicans dominate election results in Floyd County, even when the outcome goes the other way statewide.

For example, Barack Obama carried the state easily in the 2012 Presidential election but Mitt Romney finished at the top of the Presidential ballot easily in Floyd County.

Same for the governor’s race in 2014. Terry McAuliffe won Virginia but Ken Cuccinelli led the ballot locally.

Many years ago, President Richard Nixon used to talk about the “silent majority,” a part of the electorate he claimed was silent everywhere except the ballot box.

Nixon’s “silent majority” consisted mostly of older Americans — much like the bulk of the population of Floyd County.

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