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Culpeper Times • April 6-12, 2017
EDITORIAL Let’s get creative For several months the State Theatre on Main Street has sat empty. The building is within the town limits but what an asset this facility could offer for the entire county. If not for recreational classes like fitness or cooking classes, let’s talk art themed uses. It’s already positioned to offer theatre, movies and dance. We know the lobby is ideal for gallery shows. We already know that tourists enjoy coming to Culpeper for its restaurants, shops and cool events. Small art towns attract a lot of attention and bring in cultural tourists who like music, galleries, art festivals and cozy coffee bars. Art towns draw urbanites who perhaps have given up their condos for
a small farmhouse, some acreage and now want to get involved in the local art scene. Right now, according to Americans for the Arts, Virginia has two such towns: Abingdon and Charlottesville. Both are listed on the 100 Best Small Art Towns in America. More than a cultural gathering place, art towns further solidify the notion of community, neighborliness and security. Not a bad thing to envision. If not an art themed space, perhaps a galleria type venue where you have more retail shops inside. Or as an extension of the public school system or Germanna where students would have a hands on learning environment to put on plays, learn about filmmaking, running a theatre or hosting conferences. It took the county and town several decades to sign a water/sewer agreement but it appears to have
benefitted both entities. The town has been able to spread its wings and the county has access to water for future development projects. The State Theatre is prime real estate for something. As it sits empty with a blank marquee it begs for a new beginning. There are brilliant, caring and inventive minds that occupy elected seats in Culpeper. There are brilliant, caring and inventive businesses, organizations and individuals that live here. The State Theatre, as a resource for the community, as a potential revenue generating source that could benefit the town or the town and county or businesses or nonprofits, is a hidden gem. Just imagine the possibilities if like minded folks from a broad spectrum reached across the isles to make it happen.
Hunting for history I have a bit of an unusual hobby (beyond my writing). I hunt Civil War relics. I go out on the weekends and evenings with a metal detector and look for bullets or buttons dropped during the war. With the exception of a fresh construction site, I don't trespass. I get the permission of the land owner via the mail before I go. I undertake this hobby mostly for the exercise and for the fact that it is completely mind clearing to go hunt. You walk slowly, the tone of the detector in your ear, and you don't think about work or anything else for that matter. It's pure relaxation and with two careers, I need as much calm as I can muster. Also there is a thrill when you get a signal and you dig a hole, not knowing what will pop out of the ground. When you hold a bullet, no matter how mangled, that has not seen the light of day for 150 years, well, that's something that is very cool. It's a goofy hobby for most folks - walking through fields and woods dressed in camouflage (why, I have no idea. I guess so we can sneak up on the relics) getting muddy, digging up old buried lead. Having a reason to walk is motivating and we all need that. I'm not really good at this hobby - but I have fun with it. Every hole I dig is a treasure hunt of sorts.
You never know what that glorious Culpeper clay is hiding. Most of the time it is a shotgun shell or a mangled beer can - but even those can get your heart pounding. There are some folks that have given relic hunting a bad name. They illicitly sneak onto people's property without permission, usually in the night. They steal relics in the dark and leave the property with holes that have not been filled. It frustrates those of us that hunt legitimately. That's not who the majority of us are. Often times landowners who give me permission, ask me to watch over their property. I've confronted illicit hunters and when I've spotted them, they've left. I've even chased off people illegally dumping garbage, driving ATVs or just general trespassing. It is a damn shame that some people feel they can wander onto other folks' land and dig holes without permission. Some self-appointed preservationists and archaeologists howl at those in my hobby. They squeal that we are ruining the historic context by digging up these relics. I understand their position, but in reality, if we don't recover some of these artifacts, they will be gone. I was on a paid-for hunt on a recent weekend and heard stories of buttons that disintegrated the moment they were taken from the ground. All of the fertilizers, plow tips, and the harsh soil here are dissolving and destroying many relics. If we don't save and preserve them, they will be lost for all time and that would be a shame and loss for us all. Construction projects destroy thousands of relics
or pave over them. I am in favor of preserving as much of true battlefields as practical. I respect groups like the Civil War Preservation Trust that purchase such land to save it. I wouldn't sell a single relic I've found nor would most of the hunters I know. Each bullet is a precious memory of the thrill reliving the minute we found it. I have given some away to others though, especially to kids, so they can have a reminder of our past and can touch a piece of history. I write (among other things) military history books, so for me this hobby is not just about the walking - it's about the research as well. I sometimes am able to give the landowners materials from the archives about their property, helping them understand a little more about what took place there. I have met some fantastic individuals in this hobby - both diggers and landowners. It is amazing to me how many people love to talk about the history of the region. If you see me in a field, swinging my detector, stop over and see what I've found (if anything). If you have a piece of property that I can come and hunt, I'm in the phone book. In the meantime, I'm putting on my tick repellant and enjoying spring the best way I know how. Blaine Pardoe is a New York Times best selling author who lives in Amissville. He has penned several dozen books from military history, horror, science fiction to true life crime stories. You may reach him at email@example.com
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