Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Not so Deep South Part II

Richard and I, sister Barb, and brother-in law John had been enjoying the foreign country called The Confederacy for the past week.
We had discovered that the Rebel spirit had not died down here In the Deep South and the “War of Northern Aggression” was still an open sore on the people. We were ready for more anti Yankee monuments and more references to General Sherman as the Anti Christ. In addition, since the Confederate capitol was in Virginia, maybe we would get to see some re-enactors here. I wanted to see someone bloat!
We crossed on the Jamestown Ferry and landed in a completely different South.
Imagine our surprise to discover that this part of the world was the ordinary USA. There we were in historic, touristy Williamsburg, and what were they engrossed in? The Revolutionary war! We had left the south behind. These people didn’t even know they were Rebels.
The whole town was set up for a fifth grade field trip! It almost gave me a rash. (That happens to me when I get near schools, and just about anything connected with them.)
There were families all around us with children whom the well-meaning parents were attempting to enlighten with the history of their country. The children were responding with whines of, “I’m hot. Can we get an ice cream now? I’m tired. Are we almost done?” Since I’d rather stick a pencil in my eye than listen to that, we headed for the hills.
The Appalachian Mountains were beautiful. I could just see Daniel Boone or Davy Crocket traipsing about in there. Somewhere in the Shenandoah Valley, we lost our satellite radio connection. We knew we were in uncharted territory. This was probably not a place to get lost.
Barb and I had read a book about a race of people living in the mountains somewhere near here. They are the Melungeon, and even anthropologists don’t all agree on their origins. They keep to themselves and are suspicious of strangers. They are very dark people with blue eyes and light hair, and a very small gene pool. We were so hoping to see them, and at the same time fearful that we would.

On the way back we inadvertently paid the toll and went over a bridge twice, when we never wanted to go over it even once. In doing so we passed the “Jesus Bible, Gun, and Pawn Shop” twice. This small act was enough to cause four people who have been in a car for too many hours to fall all over each other laughing senselessly.
Weak from laughter, we stopped in a small town to walk around and get a feel for this “different south.” As we walked past a richly blooming tree, a big ole bumblebee flew out and buzzed fiercely around my head. I reacted in my usual demure and polite way, causing people to look at me in horror. A car that was driving by made a u-turn and came back by to see just who this screaming, unladylike person was, and I am sure they wondered who “my people” were, which is a very important thing to wonder about in small towns in the south.
Later, we ate in a buffet restaurant and had a sumptuous, monochromatic (sort of sepia) dinner. To add a little color to my diet I had bananas in an exquisitely delicate red Jell-O sauce for dessert. Ah, well, you can’t win ‘em all.
We went down into North Carolina and visited Kitty Hawk, which was very interesting. Those Wright boys must have driven their mother crazy with all of their shenanigans. We toured the Berkley Plantation and drove through the Outer Banks. The Atlantic coast is quite different from the left coast.
Later we saw a glassblower demonstration given by a couple of guys who looked as if they were thinking, “I could have been a back hoe operator, but No-o-o-o, I had to go and follow in my father’s footsteps.”
These tours, along with an archeological dig, a museum or two, and an hour or so at Ye Olde Flea market in Jamestown (A roll of the eyes goes here for the excessive use of the “Ye Olde” theme), we felt we knew all about this area of the country.
We went off to visit Richmond. It’s where the first Confederate capitol is. Surely there will be some more indignant Southerners there! Maybe we’ll finally see some re-enactors.
Actually, what we found was a city recovering from Mike Vick’s indictment circus. We had lunch in a wonderful deli situated across from the courthouse and the owner told us all about the day before. There were news trucks from all over the world lined up bumper to bumper in the street and the whole area was blocked off. All this to give some ninnyhammer attention he doesn’t deserve! Don’t get me started on that guy.
The old capitol was an unremarkable old building. Richmond might have been just another city, if not for the statue of Mr. Bojangles. The people here had moved on and joined the rest of America. How ordinary.

The next day we headed for Chattanooga, or ‘Noog, as the locals call it. Our grandmother, Mimi, grew up on Missionary Ridge, across the street from General Bragg’s headquarters, up on Lookout Mountain. We wanted to go see if we could find her house, as all of the houses up there are on the historical registry, and surely it was still there.
We spent the day immersed in her life as a little girl. We retold the old stories she used to tell us of her playing on land that was at one time a battlefield and how she stumbled into indentations of graves left over from the not-so-civil war.
Later we found her mother’s grave, and the grave of her three-year-old sister beside it. They had both died over a hundred years ago. My hair stood on end as I photographed their headstones.
Our mission was complete. Re-enactors or not, we were ready to go home.


Florida Sue said...

Lynn I have been to a great many of those same places, and it was absolutely beautiful in the fall season. It is indeed a whole other world. This Canadian girl really had her eyes opened as we did the whole Civil War trip. I probably don't really understand to this day why so many people had to lose their lives for basic freedoms, and why the rift still exists even now for some. What a great trip and adventure you had. I can only imagine how you must have felt as you walked back into your grandmother's past. I am glad you have that memory.

Cass @ That Old House said...

4 thousand miles on a rental car in two weeks? Holy smokes. that's a lot of sightseeing!

Brilliant, and very funny, post. Loved it!

Lori E said...

Well I was reading through and like a moth I was distracted by the Melungeon reference and had to go off on a 45 minute research project. Now I am completely fascinated and will have no time for anything else in life.
Being a genealogy researcher things like this get me all wound up.
Sounds like you guys have been having a fun trip. Like you I am not interested in being around kids. Most time I want to pinch them.

Housewife Savant said...

I loved following your trip, but dang, no bloaters.
Now I've got to go Google "Melungeon". (I think I ate some o' that at the Golden Corral a while back.)

mama-face said...

I lived in Virginia growing up and now live on the opposite side of the country, I loved reading about your trip.I love everything but the humidity. But the history, the trees, the architecture...

I have an award for you; I'm a new follower/stalker. :)

Judo said...

The last time I saw Mimi was at the beach, four generations of Mimi clan, in 1976 or thereabouts.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I love your photos, Lynn! Now I'm compelled to look up "Melungeon"

You won't believe this but I've been reading a lot about the Revolutionary War this summer...so many places near me where the first major battle was fought that I never knew about, and I'm also a volunteer Civil War researcher for a landmark cemetery. I love history!

Keetha Broyles said...

These posts are totally making me chuckle!!!!

I lived in S. Carolina from 1972 - 1979 and then in N. Carolina until 1984. EVERY DAY I heard someone say, "The south WILL rise again."

And the first time someone said something about "Sherman," I was trying to figure out who in the WORLD they were talking about - - - I had missed that part of my education somehow, or at least I had FORGOTTEN it not having ever heard him mentioned anywhere but history class.

Oh, but after living in the south for 12 years, I'm VERY aware of who Mr. Sherman was AND I know I'm a d_ _ _ yankee, and I know WHY I'm one!!!

Keetha Broyles said...

Oh, in all those 12 years I lived down there, I never did see a bloater either!


Claudia said...

Love your post! I think you guys had way too much fun down there! Hilarious. And moving - the headstones in the cemetary brought a lump to my throat.

I've heard of the Melungeon before, but hadn't that about them for a long time. Now, you have me thinking and googling!

Lynn@ The Vintage Nest said...

I have a real live re-enactor right next door to me and General Bobby Lee's horse too. Wish you had stopped by. :)