Back when Amy and I decided to leave the Washington, DC, area after 23 years and relocate to Floyd County, Virginia, I promised her we would “be bored.”
I remembered Floyd as a quiet little hamlet during my years in high school from 1962-65, especially after the racial turmoil we saw and experienced in volatile Prince Edward County while living there after the public schools closed and the racist school board replaced them with a private, all-white school, to prevent integration ordered by the federal government.
Racial intolerance helped drive us from Farmville back to the home of my mother and stepfather. A quiet, often-limited, lifestyle, greeted us. The world elsewhere did little to affect us.
The Floyd I left in 1965 did not have a Friday Night Jamboree. Circuit Court held sessions once a month — if at all on some months under the eye of W. Southall Jordan — and cases mostly involved an occasional fight, a stolen car and, once in a while, a violent crime.
The population of the town of Floyd was 435 with one stoplight then. When we moved into our home here in 2004, the population was 434 with still one stoplight.
“Floyd has zero population growth because every time a baby is born, some guy leaves down,” my grandfather, Walter Mcpeak, once said.
Floyd had a few national “chain stores” when I left: Western Auto, Ben Franklin and Piggly Wiggly. There were gone in 2004, replaced by the like of Hardees, Family Dollar and Food Lion.
Floyd, however, did change and more was coming. Grants for renovation changed the look of downtown. Tourism grew because visitors want to visit “country life.” Sustainable farming became a commodity.
Retail shops feature art, some of it involving local scenes, other the art of its owners, some local, others from out-of-town. Gourmet “coffee shops” came and went downtown. One remains but is moving from downtown to just past the Post Office on North Main Street.
Other changes in restaurants involved new owners, two pizza establishments and more. The Floyd Country Store, with new ownership, opened through the week and added new shows, more merchandise and expanded eating.
We lost one of two auto parts stores, the local pharmacy changed owners and later became part of the giant CVS chain after the new local owner went to prison.
What happens in the world outside Floyd County is now easy to watch on cable and satellite TV or steaming on the Internet. Social media often brings nasty debate over actions in Washington and around the world into our homes. We debate NFL players who kneel instead of stand when the national anthem is played. That is their right. They are called “unpatriotic” or “Un-American” by our president. We get caught up in debates about the latest lie of our president or his latest expression of racism.
When Wanda Combs, editor of the paper the Floyd Press, asked me to shoot some sports photos, I agreed. One game turned into coverage for each sport through each season.
She then asked me to cover Circuit Court, which held hearings twice a month, double the number from 40 years earlier. Sure, I said. Then the Board of Supervisors. OK.
County government changed since 1965. Floyd had a county manager when we came in 2004 — a new position from the old days. Other changes included a Department of Social Services and a new Economic Development Park. I remember when the county budget topped $1 million back in the 60s. Now it tops $35 million annually.
Even more changes in the court: A growing criminal docket, most involving an increasing drug problem, but others with sexual crimes.
When new Circuit Court judge Marc Long came to the bench, court cases increased to weekly. So did drug cases, crimes involving theft and sexual abuse.
Amy now watches the hours I spend each week covering increased crime, government activities and a heavy sports photography schedule and asked: “What happened to boring? You lied.”
Yeah, I guess I did. Not intentionally.
It ain’t boring and we like it that way.