Discovering Woodville — and other Rappahannock observations

Peter Hornbostel

Don’t blame John McCaslin. He didn’t ask me to write this (although he did publish it). It’s just that I decided to write something about a few of the special things about Rappahannock County which we all know already, but may sometimes forget to remember.

Like the dump. If you’re looking to talk with some friends or just someone you know, drive to the dump at the Flatwood Mall. At least half the folks you know drive there every day just to chat (unless, of course, it’s a Tuesday or Thursday. Do you know of a dump anywhere else that closes every Tuesday and Thursday?) Last week we’d all heard that the truck they use to empty the trash bins had broken in half. That didn’t cause anyone to stay home. Some of us just left our trash at home and came up to the Mall to talk about it. And it’s the only dump in the world that doesn’t smell too bad either, most of the year.

There’s an alternative. If you can walk or drive about a quarter mile north across Rte 211 you come to Annie Williams’ Mountainside Physical Therapy. Anyone over 60, or maybe 70, who isn’t conversing at the Flatwood Mall will be there, even on Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve met a lot of friends there too, like Mayor Sullivan, or the Dietels or Cliff Miller, all being worked on by some of the most attractive therapists anywhere. Particularly great if you’re as ancient as I am.

What you need after therapy is, of course, a tavern. We’ve got two of them: Headmaster’s in Sperryville and the Griffin in Flint Hill. They’ve got a new chef at the Headmaster’s, and you’ll be happy to hear that the rumors about Rachel leaving the Griffin are wrong. She’s still there, and as far as I know she has no plans to leave.

Or maybe VDOT blocked her escape from Flint Hill using the stop lights at Massies Corner. We all know that there are no traffic lights in Rappahannock County. There are only those two flashing red lights where 522 and 211 intersect. You only see them if you are coming south from Flint Hill. So it’s only half as bad as it might be. You don’t see them if you are headed north, and there are no other lit up traffic signals of any kind anywhere in the county.

But what VDOT does (or doesn’t do) with respect to stop lights, it makes up for with bridges. My favorite bridge sits in the grass beside the Copper Fox Distillery, across the parking lot from Copper Fox Antiques. It has neither a stream nor a road passing underneath. It used to hold the road that passes over the Thornton River in Sperryville before VDOT built a new bridge there. The old bridge has seen better days, but I’m told some kids like to play on it.

For those of us, like me, who don’t fix their cars themselves, we have four excellent garages: Settle’s in Flint Hill, as well as Shaws, B&B, and Riverside Auto in Sperryville. According to the county surveyor’s office, more than 50 percent of the cars in Rappahannock are parked in front of Shaws or next to the Thornton River, leaving only the remaining 49 percent to be divided between the other two garages. (Yes, I made that up, but it could be true).

Talking about cars, until a month ago I didn’t know that the speed limit through Woodville was only 35 mph. The sign is pretty far down the road toward Sperryville, and whenever I drove down 522 to Culpeper (as rarely as possible) I’d go barreling through the village at about 50 mph. Until a month ago.

I saw the blue lights flashing behind me before I even got through town. I stopped.

“What did I do wrong?” I asked the deputy.

“You were going 52 in a 35 mile an hour zone,” she said.

“But I didn’t see any sign,” I said. That was true.

“It’s right down there at the other side of town” she said. “Can I have your registration, please?”

She walked back to her car and got in, seeming to do something on her radio. Then she walked back and stopped behind my car, and then came to my open window.

“I’ve got worse news,” she said. “your registration has expired as well.”

“Gosh” I gasped, “I didn’t know that either.”

She looked at me and scowled. “You’d better get that registration renewed quick,” she said, “and watch the speed limit. We’ll hammer you next time.”

She handed me my expired registration card and walked back to her car. Finally she smiled. “Have a nice day,” she said, and then she drove away. Can you imagine that happening anywhere but in Rappahannock? It sure was a nice day.

Our police chief is pretty nice too. Connie is actually a member of the Lions, and if her time permits, she works with us behind the co-op in the fall when the Lions are making apple butter. We’ve been doing it for years. After the apples are cut into quarters, we take them down to the centuries-old canning facility in Keezletown. A couple of guys stay up the whole night long stirring those apples over the heat for some eight hours before they are spiced and sweetened and boiled up into apple butter. The next morning, at least a dozen more guys and women show up for steam cleaning and filling the jars and packing them up for the trip back to Rappahannock. Then we sell them on the weekends outside Cookie’s Shell station across from the neon-signed high school. Most of our customers don’t know all the work that goes into making and selling a jar of apple butter. And it’s good eating, too.

Before I end, I need to tell you a little about the theaters in Little Washington — two of them, sort of catty-cornered right down Gay Street from the courthouse and what used to be the jail. Is there another town anywhere that has a population of about 126 and two working theaters? The two theaters get along just fine, thank you. And they don’t really compete. One used to be a movie theater many decades ago; the other was once a church. One does a lot of music, the other a lot of plays. One has seats for an audience of 200, the other for roughly 110. Tickets at one are usually $25, at the other $15, sometimes free for kids. And they both get filled up on performance nights with people from all over the county or elsewhere.

I could go on, but this article would get even longer, and you would probably stop reading. If you are a kind person, you could make both the editor and me happy by making believe that we have told you a fact or two that you didn’t already know. Or maybe a couple of lies that you did.

The writer lives in Flint Hill

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