Ten years ago, on the last weekend of September 2004, Floyd Press editor Wanda Combs asked me to shoot photographs of Buffalo football at a Friday night game.
Shooting those photos would be the first photography for The Floyd Press in 39 years. My last news assignment for the paper had been in May of 1965, a week before graduation from Floyd County High School and a few days before I packed up some clothes, my Nikon 5 camera & four lenses, and a portable typewriter to start my daily newspaper job at The Roanoke Times.
Amy and I came to Floyd over Memorial Day in 2002 to shoot a documentary on The Friday Night Jamboree and we opened a studio at The Jacksonville Center on January 1 of 2004 as a companion to another operation in the Washington area. We spent time between Washington and Roanoke and i covered the Presidential campaign of 2004 as my last assignment as a Washington-based photojournalist.
In December of that year, I came to Floyd to retire and take care of my mother, whose health was declining. In conversations with Wanda, I said that if she needed any help with photography, please let me know.
She did. I shot that game in September and others that followed, including basketball. Then she asked if I could cover the Board of Supervisors as a reporter, then also the county courts.
So much for retirement. I took on FloydFest and other assignments, not only for The Floyd Press but also for Media General, the chain that owned the paper.
From time to time, phone calls from assignment editors in Washington asked for help on a story in Southwestern Virginia.
On the morning of April 16, 2007, an editor called and asked how quickly could get to Blacksburg and Virginia Tech. For the following week, coverage of a breaking national news story took once again took over and I worked around the clock covering the Tech shootings.
I’ve provided video coverage for CNN and other cable news outlets, photographs for newspapers and magazines and stories in both print and broadcast around the world over the last decade.
When we moved to Floyd, I put away the “away bag” that used to sit by our door. Another bag of cameras sat next to it and both often ended up on plane to some far off location and a news event. For a while, I also worked for Uncle Sam and a phone call would bring a quick trip to the airport and an emergency somewhere in the world.
On the day after the 2004 election, I returned from a flight from California and Amy and I had three weeks to finish packing up the condo we called some for 23 years and headed for our new come on a hilltop in Floyd County.
The “away bag” didn’t stay in the closet for very long While the location changed, what I do has not. My work today for The Floyd Press, BH Media and other news outlets often takes up to 60 ours a week.
On November 2012, I laid my Harley-Davidson down on U.S. 221 at the bottom of Bent Mountain to try and avoid hitting a black steer on a dark road late on a Friday night. I was returning from a covering a playoff football game in Staunton.
The 45-days in the hospital and several more months in rehab slowed me down some but I’m back at what I do. Others can — and often do — judge if what I do is good or bad. I’m a newsman. I do it because it’s what I am and I love it.
The “away bag” is back by the door and the question is not if it does out the door with me but when, where and how long.