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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

House on the Hill

Rocky Knob, the first "scenic overlook" one encounters when entering southbound on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Virginia Route 8, holds a lot of memories.

Raging teenage harmones often drew me to The Knob during the high school years in Floyd County. The '57 Ford's AM radio would pull in WLS in Chicago or WABC in New York, the perfect backdrop for two teenagers trying to figure out what goes where and why.

Meatloaf sang about such teen agnst in his rock classic Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

Maybe, for fun, we ought to survey those who grew up in Floyd County to find out just how many lost their virginity at Rocky Knob, either in the backseat of a car or on a blanket in the shelter at the top of the trail. Buffalo Mountain
The Knob has always been a special place, not only for memories of those nights when one young lady or another helped me steam up the windows of that '57 Ford but also for the number of pictures

I have shot in and around the overlook. It offers one of the best views of the Buffalo plus an incredible view of the valley below, leading into Stuart. One such shot of the Buffalo, taken through a 500mm telephoto lens, shows a house with what must be the best view of the mountain.

Yet I can't figure out exactly where that house is or how to get to it even though it appears in dozens of photographs taken of the mountain from the Knob. Just one of those mysteries I have to solve someday. When I get the time.

Mill Musings

Mabry Mill IceAccording to the National Park Service, Mabry Mill is the most photographed location along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

That shouldn't surprise anyone who lives around here.

The Mill is featured on just about every brochure put out by the Park Service, local tourism groups and historical societies.

Most tourists visit the Mill during the Spring, Summer and Fall Months.

I like to visit during the cold of winter, when ice clogs the mill trace and forms its own beauty with nature.

I took my first picture of the Mill in 1955, using a plastic Kodak Brownie camera my grandfather gave to me for Christmas. A typical snapshot. The pond in the foreground, the Mill in the background.

The print still resides in one of my mother's scrapbooks but the negative, unfortunately, was lost long ago.

As my interest in photography increased, so did the pictures of the Mill. In 40 years, I've shot the Mill from every imaginable angle and at every time of the year. Mill Ice 2Lately, in sorting through more than 40 years of prints, negatives and slides, I've cataloged more than 1,000 shots of the Mill, ranging from the standard snapshot of so many years ago to artsy-fartsy low angles and Photoshop-modified collages.

But a box of slides taken during the winter in 1982 caught my attention and two from there are featured here.

It's the dead of winter and ice coats the mill trace. No tourists, only a couple of cars in the parking lot and mostly silence on a weekday afternoon.

A great time at Mabry Mill and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Putting Floyd on the Map

JamboreeDropped by The Friday Night Jamboree at the Floyd Country Store on the way home last night.

Needed to drop of some pictures I had promised them a long time ago.

Stayed and took some more. Always a good time.

Too cold of course for the bands to play outside (the real show of the Jamboree during the warmer months) but a good crowd clogged and danced their way through the night. "It's put Floyd on the map. It wasn't there before," says Hubert Robertson, former owner of the Floyd Country Store.

Hubert was there at the beginning when he and other local musicians began jamming on Friday nights because "it was the only time we could get together." Hubert and his brother had a band back then, The Bluegrass Travelers, and he still plays on stage from time to time and on Sundays at Mabry Mill during the spring and summer months.

Jamboree girlFloyd, as noted earlier, will be the starting point of the "The Crooked Road," a music trail that traces the roots of mountain and bluegrass music in Southwestern Virginia.

The Music Trail is a venture of state and federal groups and remains in the formative stage but should be a major attractions for bluegrass fans if everything comes together.

But the Jamboree thrives with or without a "Music Trail" because it is a unique event that draws visitors from far and wide.

Robertson likes to tell the story about the time he struck up a conversation with a couple and "I knew they weren't from around here because they didn't talk like us." So he asked where they were from. "The woman said 'the South Pole' just as normal as if they were talking about being from Christiansburg or something and I thought they were making fun of me and I expressed my feelings on that. 'Oh, no,' they said. 'That's where we're from.' Then they told me they lived there. Come to find out they were geologists for the government."

Mike Brough, the North Carolina lawyer who bought the store with one of his law partners, says visitors are just part of the equation.

"We have a lot of the regulars who are from the area. The Jamboree is part of the fabric of the community," Brough says. "It make us feel good when we see people from three to 93 out on the dance floor having a good time. That is what makes it all worthwhile."

Like Robertson said, The Friday Night Jamboree has "put Floyd on the map." Now that it is there, visitors find a lot of reasons to stick around. But Floyd has a number of other music venues as well, including Oddfellas, Pine Tavern (which just reopened after rennovation), Winter Sun and the VFW hall. Brough says the future is "too just keep on doing what we're doing. As long as people keep coming, we'll keep doing it."