Washington column for July 2

Backhoe operator C.W. Blosser Jr. does his thing in Culpeper.
Backhoe operator C.W. Blosser Jr. does his thing in Culpeper. VDOT/Culpeper District

VDOT champions

Two employees from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Rappahannock headquarters were among those who earned championship trophies at the annual equipment operators’ competition June 3-4 at VDOT’s Culpeper District Office.

The event, known as the RoadEO, began in 1988 and is held annually to encourage VDOT equipment operators to maintain their awareness of safety and improve their skills in operating equipment used in their daily work. The event features skills contests on the backhoe, motor grader, tractor with mower and dump truck. In each event the operators must maneuver around a course or perform tasks that require a high degree of expertise and control. For example, on the motor grader, operators must use the blade to knock tennis balls off tees positioned at varying heights. The dump-truck competitions use an obstacle course with multiple skills stations, including parallel parking and serpentine backing through construction barrels.

To qualify for the competition each operator must complete the required daily safety check of their equipment, which is also timed and scored by judges.

Washington resident and VDOT tractor mower operator competes at the Culpeper District RoadEO.
Washington resident and VDOT tractor mower operator competes at the Culpeper District RoadEO. VDOT/Culpeper District

This year 126 equipment operators took part in at least one of the five events at Culpeper District’s RoadEO. Each operator was scored for his ability to complete the tasks as well as the time required.

The district winners from the Rappahannock Area Headquarters were (backhoe) C.W. Blosser Jr., transportation operator and 21-year VDOT veteran who lives in Luray, and (tractor mower) Mike Smith, a transportation operator from Washington who’s worked for VDOT for four years.

The two will advance to represent Culpeper District in VDOT’s state RoadEO on Aug. 6 at the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds. Statewide winners will move on to a regional competition against operators from 10 other states to be held in Myrtle Beach in September. Last year, Virginia’s team placed third overall.

Good luck, guys!

Smoot’s reunion

Helen Smoot, the Georgia Peach, has her own birthday cake but she is still eyeing the dessert table.
Helen Smoot, the Georgia Peach, has her own birthday cake but she is still eyeing the dessert table. Christie Estep

Warm weather signaled the start of reunions and family gatherings. Today’s families, more than ever, need to relax and spend time together. Time goes by so fast, kids grow, some have married and gone their separate ways over the years, and reunions can be a way to bring everyone together.

Last Sunday, Mae Racer, Beverly Exline and Mary Gochenour held a reunion for about 65 people at the Washington fire hall. What beautiful weather we had, one could not ask for a better day.

Mae, Beverly and Mary were running around making sure everything was in place. When all the tables were filled with food, Mary tried to get everybody’s attention, but for some reason, it seemed like no one was ready to eat, everyone was catching up on the news. Eventually Emily Dodson took the floor, and only had to tried once to get everyone’s attention. Emily is one great lady, making sure everyone is having a grand time.

Danny, Austin Huff and Doug Exline were out back flipping burgers and grilling hot dogs. Thank you, guys.

Allen Streightiff and his wife, Lisa, provided the potato salad and coleslaw. In my eyes I always thought that KFC had the best coleslaw that was ever made, but was I wrong. Allen and Lisa coleslaw got them beat a long shot. Thank you, guys.

Mary asked the blessing, and everyone indulged in for good country food.

Again this year, the talk of the crowd was Mae’s rice pudding, this year she had to make two huge bowls full. Everyone was hoping to be able to take some home with them. Mae, maybe next year you can make three huge bowls. Hint, hint.

Everyone pitched in and brought several covered dishes and dessert, proving that family reunions don’t have to cost a fortune.

Fred and Sandra Stoots were the furthest ones to travel for the reunion. They came from Marion, Virginia. Always a happy occasion when they come down.

We had something special this year. Sunday was also the birthday of Helen Smoot, known to some of us  as the best looking Georgie Peach, and Mary Gochenour had a beautiful cake made for her. She received many cards. She was the center of attention with her birthday hat on. She was so happy.

Also we have four guests that were not invited, a mama bear and her three little cubs. Believe me, no one got too close to them to ask them if they would like to have a plate of food.

At the close of the reunion, everyone could say that the day had been memorable — and that no one left hungry.

Remember there are three things that one cannot recover: The stone after it is thrown, the word after it is said, and most importantly, time after it’s passed. Always remember, families don’t last forever, could be here today and gone tomorrow. So bring back the family gathering and enjoy an afternoon with good food, family and friends.

Birthday wishes

Birthday wishes go out to my sister-in-law Mary Gochenour, who celebrated her day on Tuesday (June 30) and my brother, John Wayne Burke, who will celebrates his special day on Sunday (July 5).

Caring for orchids

Woodville resident DeEtte Axelson will present the program, “Caring for Orchids in Your Home,” at the July 15 Rappahannock Garden Club meeting. DeEtte, an amateur orchidist, will share her experiences in successfully getting her orchids to bloom. Garden Club meetings, always open to the public, are held at the Washington fire hall, beginning with refreshments at 1 p.m.; the program begins at approximately 2 p.m.. For more information, contact president Helen Williams at 540-937-4279.

Happy July 4th

As we celebrate our nation’s birth and heritage, the thoughts of everyone turn to enjoy the day in the spirit it was intended, a day of independence and fun for all.

Don’t forget to attend the Rappahannock County’s July 4th celebration, to benefit the SVFD, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Thornton Hill Race Course (4137 Sperryville Pike, Sperryville) with music, amusements, food, tailgating and fireworks at dusk. For more information, visit sperryvillefire.com or call 540-987-8124. Hope to see y’all there.

Just by chance, if you run into Richie Burke, Gary Settle or Mike Leake while celebrating in Sperryville, be sure to thank them for their long hours of work and also don’t forget to thanks Bill Fletcher for the use of his field for this year’s celebration. Our county is really lucky to have people like these to work together and provide such enjoyable times for everyone. Thanks, guys!

As we celebrate our birth nation’s birthday, let show our American pride with flying our U.S. flag high in the sky. Let’s be proud of our heritage. I wish all our readers a happy and safe Fourth of July, and urge everyone to use caution and prudence in order to avoid happiness turning into tragedy. (A reminder: The Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia State Police will be working full force on the highways to make sure that everyone will have a safe and enjoyable holiday.)

Have a wonderful week.