Sixteen years ago this month, wife Amy and I closed on the purchase of our current home in Floyd County, the third home we’ve lived in during nearly 41 years of marriage and, we hope, our final domicile.
It is a New England “saltbox” style stick-built home built for former Farm Bureau director Eric Quesenberry in 1977 and later became the home where John Paul Huston and his wife raised their children. We know that because of lines on the garage wall of the heights of the kids and the date they reached them remain, and we’ve never had wanted to paint them over. It is part of the house’s history.
When we married in 1979 in Alton, IL, we settled into a three-story townhome built-in 1885 on a hilltop street that gave the deck on the second floor a beautiful view of the Mississippi River.
Three years later, we packed all of our furniture and other belongings into a Ryder Rental Truck and drove 843 miles east to move into a condominium in a high rise on North Fairfax Drive in Arlington, VA.
For me, it was a return to the Old Dominion, my home for most of my childhood. For Amy, an Illinois native who had lived in a different place around the country (like New Orleans and Baltimore) with her mother and father, who was a union construction worker, this was a first visit to live in the South.
Alton was a city of about 40,000 in 1981 but was part of the St. Louis metro area that provided a lot of places to go and eat. Arlington, the location of the Pentagon and just across the Potomac from Washington, DC, was a larger metro area that included Baltimore and stretched west to Harper’s Ferry, WVa. and South to Richmond.
In 2004, after 23 years, a lot of world travel in my job first as a political operative and then in a long-overdue return to journalism, four presidents, a lot of history, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we decided to move to Floyd, in part to help my mother deal with issues of declining health and to hopefully slow down and enjoy life.
I became an anchor tenant in the Jacksonville Center, now the Floyd Center for Arts in a studio to provide photographic work and printing services. With a large-scale printer, I could provide poster size photographs, canvas banners, and wall hangings, and video work for clients.
I didn’t expect to keep reporting, but then-Floyd press editor Wanda Combs asked me to shoot photos of high school athletic events and other features, then assigned me to cover Circuit Court and the Board of Supervisors. The court work has been nonstop for the past 16 years with an interruption of the Supervisors coverage when a new editor, now gone, took it over for about a year. Back doing for the time being.
Did not expect to cover violence again after leaving the National Capital Region in 2004, but a telephone call jarred me awake on the morning of April 16, 2007. An assignment editor in Washington needed photos and other coverage of a reported shooting at Virginia. The shooting turned into a massacre that left 33 dead and more injured.
Some of my photos and reporting became part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the event by The Washington Post. Other images distributed by AFP (Agence France-Presse) appeared in other papers around the country and world.
So much for a quiet life in the country.
The Jacksonville Center was an “incubator” for new artistic enterprises. I later rented a corner space in the Village Green in downtown Floyd and ran the business and studio out of there until relocating it to our home a decade ago.
Our new home was four times the size of our condo in Arlington but we filled it with two “den/studios” (one for Amy, one for me) and other things we have collected during our four-plus decades of travel and adventure. We emptied one storage space in Arlington as part of our move but still have another in Fairfax that we need to empty and bring down to Floyd. Someday, we will.
With a large, sloping front yard that drops a few hundred feet from the hilltop where the home is placed and the private road at the end of our steep driveway, we are not considering planting trees for the lower half to cut down on trying to keep up with mowing a more than three-acre front yard.
At the moment, the interior looks something like a scene of “Hoarders” reality show on TV because of remodeling interrupted by my motorcycle accident in 2012 and two back surgeries for Amy in the last five years but we are getting back on our feet, albeit slowly, and hope to finish what we started.
I was born in Tampa, FL, 72+ years ago and my father died when I was nine months old in an industrial accident at his job. Lived with my mother for the first eight years of my life, including a move at age five from Gibsonton, FL to Floyd in 1953, then moved again to Farmville when she remarried. Returned to Floyd in 1961 with our expanded family and graduated from Floyd County High School in 1965 and took a reporting and photography job at The Roanoke Times until accepting a new job with The Telegraph in Alton in 1969.
Arrived in Alton with a new wife and left 12 years later with a newer one. Our dozen years there was the longest we have lived in any one place until the 23 years we spent in Arlington.
With 16 years in our present home in Florida, we will need eight more years to make this our longest time in one place.
Will we make it? I hope so, as long as a pandemic or the ravages of age don’t get in the way.