I have been called a lot of things in my 75 years, but this is a new one. Let us go back a bit to when we first became parents. If you were lucky enough to be blessed with children (and it is a blessing, because it is the only way you can get grandchildren), you might be able to appreciate this. If you had more than one child, you eventually were going to have to referee when disputes and differences of opinion came between your spawn.
As long as they weren’t swinging something towards one another, I usually let them “discuss” the issue until we could get something resolved. There was a time, however, when I would step in and become the decider in chief. That was the time when the discussion sank into the abyss of name calling. My take on this has always been, with children or adults, if you have to resort to name calling you have lost the argument. Why? Because your argument obviously has no merit when you resort to calling people names. It is also terribly infantile.
As far as fear is concerned, I must admit to having a bit. I live in fear that one day the misguided views of the people who say we must grow to survive are going to prevail. When that happens and they start putting in the comprehensive plan what we must do with our open spaces, the rural nature of Rappahannock County will be lost. The very thing that attracts people to Rappahannock, the pastoral views, the hay fields, the apple orchards and the very pace of life will be gone. They will have succeeded in killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
I graduated from Rappahannock County High School in 1962. Just like the young people interviewed in last week’s paper, I had to leave Rappahannock. My parents didn’t own a business and they didn’t own a big farm. My father worked for the Virginia Department of Highways (later VDOT) for over 50 years. My mother was a homemaker. I could have gotten a job on a farm, picking apples, making hay or whatever had to be done, or I could go to “the city” and get a job.
I went to the city, got a job, and two years later I married the most wonderful person I have ever known, and we lived in a tiny, one-bedroom apartment. We were there for ten years, during which time we both worked and scrimped and saved every penny we could, and at the end of ten years we had enough for a down payment on a 40-year-old Cape Cod.
Now, apparently, that is not in vogue. I read about the dire plight of 30-year-olds who have received their college degree and want to live and work in Rappahannock but they can’t afford it. So? What have they been doing? Working hard? Saving their money? When did it become the role of the county to find a place for these individuals to live?
And it doesn’t matter what you call it, be it affordable housing, subsidized housing, low income housing or any other euphemism you want to give it, it still amounts to putting lipstick on a pig. It also amounts to a degradation of the quality of life in Rappahannock County. That quality of life exists because of the rural nature of this county. People seek us out, for a day, a weekend or a lifetime because we are a rural county. If some folks have their way, the rural nature of the county will be lost forever. And that is not fear mongering; that is truth telling.
In more important news, I have discovered once again how good a simple root vegetable, the lowly potato, can taste when you can go to the garden, gravel under a couple of still tall and green plants, and fish around for a few new potatoes. Take them to the house, wash them, and put them in a little water to boil. When you can stick a fork in them, put them on your plate, cut them into chunks and put a bit of butter and salt and pepper on them. Nothing else. Just butter, salt and pepper. Oh my, it is enough to make you forget about all your problems and all the names you have ever been called.
And if you are lucky enough to have a few new beets, do the same thing, but leave off the pepper. My friends, it makes me want to garden for the rest of my days, which I will probably do for as long as I can. Or, as my father-in-law used to say, for as long as I can sit up and take nourishment. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.
— The writer lives in Flint Hill