THE INN AT WILLOW GROVE
On Bird Dogs, Unexpected Endings, and Unlikely Beginnings
‘Go Down the Mountain’
WINTER 2020 • $5.95
The World’s Most Beautiful Race
“The Hunt in Belvoir Vale” by John Ferneley Sr. Photo courtesy of National Sporting Library & Museum
Discover our Traditions while creating your own... Shopping, Dining, Arts, Horses, and History VA Fall Races
Horses History Dining Shopping
Discover Middleburg in 2020!
Jumping Rocks Photography
Founded in 1787 and with more than 1,600 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, Middleburg is known for its natural beauty, historic charm, and Southern hospitality. Whether you’re looking for a historic tour, a scenic vineyard, a taste of the equestrian life, or just a place to relax and have a good time, Middleburg has what you’re looking for.
Middleburg’s historic district is less than a mile long, but it’s filled with many unique stores including equestrian shops, high-end clothing boutiques, fine art galleries, and much, much more.
If you love great food, Middleburg is the Southern food destination you have to know about. Our best restaurants are locally owned and offer everything from farm-to-table gourmet dining to hearty tavern fare.
If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, Middleburg is the ideal destination to relax. Located less than 50 miles from Washington, D.C., Middleburg still feels like a world away. Whether you desire a 5-star luxury resort, charming country inn, or a peaceful bed and breakfast, you’ll find a place to rest here.
Red Fox Inn
Jodi Miller Photography
The Middleburg Business & Professional Association in support of the local business & retail community.
540 . 687 . 8888
VA Fall Races
www.visitmiddleburgva.com Red Fox Inn
The Shop on Main Street, Washington
The Shop on Main Street has one of the best commercial locations in town- just steps from the famed Inn at Little Washington and many other town highlights. The main floor is retail space with a half BA and the original wood floors. The lower Level is a gallery with ample storage. The 3rd floor has a 1 BR/1 BA recently upgraded apartment. $535,000
Rolling Hills Farm, Sperryville
Spectacular land in an excellent location are the defining characteristics of the Rolling Hills Farm. It is 121.5 acres of rolling hills, pastures, streams and woodlands in the heart of the most scenic part of Rappahannock County. Located about 3 miles south of Sperryville. Outstanding views in all directions. $1,035,000
Hughes River House, Sperryville
Hughes River House is a ranch-style home that marries easy one level living with a great deal of country charm. Walk to the Hughes River. The 4BR/3BA home is ideal for a full-time residence or a weekend getaway. 2-car garage. Reno in 2018. $425,000
High Meadow, Syria, Virginia
With stunning views of the rolling fields, forest and the Shenandoah National Park, High Meadow is country living at its finest.The 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath home features an open floor plan, soaring south facing windows, a gourmet kitchen, bluestone terraces, an outdoor pavilion and great entertaining spaces on 13.9 AC. $795,000
Spruce Hill Farm, Sperryville
Spruce Hill Farm sits nestled at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The private 99.9 AC has meadows, ponds, forest & hiking trails. Built in 1798, the original home has been added onto and remodeled with Hardiplank siding, new windows, & a large kitchen. There are 3BR, 3.5 BA, 3 fireplaces, and an English basement. $1,295,000
Sunrise Summit, Sperryville
Sunrise Summit delights the spirit. The 50.2 AC property has over 1,700 ft of frontage on the Hughes River. The lot is a pleasant mix of open fields and old growth woods, with Old Rag on the vista. $650,000
Cedar Cottage, Woodville
Cedar Cottage is a 3BR/2.5 BA farmhouse on 2.5 AC. Built in 1927 the home has wood floors and central AC & a dining room. The open lot has a creek out back and is the perfect setting for a small garden and family fun. $269,000
37 Main Street, Sperryville, VA 22740
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ON THE COVER He has hunting in his veins and some big shoes to fill. Meet German Wirehaired Pointer, Ripp. Photograph by Ed Felker
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R ck no han
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M A R
— Walter Nicklin, Piedmont Virginian founder
Sh en an do ah
IRG T V
A “ ffinities, not simply geography, create the Piedmont’s unique regional identity. We strive to give voice to this special — even magical — place in the hopes that it remains so.”
FEATURES WINTER 2020 • VOLUME IX • ISSUE 1 PEOPLE OF THE PIEDMONT
H ER I TAGE
The Packard Campus
BY ED FELKER
The United States’ audiovisual heritage is preserved at Culpeper’s Library of Congress campus
Lovingly restored, a Piedmont historic farm achieves its former glory
BY FRANNIE BARNES
BY GLENDA BOOTH
The Perfect Destination
The Inn at Willow Grove
BY JENNIFER WALDERA
Mille Miglia The world’s most beautiful race in the nation’s most affluent region
FOOD AND DRINK
Back to Nature Cooking with Game Meat BY KATILIN HILL
The Allure of Absinthe “It’s an Adventure!” BY GLENDA BOOTH
BY PATRICK SZABO SCENIC PIEDMONT
28 Glimpses of the Piedmont Scenic Virginia’s annual Virginia Vista Photo Contest L I T ER AT UR E
The Barrel Age Extending the useful life of barrels through creativity and collaboration BY ED FELKER
Mountain Hike Leads to Writer’s First Novel BY LINDA ROBERTS
LIFE IN THE PIEDMONT
Confessions of an Airbnb Host The benefits far outweigh any reservations BY TONY VANDERWARKER
54 Fate’s Legacy
On bird dogs, unexpected endings, and unlikely beginnings
BY MEREDITH BATTLE
BY ED FELKER
Go Down the Mountain
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A match made in Heaven? No, made right here in
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Complicated taxes? OUR CONTRIBUTORS Complicated taxes? Complicated taxes? Bring it on. Bring Bring it it on. on.
Frannie Barnes is a content writer
Taxes are complicated. Getting your taxes done isn’t enough - you need and editor, and the owner of are complicated. Gettingyour yourtaxes taxes done done isn’t - you need TaxesTaxes are complicated. Getting isn’tenough enough - you need your taxes done right. That’s where we come in. We hire and train the ForWord Communication. She lives in taxes done right. That’swhere wherewe wecome come in. thethe your your taxes done right. That’s in. We Wehire hireand andtrain train most qualified tax professionals to ensure you claim every credit and most qualified tax professionals to ensure you claim every credit and Gainesville with her husband, three most qualified tax professionals to ensure you claim every credit and * deduction you deserve so you get your maximum refund. Guaranteed. * kids, cat, and dog. To contact * active deduction you deserve you get your Guaranteed. refund. Guaranteed. deduction yousodeserve so maximum you getrefund. your maximum
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77 WSHOPPING LEE HWY.,CENTER, WARRENTON, VA 20186 540-347-7517 BEALETON, VA 22712 540-439-1270 editor who lives in Northern Virginia, Taxes are complicated. Getting your -taxes done isn’t enough - you need SHOPPING CENTER, BEALETON, VAyour 22712 540-439-1270 15135 MONTANUS DR, CULPEPER, VA 22701 540-825-8700 Taxes are complicated. Getting taxes done isn’t enough you need 77 W LEE HWY., WARRENTON, VA 20186 540-347-7517 writes about natural resources, historic your taxes done right. where come 15135 MONTANUS CULPEPER, VA 22701 your taxes doneDR, right. That’s where we come in. That’s We540-825-8700 hire and we train the in. We hire and train the most qualified tax professionals to ensure you claim every credit and sites, interesting people, public policy, SHOPPING CENTER, BEALETON, VA 22712 540-439-1270 qualified you claim every credit and *most If you discover an H&Rtax Blockprofessionals error on your return to that ensure entitles * you to a larger refund for smaller tax liability, we’ll refund you deserve so you get your maximum deduction you deserve so deduction you get your maximum refund. Guaranteed.* refund. Guaranteed.travel, and other topics for magazines,
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* If youthe discover anfee H&R Block errorRefund on your return that tax prep for that return. claims must be entitles made therefund calendar in which the returnwe’ll was refund prepared. you to during a larger foryear smaller tax liability, HRB TaxRefund Group,claims Inc. must be made the taxOBTP#B13696@213 prep fee for that return. during the calendar year in which the return was prepared. * If you discover an H&R OBTP#B13696@213 HRB Tax Group, Inc. Block error on your
you a larger for smallerVA tax20186 liability, we’ll refund 540-347-7517 77 Wto LEE HWY.,refund WARRENTON, SHOPPING CENTER, BEALETON, VA 22712 the tax prepCENTER, fee for that return. Refund claims must be made SHOPPING BEALETON, VA 22712 540-439-1270 15135the MONTANUS CULPEPER, VA 22701 during the calendar year in which return wasDR, prepared. 15135 MONTANUS DR, CULPEPER, VA 22701 540-825-8700 OBTP#B13696@213 HRB Tax Group, Inc. * If you discover an H&R Block error on your return that entitles a larger refund for smaller tax liability, we’ll refund * If you discover an H&R Block error on you yourtoreturn that entitles the taxwe’ll preprefund fee for that return. Refund claims must be made you to a larger refund for smaller tax liability, calendar year in which the return was prepared. the tax prep fee for that return. Refund during claims the must be made OBTP#B13696@213 during the calendar year in which the return was prepared. HRB Tax Group, Inc. OBTP#B13696@213 HRB Tax Group, Inc.
Ed Felker is a graphic designer, photographer, writer, outdoorsman, and Virginia native. His award-winning writing and photography have been featured in many fine Virginia publications. Ed can most often be found outdoors near his studio overlooking the Potomac River, usually with a camera, often with a fly rod, always with a dog. 540-439-1270 540-825-8700
Kaitlin Hill is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef with a B.A. in History from the University of Richmond. After completing her culinary degree, she worked in New York as a professional pastry chef, recipe tester for Saveur magazine, and editorial assistant to renowned food critic Gael Greene. In 2015, she returned home to Washington, D.C. where she currently runs a catering business and works as a freelance writer and photographer.
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Camden Littleton is a professional photographer and digital marketing consultant who lives in Charlottesville. When not photographing and creating content, she hangs out with her poodle, Grace (@gracelittleton on Instagram) and explores menus, music, and mountains with friends and family throughout the Piedmont. She grew up in Middleburg and graduated with BS in Communications from Appalachian State University. Clarke County resident and journalist Linda Roberts has blended her years of professional experience into her own communications company, which serves a select group of clients in the Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley. She enjoys gardening, riding
and training horses and volunteering with community-enriching organizations. She is a board member of the Clarke County Humane Foundation. Patrick Szabo was born in Loudoun County and is a career journalist, reporting for the Loudoun Now newspaper in Leesburg. He graduated from George Mason University with an English and journalism degree in spring 2014 and attended the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law that fall. He left after one semester to return to journalism. In addition to reporting, Patrick has also raced cars competitively since 2011. Tony Vanderwarker attended Andover and Yale, served in the Peace Corps, Marine Corps, and Army. A recovering adman, he has authored four books, including his latest, Iâ€™m Not From the South But I Got Down Here As Fast As I Could. He lives in Keswick with his wife, four dogs, two horses and a Sicilian donkey named Jethro. Tonyvanderwarker.com Jennifer Waldera shares her hunger for, and curiosity about, food, drinks, and exploration as a freelance writer for numerous mid-Atlantic and online publications. Read more of her work at jenniferwaldera.com and follow her travels at @jlwriter on Instagram.
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PEOPLE OF THE PIEDMONT
SHASTA DONEGAN: TAXIDERMIST BY ED FELKER
People of the Piedmont is an ongoing portrait series spotlighting compelling individuals of the Piedmont. Captured in genuine moments through the lens and words of Ed Felker, the subjects are portrayed immersed in the pursuits that get them up in the morning and drive them all day. 8 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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It’s not surprising that Shasta Donegan would find her calling in taxidermy. Always drawn to art, science, and animals, Shasta recalls being captivated by the displays that fill the halls of the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. But brutal circumstances inside the walls of her childhood home led to her lifelong connection with animals. She escaped unpleasantness at home by retreating to her yard and surrounding woods, rarely spending time inside until it was too dark to see. Living in a rural area, though, there were no neighborhood kids to play with. With the exception of a few cousins, her closest friends as a child were her pets. Her dog Clea, a black lab/golden retriever mix, used to walk Shasta and her sister to the bus in the morning. Then she would walk back home and stay in the yard all day, watching, waiting for them to get home. It’s easy to imagine the comfort Clea’s greeting must have brought the girls. “I think that’s why I understand animals so well,” she said. “I can read animal body language just like a conversation.” To this day she is constantly taking in animals with troubled pasts who, in most cases, just need to be understood. Animals with so-called “behavioral problems” have thrived easily living with Shasta and her family. “With animals, you just have to look outside yourself and listen, they will tell you what they need,” she said. An artist first, she had many years’ experience with a variety of media. She sold artwork here and there over the years, but struggled to find a way to make money using her natural talents and interests. Enter taxidermy, the merger of art, science, and animals for which she seemed to be destined. Classically trained in the trade, Shasta found that her art background enabled her to apply unique, innovative processes she had never seen anyone use before. “There are two kinds of taxidermists,” Shasta says. “There is the craftsman who buys the products available and puts them together, and the artist who is constantly developing new ways to render the most lifelike taxidermy possible.” She has no issue with shops that have multiple employees and turn out much faster, less expensive work. “That’s just not me,” she said. Since she opened Silent Grove Taxidermy in 2011, she has never advertised. Even in deer-rich Loudoun County, where many taxidermists’ bread and butter are whitetail, she doesn’t take in many deer because it gets in the way of her favorite type of custom work. Rare or unusual animals for which there are no forms available, or those that require a great deal of custom sculpting, are the most rewarding to Shasta, and some of her favorite projects are large, baby animals. “I have several foals, a caribou calf, a Bactrian (two-hump) camel, and numerous other smaller babies I've collected over the years,” she said. Shasta now happily lives and works in the same house she spent so much of her childhood avoiding. The ugliness and trauma long gone, the property now bustles with animals who appreciate her way of understanding them, a group she has come to collectively call “The Misfit Farm.” A fox, four cats, nine goats, two rabbits, a mini-horse, a couple dozen chickens, and six dogs all thrive here. Shasta works at night, finding the most productive hours are those when the rest of the farm is asleep. Almost the rest of the house, that is. While she works, no matter how late or how long, her favorite little dog Piper is there curled up in a basket on her work table, watching her. Comforting her.
The Perfect Destination
ention the name Inn at Willow Grove to locals in Central Virginia and responses inevitably reference the “beautiful yellow house on the hill,” a nod to the Federal manor house that serves as the centerpiece of the village-style getaway nestled in Orange County. While the award-winning spot serves as a boutique hotel and a picturesque wedding venue, the approachable Forbes Travel Guide Four Star-rated restaurant Vintage and the peaceful Mill House Spa (replete with a pool to enjoy before or after services) are destinations for locals and visitors alike.
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Acquired in 1778 by Joseph Clark, the 40-acre plot of land that is now home to the inn has also played host to visitors in its previous iteration as a bed and breakfast. However, it has a rich historical context as well. In addition to the manor house, the still-standing structures like the schoolhouse, smokehouse, weaver’s cottage, ash house, and spring house were home to those on the original plantation, and the land itself played a part in the Civil War, with trenches and gun emplacements still visible near the house. In 2008, David and Charlene Scibal purchased the property and began a massive
two-year, multi-million dollar renovation. The two used their talents in tandem while renovating the property, David capitalizing on his background in building and Charlene drawing from her previous ownership of an art gallery to assemble the decor. “They wanted to maintain the historic nature of the home but add enough modern chic design to make it comfortable,” explains Matt Scibal, the couple’s son and general manager of the inn. The Scibal’s extensive work on the manor house and surrounding structures yielded impressive results. Flowing fountains and perfectly pruned greenery accent
TRAVEL Orange County’s Inn at Willow Grove: “Escape, Unwind, Indulge” BY JENNIFER WALDERA PHOTOS BY CAMDEN LITTLETON
the entrance to the main building and each evening the illumination of the structure even further enhances its stateliness. Inside, cozy gathering spaces and guest rooms harbor elements of new and old alike, with antiques sharing space alongside more contemporary art or furniture, lending each area an ambience of quiet elegance. However, in the spirit of approachability, the Scibal family has also included unique elements of interest, and often playfulness, in the decor. In the parlor just inside the entrance to the manor, bibliophiles will adore the chair crafted almost exclusively of books, while the quirky picture of the cow
prominently placed above the fireplace is a nod to the family’s sense of whimsy. “There’s a cow in just about every room. It’s our unofficial mascot,” laughs Matt. With its exposed-beam ceilings, brick walls, cathedral-style windows, a cozy fireplace, and plenty of nooks for an intimate dining experience, the inn’s restaurant, Vintage, adheres to the concept of approachability as well, both in its style as well as its food and drink program. New Executive Chef Andrew Eppley heads the kitchen at Vintage, where he prepares dishes with ingredients sourced from local purveyors when possible. Described
by Scibal as being Southern Americana with a twist, the restaurant’s southernand French-inspired menus include casual lunch or pub fare with affordable dishes that range from salads and sandwiches to pasta and plenty of seafood, as well as a more upscale dinner menu that includes a variety of entrées that incorporate seafood, beef, duck, lamb, chicken, or pasta. Vintage also offers themed nights like tapas on Wednesdays and “Three on Thursday,” an affordable three-course prix-fixe menu. Brunch is served on Sundays, with a range of breakfast-style options including seasonally inspired pancakes and a variety of eggPIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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focused dishes such as a Benedict and an egg quesadilla, and more lunch style choices like shrimp and grits, salads, or a burger. Behind the bar, Matt had previously headed up the wine program before passing the reins to the highly knowledgeable Wednesday Sampson. However, they both share the same philosophy. “We’re open-minded about wine,” explains Matt. “We also try to have unique bottles — bottles that you won’t see anywhere else.” Vintage’s diverse Wine Spectator Awardwinning wine list is accessible, too, with bottles ranging from $34 to $600 and a multitude of wines by the glass. For those who may have procured bottles while visiting the region’s vineyards for the day, or 12 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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who just prefer to bring their own, the restaurant charges a nominal fee for corkage. While the wine list steals the show, when it comes to drinks at Vintage the cocktail list is creative and features classics alongside quirky riffs, like Elvis’s Old-Fashioned, a mix of Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey, Mularky Banana Whiskey, brown sugar simple syrup, and bitters, garnished with banana and bacon. Seasonally inspired sips are on the menu, too, like the autumnal The Butler featuring spiced rum, apple butter, cranberry juice, and spiced simple syrup, and the Pumpkin Fizz with pumpkin puree, Smirnoff Vanilla vodka, and prosecco. From the expertly crafted cocktails and cuisine, and the classy yet comfortable ambi-
ence, to the always attentive and professional service, dining and imbibing at Vintage is an expertly curated experience in an upscale yet casual environment that gives visitors and locals the opportunity to enjoy the inn’s motto: Escape, Unwind, Indulge. Just a few hundred feet from Vintage and the manor is the Mill House Spa, the epitome of escaping, unwinding, indulging. Offering massages, facials, scrubs, and wraps, alongside add-on services like waxing, the spa is a serene space where visitors can relax and enjoy just one service, or an entire day of tranquility with the ability to visit the outdoor pool and enjoy lunch with a relaxing rural backdrop of mature trees and rolling hills.
TRAVEL “People should be able to enjoy themselves. We’re fans of experiential travel — we want people to have a memorable experience here at the Inn,” says Scibal. Spa visitors receiving treatments are greeted by friendly professionals and a glass of prosecco before being escorted to a private, comfortable changing area with personal lockers, lush and cozy robes, and an enormous shower. Treatment rooms are comfortable and are filled with the faint aroma of the plant-based natural Elemis brand products that the spa uses. After services, knowledgeable spa treatment members can provide information on the wide range of products available for sale, or provide small samples for guests to take home. While the Mill House Spa is certainly a draw for travelers, the inn shows its love for locals by offering 20 percent off all services to residents of Orange. Since the inn’s inception, the Scibals have been huge supporters of the county
and town and were pleased to be welcomed by the tight-knit community when they moved in. “We try to partner with local businesses. We source ingredients from places like Darnell’s, hire local contractors, and employ services from local businesses,” Scibal shares. Additionally, the inn contributes to organizations within the community. “We work with Grymes Memorial School, we have three pet-friendly rooms and some of that [revenue] goes to the humane society, and we also do fundraising for the humane society,” says Scibal. The inn is involved in contributing to the greater good in the community, working regularly with county on how to preserve the area appropriately and responsibly while also expanding the growing tourism industry that benefits the community as a whole in multiple ways, not the least of which is expanding job opportunities in the area.
Scibal points out that the inn and country’s tourism board are on the same page, philosophically, with ideas about where they want the community to be and the preservation of the local space and maintenance of the culture of the area. “Look around us — it’s beautiful. The Shenandoah — it’s an amazing treasure,” says Scibal. As for the future, Scibal says they are always looking at doing something, but intend to maintain the small, quaint village feel that the inn currently has and that if expansion were considered, it would be done so carefully. After all, there is a reason why locals love Orange, and why visitors are increasingly making the area, which is just a short drive from D.C. but also in the heart of Virginia’s wine country, a destination. Scibal concludes, “Orange is in the middle of nowhere but it’s the center of everything.” innatwillowgrove.com
at willow grove
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Back to Nature: Cooking with Game Meat STORY, PHOTOS, AND RECIPES BY KAITLIN HILL
rom familiar to far out, online publication Eater’s forecast for 2019 food trends is seemingly all-encompassing. Headliners like oat milk, smoothie bowls, and adaptogens are standard fare at most Instagram-able establishments, while cricket protein, chlorophyll lattes, and celtuce (apparently the new kale) may need a little more time to catch on. However, already popular or not, the majority of the list’s items are distinctly plant-based, and references to meat—real meat— are few and far between. There is a predicted push for lab-grown meat, impossible meat, and faux meat snacks, three trends arguably at odds with the overarching focus on all-natural everything, ingredient transparency, and identifiable whole foods. But for local hunters, like Winston Graves and Pete Hopewell, real meat definitely isn’t born in test tubes or even necessarily wrapped in plastic and then purchased in stores. It is healthy and sourced directly from nature, a part of environmental conservation, and, in the end, an act that requires a sense of responsibility and reflection. Growing popularity for the Farm-to-Table and The Local Food Movement ideologies indicate that consumers are becoming increasingly interested and invested in the origin of their ingredients. On Instagram, the hashtag “eat local” has 6.2 million submissions and “organic” has 40 million. But for Graves and Hopewell, these aren’t new concepts, and they are part of the appeal of hunting. Graves explains, “It’s 100% organic wild game, non-GMO, whatever you want to call it. And I know where I harvested it.”
Hopewell shares a similar sentiment, “You aren’t waiting around for this animal to grow on a farm – like this giant methane factory. There are benefits. They are freerange. We are eating things that are already out there.” For Graves and Hopewell, good hunting practices go further than responsible harvesting and the move away from the perils of processing plants. It is also about a connection with the land and a desire to preserve it. “It is very much an environmental thing. Some of the hunting groups are the most ardent conservationist groups out there.” Hopewell continues, “They do a lot of lobbying on both the state and federal level on maintaining healthy animal herds, maintaining public lands. They don’t want to see this tradition go away,” he insists. Graves shares, “We don’t hunt just to hunt. There are conservation efforts. Hunters are environmentalists. If we didn’t have the wetland space, the waterfowl, that would take away this part of our lifestyle.” The process of watching, looking, listening, and freezer stocking inevitably leads to cooking and a willingness to experiment. For non-hunters, cooking game meat may seem intimidating or even exotic. But Graves advises, “Treat it like anything else … don’t be afraid.” And that using everything you harvest “is a nice way to fuel experimentation with recipes. It encourages you to be a little brave.” Though “game recipes” may not be trending just yet, they are certainly a worthy pursuit for any experimental foodie. With that in mind, you’ll find two easy-for-anylevel cook recipes below as a way to get your feet wet with game meat.
SERVES: 4 TIME: 3 HOURS INGREDIENTS:
1½ pounds of venison stew meat, cubed 3 tablespoons of olive oil 1 medium onion, diced 2 cloves of garlic, minced 1 ½ tablespoons of all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon of tomato paste ½ cup of red wine 1 cup of chicken stock 2 sprigs of fresh thyme 1 pound of small potatoes, quartered 2 carrots, peeled and sliced ½ cup of frozen peas salt and pepper, to taste DIRECTIONS:
1. Sear half the cubed venison in 1 tablespoon of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until browned on all sides, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining venison. Set the meat aside. 2. Turn the heat down to medium and add the third tablespoon of olive oil, followed by the diced onion. Season the onion with salt and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. 3. Add garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant. 4. Next, stir in the flour and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. 5. Follow with the tomato paste, red wine, and chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. 6. Return the venison and its juices to the pot and season with salt and pepper. 7. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. 8. After an hour, add the potatoes and carrots. Cover the pot and let simmer for an additional 40 minutes until the vegetables and venison are tender and the meat has an internal temperature of 160°F. 9. Stir in the peas and cook for 5 more minutes until they are warmed through. 10. Spoon the stew into bowls and serve immediately. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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Seared Duck with Spiced Clementine Preserves
SERVES: 2 TIME: 1 HOUR INGREDIENTS:
1 one-pound duck breast, skin on 1 tablespoon of olive oil salt and pepper, to taste 1 cup of clementine juice (or orange juice) ¼ cup of sugar ¼ cup of orange liqueur (such as Cointreau) ¼ teaspoon of five-spice powder 1 tablespoon cornstarch 4 clementines DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. 2. Using a very sharp knife, score the skin of the duck in a crosshatch pattern. Make sure to cut through the fat down to the flesh but not through the flesh. Pat the skin dry with a paper towel. 3. Place a medium-sized cast iron or other oven-safe pan over low heat. Add the tablespoon of olive oil and swirl it around the pan. 4. Place the duck skin-side down into the pan. Cook over a very low flame to render the fat and crisp the skin. This will take 25 – 30 minutes. Season the duck generously with salt and pepper. 5. While the duck fat renders, make the spiced clementine sauce. Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the clementine juice, sugar, orange liqueur, and five spice powder. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce to a simmer. 6. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water to create a slurry. 7. Add the slurry to the juice mixture. Simmer the liquid for an additional 3 – 5 minutes until it has thickened slightly.
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8. Peel the whole clementines, removing as much of the white stringy stuff as possible, discard the peels, and break the fruit down into individual segments. 9. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the segments. Set the sauce aside to cool to room temperature. 10. The duck is ready to flip when the skin is a dark amber color and crispy to the touch. 11. Flip the duck and brown the other side. 12. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and cook to desired temperature. The timing of this step will depend on how thick your duck breast is. For medium-rare, it may only take 4 – 5 minutes for the duck to reach an internal temperature of 135°F. 13. When the duck has reached your desired doneness, remove it from the oven and cover it with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing into half-inch slices. 14. Place three or four slices on each plate. Add a generous drizzle of clementine sauce and a few clementine segments. Serve immediately.
The Allure of Absinthe “It’s an Adventure!” BY GLENDA C. BOOTH
BY ED FELKER
he myth, mystery, and romance of absinthe intrigued Peter Ahlf, an aerospace engineer-turned-distiller at Middleburg’s Mt. Defiance Distillery and Cidery, where absinthe is a star product. Absinthe was the favored drink of 19th century bohemian artists and writers in Paris. It was blamed when a Swiss man murdered his wife and daughters in 1910. It’s been the alleged cause of decadence, numb tongues, hallucinations, blackouts, and psychedelic experiences. Some claim it is an aphrodisiac and enhances the senses. Ernest Hemingway is known as one of the 20th century’s most bibulous absinthe drinkers and referred to the beverage in several of his novels, including Death in the Afternoon and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Artists Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent van Gogh painted absinthe drinkers in the 1800s and, as legend has it, they enjoyed this enticing green liquor too much. Playwright Oscar Wilde, a regular absinthe drinker, famously detailed the drink’s effects on him: “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.” Clouded by a complicated social and legal history, absinthe has been the An absinthe fountain drips ice cold water over a sugar cube into an awaiting taste of absinthe. Fountains like this have four or more taps, adding a social element to the ritual of drinking absinthe. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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DRINK in the country, explains, “One of the ingredients is wormwood, but there are no worms nor wood involved.” Wormwood is the colloquial name for Artemisia absinthium, the definitive ingredient in the beverage. He grows and dries most of the herbs that go into absinthe — grand wormwood, Roman wormwood, genepi, peppermint, lemon balm, and hyssop. He imports fennel from Provence and anise seed from Andalusia Spain. To produce this limey-green spirit, he soaks, then distills grand wormwood, green aniseed, fennel, and peppermint in alcohol and steeps the remaining herbs in heated distillate. Ahlf makes around 400 bottles of absinthe verte, a French green absinthe, a month. The distillery sells as much absinthe as they do rum and bourbon. “It’s a big deal for us,” says Ahlf. HOW TO DRINK ABSINTHE
Rarely served straight, or neat, absinthe can be enjoyed diluted with cold water and sugar, or mixed in a number of cocktails like this Turf Club.
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cused on providing current, historically and scientifically accurate information about absinthe, helping to reform the regulations impacting absinthe in the United States and encouraging the responsible enjoyment of a safe, rewarding, and historically interesting beverage.” What’s the wormwood connection? Ahlf, one of a handful of absinthe makers
BY ED FELKER
bad boy of alcohol over the years. Served the classic French way, its disrepute is undeserved, argues Ahlf. There are so many misconceptions about absinthe and spurious products purporting to be absinthe that this spirit has its own advocacy organization, the Wormwood Society. The website explains, “The Wormwood Society is a non-profit association fo-
“You should never drink it straight,” cautions Ahlf. Absinthe typically is 55 to 72 percent alcohol. Ahlf’s is 70 percent alcohol and it has no sugar or other sweeteners. “Most people say it tastes like licorice,” offers Ed Jenkins, the bartender in Mt. Defiance’s tasting room. “It has an anise flavor and a lot of people love it. It can grow on you the more you drink. It’s an adventure,” he adds. The distillery sells one 13-ounce bottle for $31.99. Absinthe is usually slowly imbibed as an aperitif spirit before meals. Basically, experienced absinthe drinkers dilute it with cold, iced water, three to five parts water to one part absinthe. While some absinthe purists say they practice the “absinthe ritual,” the Wordwood Society’s website notes, “. . . it’s really not much more complicated than fixing a cup of tea.” At Mt. Defiance Distillery, bartenders pour one-half ounce in a fairly heavy, special stemmed, sundae-type glass that has a reservoir or bubble just above the stem and place the glass under an absinthe fountain. They rest a specially-designed, slotted spoon on top of the glass to hold a sugar cube and drip water from the fountain’s spout through the sugar cube until the sugar disappears. The absinthe becomes milky or cloudy, a state called the “louche.” (In French, “louche,” pronounced “loosh,” means “turbulent” or “cloudy.”) The absinthe releases herbal aromas and some say the flavor “blooms.”
DRINK MOUNT DEFIANCE DISTILLERY AND CIDERY mtdefiance.com facebook.com/mtdefiancecider Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 12 - 6 p.m. Additional products: rum, amaretto, cassis liqueur, sweet vermouth, pommeau, agave spirit, apple brandy, bourbon, and whiskey 2020 ABSINTHE FESTIVAL AND COMPETITION Ahlf is organizing the first-ever Middleburg International Absinthe Festival for June 6, 2020, to showcase absinthe and offer tastings. He is also planning seminars and absinthe herb garden tours during the event. Between 30 and 50 distilleries will participate in an absinthe competition.
Top: Mt. Defiance founding partner Marc Chretien, who makes the cider, and distiller Peter Ahlf.
BY ED FELKER (TOP) | BY GLENDA BOOTH (BOTTOM)
Bottom: Peter Ahlf drying herbs for absinthe.
Aficionados may rate the beverage’s appearance, hue, depth, clarity, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finish. The Wormwood Society offers a detailed rating guide. Even the bottle’s label is alluring, designed in the style of Alphonse Mucha, a Czech artist who lived in Paris during the Art Nouveau period. It features a demure woman in a lavender gown, perhaps in a reverie, with flowers in her hair surrounded by red, pink, and yellow blossoms and a green and gold design. ENTREPRENEURS
Mt. Defiance Cidery and Distillery is a partnership of two friends operating in two separate buildings about a mile apart , the
distillery and the cidery, on the west and east ends of Middleburg’s Washington Street. Ahlf worked in aerospace engineering for 24 years, including 16 at the National Aerospace and Space Administration’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. For fun, he started doing woodworking, making custom cabinets. Marc Chretien hired him to design and build a tasting room in the former automobile repair shop, now the distillery. Chretien, the cidery manager, is a retired lawyer and former State Department senior advisor who went to Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. Ahlf started by making apple brandy and rum, but was hooked on absinthe’s myth and romance. He saw a market-
ing niche and turned to absinthe because it could make their distillery stand out. When he started in 2015, no one in Virginia was making it and today, the closest producer is in Philadelphia. He could find scant information about absinthe production, but connected with a small southwest Virginia company that grows herbs organically, Absintheherbs.com. He perfected his beverage through trial and error. Unlike bourbon or other liquors that have to be aged, “You don’t have to wait for it,” he says. “You can serve it quickly after it’s done. Bourbon has to age for at least two years.” And he summarizes, “At the end of the day, I can sip.” PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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The Barrel Age Extending the Useful Life of Barrels through Creativity and Collaboration ED FELKER
arrels are everywhere. And while not all barrels are created equal, one could travel the globe, stop in any winery or distillery and recognize the same basic pieces and construction: staves – a series of slats, usually oak, cut at an angle and arranged in a circle; flat head pieces that seal off the top and bottom; and wood or metal hoops that hold it all togeth20 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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er. That’s it. Modern barrel makers, called coopers, may enjoy better tools than those their predecessors used, but the basic, efficient anatomy of the barrel has remained unchanged for thousands of years. And for as long as people have been aging wine, whiskey, or other spirits in barrels, there have always been those who, upon pouring that last dram, ponder the empty cask and wonder, “Well, what should we do with it now?” Perhaps no one has pondered it more in recent decades than craft brewers. In the mid-1990s, Greg Hall, who was brewing beer at the still small Goose Island Brewpub in Chicago, came up with an idea to celebrate the brewery’s thousandth batch of beer. He would brew a stout, he decided, then age it in bourbon barrels. Taylor Smack, who entered the craft beer scene as head brewer at Goose Island’s original location a few years after Hall’s groundbreaking stout, tells the story: “Aging beer in wood barrels is as old as the hills. Traditionally, however, brewers went through great care to have no flavor impact from the barrel – pitch-lining them, steam cleaning them, etc. Greg Hall's innovation to age beer in barrels with the intent to incorporate the flavors from what was previously in the barrels was new.” The result of that innovation was the much heralded,
limited release Bourbon County Stout. From there, other brewers in the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild began trying their hands at the aging-in-used-spirits-barrels technique, too. “That was really how it spread, from Goose Island to the neighboring breweries; after that it was like a match in a dry hay pile,” Smack said. “It was cool to see it happen.” Smack brought the technique to Charlottesville’s South Street Brewing in 2002 with great success. “My mentor Jacque Landry and I actually placed first in the Experimental Category at the first ever Festival of Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago,” Smack said. “We beat out Sam Adams’ Utopias... that was pretty exciting.” He went on to co-found Blue Mountain Brewery (which later purchased South
For as long as people have been aging wine, whiskey, or other spirits in barrels, there have always been those who, upon pouring that last dram, ponder the empty cask and wonder, “Well, what should we do with it now?”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF JUMBO BOTTOM BARREL WORKS
The end of a barrel’s usefulness as a vessel can sometimes mean the beginning of a new life as something else. Woodworker John Bestwick of family-owned Jumbo Bottom Barrel Works creates unique, eco-friendly furnishings from reclaimed barrels.
Street) where he is currently co-owner and brewmaster. There in the hills of Nelson County, tapping ample cold, clean, perfect brewing water from wells nearly 500 feet deep, Smack created Dark Hollow, a low-roast, barrel-aged, imperial stout with notes of bourbon and vanilla. It became Blue Mountain’s flagship beer and was so popular they expanded their operation. The Barrel House was constructed a halfhour south of the main brewery, and was equipped with a special brewing system that gives them better control of the 10% ABV Dark Hollow and their other higher gravity beers. The barrel-aging room can hold up to 600 barrels in a temperature-controlled climate, fluctuating the temperature along a 26-degree Fahrenheit range every three weeks to help move the beer in and out of the porous char of the whiskey barrels. “There are a few other things that make the process special,” Smack said. “But a gentleman has to have some secrets.” For bourbon and most other American whiskey production, barrels are required to be three things: new, American, and charred. After that one use, distillers have empty barrels they can’t use. Well, “empty” isn’t exactly accurate. Many gallons of whiskey remains soaked into the wood. Blue
Mountain sources most of the whiskey barrels they use for aging from numerous distilleries in Kentucky. A few hours north in Loudoun County, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company finds their used whisky barrels (Catoctin Creek uses the traditional Scottish spelling of whisky without the “e”) in high demand locally and beyond, and not just from breweries. “Sharing barrels sprang out of necessity,” Catoctin Creek owner Scott Harris said. “There are only so many barrels, it would be a shame to waste something with that level of craftsmanship when it could get much, much more use.” Their first collaboration was with maple syrup maker Langdon Wood, who uses Catoctin Creek’s rye and brandy barrels for their syrups. “The rye brings this amazing vanilla and oak flavor and a little spiciness to the syrup that even people who say they don't like rye tell us they love,” Art Drauglis, Langdon Wood’s “Syrup Baron” said. “The brandy barrel-aged syrup (Brandy Time) is like boozy brunch in a bottle.” Art and his wife Ketzirah have long thought of taking reaction photos to capture the faces of customers tasting the syrups for the first time. “Sometimes they are skeptical, but then they just smile and go, ‘Wow!’” Art said. At first, that barrel-aged syrup was the end of that collaboration. But Harris soon saw the great unrealized potential of the multi-use barrel. While his 100% rye whisky is required to be manufactured in new barrels, he could age existing whisky in those barrels now infused with delicious maple syrup, and others with hickory syrup from Clarke County’s Falling Bark Farm. Those barrels of syrup-finished rye are now bottled and released once a year in the fall and are extremely popular. Art and Ketzirah Drauglis keep a bottle of maple finished rye at their home and love it. “It brings a new sweetness and just a hint of maple to their fabulous rye,” Art said. “It's great straight with a single ice cube, or mixed in cocktails.” Adroit Theory Brewing Company in Purcellville specializes in “esoteric beers
with an emphasis on barrel aging.” So naturally they are at the center of some fun collaborations. For instance, Adroit Theory brewed an imperial stout, which Catoctin Creek then distilled into a malt whisky. It was aged for 4.666 years and bottled as the Dia de los Muertos. It sold out almost immediately, but Langdon Wood then used that malt whisky barrel to age their maple syrup. The resulting Dia de Los Muertos whiskey barrel aged syrup was released this fall. In the words of Art the Syrup Baron, and perhaps a surprise to no one, “It's pretty intense.” Another dimension of creative barrel sharing occurs around the winemaking industry. Wine barrels differ from whiskey barrels cosmetically – the wood in wine barrels is kiln dried and toasted rather than charred, the sides of wine barrels are more round, the metal hoops are galvanized, and generally more care is taken in making them more attractive – but when a wine barrel gets emptied, people still want to put other things in it. And conversely, plenty of wine has spent time in whiskey barrels. “We started our winery carrying on a tradition of aging one of our wines in once-used bourbon barrels,” Jay Decianno of Quattro Goombas Winery said. “This was something my grandfather and others had done when making wine for themselves.” Quattro Goombas ages their big red wines in barrels sourced from A. Smith Bowman, maker of Virginia Gentleman bourbon. There is also a craft brewery on the premises where beer has aged in both bourbon and wine barrels. Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars in Loudoun County started his career at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, Calif., as the ‘Barrel Enologist,’ focusing on the barrel end of the business. As such, any filling, emptying, sampling, buying and selling of barrels – upwards of 8,000 of them each year – all happened under his domain. When he moved to Virginia, he used his extensive experience and California contacts for barrels to help Virginia startup wineries. He launched his first Fabbioli Cellars vintage in 2004 and opened the tasting room PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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Top: From lightly toasted wine casks to heavily charred bourbon barrels, the first substance to touch the inside of a new barrel is fire. Center: James Critz inspects beer-filled barrels aging at Blue Mountain Barrel House. Bottom: Blue Mountain Brewery’s flagship whiskey barrel-aged beer, Dark Hollow, on the workbench at Jumbo Bottom Barrel Works. 22 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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TOP: PHOTO COURTESY OF SPEYSIDE BOURBON COOPERAGE | CENTER: PHOTO COURTESY OF BLUE MOUNTAIN BREWERY | BOTTOM: BY ED FELKER
two years later. At any given time, he has roughly 150 barrels on site. Fabbioli reuses barrels but tracks them carefully, because each time wine is aged, that barrel loses some of its capacity to impart oak character into the wine. The contents of different aged barrels may then be combined to produce a consistent wine from bottle to bottle. Blended wines typically also spend time together in a barrel to marry the flavors of different grapes, rather than trusting it will happen in the bottle. “A wedding is a moment,” Fabbioli says of aging blended wines together in barrels. “A marriage is time.” Eventually, though, the barrels simply don’t have enough oak character to give, and Fabbioli retires between 30 and 40 barrels a year. These retired wine barrels are desirable to any number of brewers, distillers or other businesses hoping to capture the essence of the barrels’ previous inhabitant. But there’s a catch: once a wine barrel is emptied, the remaining wine, exposed to all the oxygen an empty barrel is now filled with, goes bad quickly. It’s important that the new resident of the barrel move in swiftly, so the retired Fabbioli barrels go mostly to local breweries and distilleries. Old Ox Brewery has aged beer in their raspberry barrels, Vanish Brewery right up the road from Fabbioli takes his cabernet sauvignon barrels. And any barrels used for big reds, fruit based wine, or ports are extremely sought after. Brandies, cordials, rum, etc. all can be aged in wine barrels, giving them all an additional dimension of creativity. Fabbioli sees the rural economy as a rich, 3D tapestry. “By integrating byproducts and collaborating on side projects, we can be creative with our products,” he said. “We want to be more than, ‘This is it, this is all we do.’”
INGENUITY Examples of that collaborative creativity in Virginia abound. Sperryville’s Copper Fox Distillery sent barrels to King of Clubs Brewing – coffee, not beer – in Williamsburg to produce barrel-aged coffee beans. Virginia Distillery is producing cider-finished, port-finished, and coffeefinished whiskey. Industry partners are joining with restaurants, inventing products, sharing ideas, and swapping barrels. Tarver King, chef at The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, not only barrel ages sugar, hot sauce, and other products he then uses in cooking, he uses barrel staves for grilling, smoking, plating creative dishes, and even aging cocktails. In the spring of 2015, woodworker John Bestwick, living and working in the heart of Virginia’s wine country, purchased some wine barrels from Breaux Vineyards. He didn’t have a particular plan in mind for them, the idea was to just take them apart, assess the wood, and determine what could be made with the pieces.
“The first thing I ever built was an Adirondack style chair,” Bestwick said. “I knew right then I was on to something I could sell.” His design took advantage of the curved staves and resulted in a uniquely beautiful, extraordinarily comfortable piece of furniture. He started Jumbo Bottom Barrel Works and now produces tables, bar stools, benches, and more. But the chairs, largely unchanged from that first design, remain among his most popular pieces. At his standalone workshop, surrounded by pieces of barrels that are finally no longer barrels, Bestwick feeds a few scraps of whiskey staves to a small wood stove. Then he opens a Blue Mountain barrelaged Dark Hollow stout – with a barrel stave bottle opener, of course. He loves the beer, and appreciates the barrel that gave it its flavor, its character, and its punch. He holds it up to the light and, naturally, starts talking about barrels. “Ever since I started doing this, I notice barrels everywhere – movies, commer-
cials, TV shows, even cartoons,” Bestwick said. “I’m always yelling, ‘Look at that barrel!’” A few local wineries offer Barrel Club memberships, wherein members get to keep a barrel that was used to age a favorite wine. Some members have brought their barrels to Bestwick to have a custom piece of furniture created from it, adding even more layers of significance to the piece. A barrel begins its lifespan filled only with fire. It passes from cooper to distiller or winemaker, then perhaps back and forth to brewers of beer or coffee, on to artists, craftsmen or chefs. It may end up as furniture on a front porch, a prop on a movie set, or scraps in a wood stove. Whatever its journey, thanks to the creativity and collaboration of all those who come to possess it, countless people will have shared in its essence along the way. And the barrel, with its simple construction and ancient design, becomes far greater than the sum of its parts.
THIS WINTER SEASON Give the Gift of Virginia Wine Excellence
4366 Stillhouse Road, Hume, Virginia 22639 | 540.364.1203 | pcwinery.com | Hours: Sun & Fri: 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Sat: 11:00AM to 6:00PM Please check website and social media for seasonal hours PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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It Started with
The United States’ audio-visual heritage is preserved in the Piedmont at the Library of Congress’s Packard Campus BY GLENDA C. BOOTH
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n January 7, 1894, the Library of Congress received its first request for a US government motion picture copyright for a fivesecond, black-and-white, silent film of Fred Ott sniffing a pinch of snuff and sneezing. The applicant? Thomas Alva Edison. Rather than taking a still picture, director William K.L. Dickson had captured Ott’s motion on film. Ott was Edison’s assistant at the West Orange, N.J., Edison Manufacturing Co. in the country’s first movie studio. The film, Fred Ott’s Sneeze, a series of 45 frames, is the country’s earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture. A photographic print representing what was on the film is housed in a specially-designed former Cold War bunker, today’s Library of Congress National Audio-Visual Conservation Center (NAVCC) located at the Packard Campus in Culpeper. Edison went on to produce more than 1,000 films for the public; 341 are stored in the Center, including an even older Edison experimental film, The Newark Athlete, a 10-second, silent film from 1891 for which he did not seek a copyright. The NAVCC has another Edison motion picture treasure, his 1891 kinetoscope. In this machine, a continuous ribbon of film was rolled on a series of rollers inside an upright wooden cabinet which had a peephole and a magnifying lens so one person at a time could view motion pictures. The kinetoscope became popular at penny arcades for watching short films. Even earlier, in 1877, Edison had invented a tinfoil cylinder sound recording machine. In the 1880s, he improved on it with wax-coated, cardboard cylinders and the NAVCC is home to thousands. Late nineteenthcentury anthropologists used Edison’s wax cylinder devices to record Native Americans’ languages and songs, probably some of the first recorded human sounds. This recording method was used from roughly 1896 to 1915, before flat disk records came along.
These pioneering inventions are just a few of the priceless items in the 7.5-million-item collection of the Center. “We house the audiovisual treasures of the United States,” says Gregory Lukow, the center’s chief, manager of the world’s largest collection of films, sound recordings and radio and television programs, from Gone with the Wind to Groucho Marx to Walt Disney’s first Cinderella to Jurassic Park to Brokeback Mountain. THE BUNKER
There’s no roadside sign. Visitors who turn off Route 522 onto Mount Pony Road see a gray, concrete building looming next to what looks like a grassy hill. Two streams of steam appear to puff out of the 784-foot mound, but they are actually rising from two chimney-like pipes of an underground building. This sprawling, 415,000-square-foot, quarter-mile-long structure was built in the 1960s into the side of Mount Pony, the highest point in Culpeper County, for the Federal Reserve Bank to store billions of dollars in currency. Designers wanted the building to be bomb proof in case Washington, D.C. was attacked. Ninety percent is underground. Its 173,000-square-foot green roof, the size of three football fields, is one of the largest of its kind on the East Coast. PACKARD’S FORESIGHT AND GENEROSITY
In the early 1990s, the audio-visual collection was spread across four states. A 1997 law authorized the Packard Humanities Institute, a non-profit foundation dedicated to archaeology, music, film preservation, and historical archives, to purchase the decommis-
sioned Federal Reserve building. The bunker-type building was ideal to hold the nation’s cultural treasures. In 2007, the institute’s head, David Packard, gave the facility to the US Government, a $160 million gift, the largest private sector gift to the federal government in history with the exception of James Smithson’s bequest of the Smithsonian museums in the mid-19th century. Packard, a Californian, had a long-established interest in movie preservation and wanted a permanent record for the nation. The Center archives the nation’s audio-visual heritage: 1.8 million moving images, 3.6 million sound recordings, and 2.1 million related documents. The collection includes radio and television shows and commercials; theatrical films and newsreels; educational, industrial and advertising material; commercial sound recordings; and early voice recordings of historical figures. But it’s not just an archive. Experts in three preservation laboratories are digitizing much of the nation’s audio-visual media, including obsolete formats dating back 120 years. Among other challenges, staffers deal with physical degradation and obsolescence, such as lacquer discs and magnetic tapes used from the 1930s into the 1990s. Preserving forever American cultural creativity is a calling for these employees. Lukow, the head since 2007, explains, “It’s the audio-visual history of our country. It’s vitally important to understand our nation, its strengths and weaknesses, whether it’s newsreels or Groucho Marx or Gunsmoke. It tells us a lot about who we are, what we cope with. We have to understand the historical context. If you read a book, you have to imagine what the people and the times looked and sounded like. With audio-visual products, we can hear and see.” PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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HISTORY AV PRODUCTION OVER THE YEARS
A tour of the center is a veritable tutorial on audio and visual production’s evolution, from Edison’s early devices to today’s cutting-edge digital technologies. Take movies, for example. Today, production companies send a digital cinema package (DCP) to theaters. One hundred years ago, a technician hand cranked a projector to unspool and respool reel-toreel film. The operator could crank faster to speed up a chase scene and crank slower for a crying scene. Between 1925 and 1940, projection equipment had motors and gears to propel reels of vinyl film at a steady speed. The film was especially flammable, so theaters had trained union projectionists. Starting in the 1920s, non-flammable, “safety film” evolved and schools, churches, and homes showed movies using reel-to-reel projectors. In the 1980s and 1990s, many home movie buffs plunked magnetic tape video cassettes into home video players. Today, people pop a digital versatile disk (DVD) into a DVD player, live stream movies to their computer or mobile device, or subscribe to a movies-on-demand cable television channel. SPECIAL STAFF, SPECIAL CONDITIONS
The center’s 120 employees, many with very specialized skills, manage the 7.5 million items and nearly 90 miles of steel shelves in 124 custom-designed vaults 20 feet underground in spaces set at 30 percent humidity and a constant 37-degree temperature. The area storing compact disks, vinyl records, and wax cylinders spans the length of a football field. Clockwise from top left: A film lab where experts can repair damaged film and prepare it to be copied and preserved. Movie memorabilia decorates the work bench of film inspector Richard Hincha. A replica of a 1933 poster promoting the Marx Brothers movie “Duck Soup” Nitrate film deteriorates over time and becomes very brittle, like these fragments. Larry Smith, nitrate film specialist, holds a 16-inch transcription disk,
a special phonograph record intended for, or recorded from, a radio broadcast. The “short” hallway containing 50 fireproof nitrate film vaults. Behind the double doors at the end is another hallway the length of a football field with 74 more underground vaults storing over four million records (33rpm, 45rpm, 78rpm), wax cylinders, CDs and audio tapes.
GEMS HOUSED AT THE PACKARD CAMPUS • Film copies of all of the 1950s I Love Lucy television shows • Copies of Ginger Rogers’s films • Jack Benny’s 1930s to 1950s radio shows recorded live • Comic Bob Hope’s collection of his work. • The first copy of Bing Crosby’s White Christmas record released in 1942 • The first color television broadcast, President Dwight Eisenhower dedicating WRC television station in Washington, D.C., in 1958 • The original camera negatives of Universal’s 1931 Frankenstein horror movie and Disney’s 1937 Snow White, the first animated feature film. • The 1941 radio broadcast of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “date which will live in infamy” speech. • The 1962 radio broadcast of Wilt Chamberlain’s record-breaking 100-point basketball game.
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Antiques & Home Décor
FOR THE PUBLIC Public access to the center is limited. On most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, the public can watch classic movies in the 205-seat theater reminiscent of a 1930s movie palace with ornate chandeliers, cloth wall covers and red velvet curtains. Two projectors play 35- and 70-millimeter films; one reel-to-reel plays 16-millimeter films; and one digital projector plays digital films. A custommade organ provides music for silent films, as in yesteryear.
Every Columbus Day, the center hosts tours of the whole building at 15-minute intervals, attracting 400-500 visitors.
600 East Main St. Purcellville, VA 20132
19487 James Monroe Hwy Leesburg, VA 20175 (Rt. 15 South & Harmony Church Rd)
Packard Campus Theater website: loc.gov/avconservation/theater
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The highly flammable nitrate film is in a room with spark-proof lights and switches. From 1890 to 1950, 85 percent of all silent films and half of films before World War II were made of nitrocellulose. When they age, they get very dry and brittle and even crystalize. Some of these films were lost, burned, or deteriorated.
FAVORITE Find us on Facebook • Gifts and Home Décor • Antiques • Reclaimed Furniture email@example.com • Local Art & Products • Authorized Fusion Paint Dealer Mon-Thurs: 10-5 • Painting & Jewelry Making Workshops Fri-Sat: 10-6 • Custom Made Furniture Sun: 10-5
The center’s preservation work is not without challenges. Technology is ever-changing. “Every 20 years, the technology doubles on how much information we can get from the analog media as well as the amount of detail the digital copies can offer,” explains Larry Smith, Nitrate Film Specialist. “As in the VHS of The Wizard of Oz (1939) compared to the DVD and now the Blu-Ray restoration, I think it looks as good or better than new.” Today, fine detail is measured in bytes and conservators can repair and copy film in ways not envisioned just 10 years ago. The center hopes to convert and preserve much of its collection to digital files, which means that staffers have to learn new technologies as they emerge. The same is true of managing the facility, its special vaults, and mechanics. And there’s always the “mixed blessing” of a steady flow of donations backlogged and awaiting preservation. Smith worries that the pioneering movies of the 1930s and 1940s are losing their allure among today’s younger generation, who are more likely to click around the internet and Facebook or text and tweet than watch an old movie. Nevertheless, the center wants to maintain these gems forever. “Today, there are more film titles available to the public than any other time in our lives and the Library of Congress is America’s treasure chest of audio-visual culture,” Smith underscores. “It is important to foster an environment that encourages the preservation of our nation’s cultural resources, and films and music are a big part of the American experience,” Iowa Senator Charles Grassley told his colleagues in 2016. The National Audio-Visual Conservation Center gladly accepts that challenge. Thomas Edison would no doubt approve.
A journal of appreciation of nature, place, people, and ways of life.
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Welbourne: 8 generations home & hist of ory
FUND GENE THE NEING RATIO XT MUSIC N OF IANS MAR
OUR MISSION Affinities, not simply geography, create the Piedmont’s unique regional identity. We strive to give voice to this special—even magical— place in the hopes that it remains so.
piedmontvirginian.com PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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Glimpses of the Piedmont Scenic Virginia’s annual Virginia Vistas Photo Contest All photos courtesy of Scenic Virginia
Scenic Virginia’s annual Virginia Vistas Photo Contest showcases the amazing depth and breadth of scenic beauty in the Commonwealth. Notes Executive Director Leighton Powell, “There is so much to love in our beautiful Virginia, and our annual photo contest reminds Virginians how lucky we are to call this place “home.” Of course, here at The Piedmont Virginian we couldn’t agree more. While we love all of Virginia, we showcase only a portion: the northern Piedmont. So we’ve selected some of those photos that either won or received an honorable mention in the contest that are specifically in our editorial coverage area to share with our readers. Returning as Photo Contest judges were Ben Greenberg, a professional photographer and author of Natural Virginia; Judy Watkins, Special Projects Manager at Virginia Tourism Corporation; Tom Saunders, a professional photographer with the Virginia Department of Transportation; and Eugenia AndersonEllis, a Scenic Virginia Advisory Board member and former president. 28 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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“Old Barn Sunset” By Robert Golub
Route 522, Rappahannock County
Winner in the Farms and Open Spaces Category
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Clockwise from top left: “Hayfield” by Kathy Russell
Front Royal, Warren County.
Honorable Mention in Farms and Open Spaces Category
“Drive Into the Autumn” by Vladimir Grablev.
Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, Stanardsville.
Honorable Mention in Highways and Byways Category
“Sunrise over Fog in the Shenandoah” by Thomas Hennessy. Ivy Creek Overlook in Free Union.
Honorable Mention in Mountains and Valleys Category
“Shenandoah’s Golden Poplar Grove” by Kalen Martin-Gross Shenandoah National Park, Front Royal. Honorable Mention in Scenic Trees Category
“Pastel Sunset” by Robert Golub
Rillhurst Farm, Culpeper.
Honorable Mention in the Scenic Trees Category
“Carl’s” by Glenn Suttenfield Fredericksburg.
Honorable Mention in Cities and Towns Category
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Mountain Hike Leads to Writer’s First Novel Go Down the Mountain brings to light the residents’ plight during the creation of Shenandoah National Park BY LINDA ROBERTS
decade ago, Meredith Battle came across the remains of an old foundation and chimney while hiking in the Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains. At the time she had no idea that her discovery would lead to the creation of her first novel, Go Down the Mountain. Sitting in the dining room of her family’s historic home in the quaint village of
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Waterford in western Loudoun County, Battle reflected over the ensuing years. She outlined the turn of events that set her on a winding pathway toward publishing a fictional novel based on an actual event now chronicled as part of history. Battle often thought back to the old ruins she stumbled upon on her hike and wondered to herself who had lived there and why would they leave such a beautiful place. She eventually decided to take action on her thoughts and began researching the Shenandoah National Park. At the time she was living in California where her husband’s job had landed the family and her investigations provided a welcome tie back to her roots in Virginia. What Battle discovered as she dug into the Park’s origins was alarming to her and set in motion a strong desire to express her findings in writing. She chose a novel format and created a cast of fictional characters, including the intrepid heroine, aptly named Busy Bee, as the vehicle. Told through the eyes of Busy Bee, the plot twists and turns, weaving in stories and challenges of the mountain people who once lived in what is now the Shenandoah National Park. “I always loved to write and wanted to be a writer,” said Battle, who grew up following her talent and later found it a natural part of her career in public affairs. Her research provided the outlet to try her hand at fiction and gave her an opportunity to share what she found was a compelling story. Go down the Mountain is a tribute to her father, who was “my sounding board and cheerleader” for the novel. Using a variety of sources in her research, Battle learned that some 500 families were displaced when Virginia began amassing tracts of land that would eventually be gifted to the federal government to create the Shenandoah National Park. The families were evicted to resettlement areas after being paid small sums for their property if they moved willingly. Those who protested were forcibly evicted and given no compensation. There was no negotiation, Battle said.
The government misled the homesteaders, Battle said, noting that while they were sometimes told they could eventually return that was never the intent. Homes and barns were burned to further bring an abrupt ending to their lives in the mountains. Meanwhile, the settlers were not allowed to return to harvest any crops that they had planted. Battle’s months of research “were like uncovering the answers to a mystery, since I didn’t know the story,” she said. “I could virtually go to Virginia from California,” she added, noting that her background information was gathered using the Internet, including listening to interviews housed in a special collections library at James Madison University in Harrisonburg that was available online. The Library of Congress also yielded important information, including that about a real life photographer, upon which she shaped one of her characters, Miles, who was hired by the government to photograph the homesteaders. Completing her novel, Battle thought it would have only limited appeal, perhaps regional. She has been surprised at its widespread and growing popularity since its publication in April. To date, Go Down the Mountain has been on several Amazon bestseller lists and its appeal has been national in scope. Battle’s Facebook page has fanned the novel’s outreach and appeal, linking thousands of interested people together. “I have gotten such positive feedback,” she said, adding that the descendants of the displaced people have loved the book. “It’s been such a rewarding process for me,” said Battle, who felt she has been a link in bringing together families whose ancestors once lived in Virginia’s mountains. “They are so appreciative of the book and thankful to me that I didn’t write about their grandparents as uneducated poor hillbillies as mountain people are so frequently portrayed.” Battle has enjoyed giving several talks and book signings, such as a presentation at James Madison University and attending an annual homecoming event staged by descendants of the displaced families of the Shenandoah National Park. Meanwhile, she has another book in mind and looks forward to the winter months to get started. “I’m an introvert,” she said, adding that
HISTORICAL PHOTOS BY ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN, CIRCA 1935, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
One of the oldest residents of Nethers
she likes nothing better than to be at home writing. “I get my best creative thoughts going while I am walking the dog,” she added with a laugh. Enjoying life with her son, Lucian, and husband, Joe, in the eighteenth-century village of Waterford, Battle takes an active role in community affairs. Her next novel will be set in a fictional small town, which like Waterford, is struggling to preserve its history while the area all around it is rapidly growing. Her characters are already mapped out and Battle smiled when she said her challenge is not to make them too much like Waterford’s real residents. “Writing is a labor of love,” she said, adding “I hope I will enjoy the next book as much as I have Go Down the Mountain.”
THE HISTORY: THE CREATION OF SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK
Stretching from Front Royal at its northern end almost to Waynesboro at the south, the Shenandoah National Park is bordered by the Shenandoah River to the west and the Piedmont’s rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east. Its 200,000 acres are home to wildlife, beautiful waterfalls, amazing vistas and overlooks, campgrounds and lodges, and quiet, wooded trails. The Skyline Drive bisects the Park and provides visitors a 105-mile route running its length. Visitors hiking the many pathways that crisscross the Park may also find stone foundations, chimneys, cemeteries, and apple trees just as Battle did on her hike. These present-day reminders help to form the stories of people who were displaced when legislation was created to create the Park. In 1926, Congress authorized legislation that would eventually result in the Park’s formal establishment in 1935. It was dedicated by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936. During this same time, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was at work in the Park, providing training and jobs to thousands of Virginians. Because legislation stipulated that no federal funding could be used to purchase land for the Park, the Commonwealth of Virginia used state funds to buy the land, which was eventually gifted to the federal government. When the mountain residents refused the sums offered for their property, they were evicted by the process of eminent domain. Homes and outbuildings were often burned to ensure the displaced residents could not return. Considered then a humanitarian act, the eugenics movement — a movement to “improve the human race” by selective sterilization of people with “undesirable” traits — was reaching its peak about the same time, and in Virginia it affected thousands of residents including some of the mountain people. More than 3,000 individual tracts of land were eventually assembled to create the Shenandoah National Park and some 500 families from eight Virginia counties were displaced. Books and papers outline the stories of the displaced residents and studies have been underway for years to uncover and preserve a way of life gone forever. To keep alive the history of the mountain people, descendants of the displaced formed a group called Children of the Shenandoah to share stories and maintain family connections. Today, some 1.2 million visitors come to the Shenandoah National Park each year to enjoy its many offerings. Many will come across old foundations of homes once belonging to displaced residents and their interest may be piqued, as was Meredith Battle’s, to learn more about the people who once made the park their home. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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GO DOWN THE MOUNTAIN BY MEREDITH BATTLE
My Mama named me Ada Anabelle after her own self, which is just about the last name I would have chosen if she’d given baby me a say in it. I guess the joke was on her since, soon as I could talk, she didn’t much care to claim me as her own. Daddy did us all a favor and took to calling me Busy Bee on account of he said I was always buzzing around looking for what trouble I could get into. The Bee part stuck and that’s what Hollow folks called me. The whole Hollow was named after us, after Daddy’s people anyway — Livingston. It was the Livingstons who built the first houses there more than a hundred years ago. They must have thought they’d found Eden when they first laid eyes on the place. Black woods set so close the light was green, violets underfoot, streams cold enough to shock even in summer. 34 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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HISTORICAL PHOTOS BY ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN, CIRCA 1935, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
A D E A L T H AT W O U L D M A K E T H E D E V I L F L I N C H
In all those years between the first Livingstons and me, only the chestnut trees House in changed. They got done in Corbin by blight when I was an ankle Hollow biter — the same year cousin Samuel went moonlight coon hunting dead drunk and stumbled his fool self to a broken neck at the bottom of Thompson’s Gorge. Put your nose up close to their trunks and you might have thought an angry bear had its way with them. They were all torn up with gashes where the blight’s sores split their bark. But even dead those trees stayed standing. I used to pretend they tracked who came and went from the Hollow, good as any hired guards. Turns out they couldn’t keep the bad away. I passed by those trees plenty but, when I first laid eyes on Miles Everheart, I still hadn’t gone farther than to Luray with my Daddy and to Richmond to see Mama’s family. I reckon that was why I was so eaten up with need to be with Miles. He wasn’t much older than me, and there he was about to cross the country and see places I could only visit in books. Being with him felt like maybe I could claim a little part of his adventure for myself. Now’s as good a time as any to tell you I have two beaus in this story. There was Miles. I’m just about to spell out how I fell for him fast as a rock tossed off a ledge. The second one, Torch, started out as a boy who grew up with me on the mountain. We were so much alike we could have been that pair of Siamese twins from England I read about in the paper once, except instead of being attached by an ass cheek, we shared one mind. I’ll get to Torch in a spell. Miles was a government photographer come from Washington to take pictures of the Hollow for an office called the Resettlement
FICTION Administration. His boss told him his photographs would make the case for helping poor people down on their luck. He believed it and so did I when he told me. It’s easy to look back now and see us as fools. I’ll remind you that, until a few years ago, we’d never heard of the government stealing land away from anybody — at least not white folks. Miles spent a month in the Hollow before he got his next assignment. Those weeks shine in my memory. I had a fondness for him that was fierce at its beginning. The first day we met at MacArthur’s Store he offered me five dollars to show him the Hollow. That was a whole hell of a lot of money to me so I agreed even though common sense told me leading a city man around was going to be more than five dollars’ worth of trouble. I made him pay me half up front and came up with a plan to ditch him. I took him straight up the mountain on the steepest, rockiest trail I knew. Hard as I tried to shake him, Miles stayed with me the whole way to the top. I’m still stumped about how he managed it. He slipped and slid so much in his city shoes you’d have thought he was a newborn fawn strapped into a pair of ice skates. He never complained once though, not even when he fell on his ass in the briar patch I went out of my way to take him through. I agreed to meet him at MacArthur’s again the next day. I noticed right away he’d gone and bought himself some sensible boots and jeans that would stand up to a few briar pricks. I also noticed he was handsome in a fine-boned, citified way. He looked painted with one color, a sort of hazel all over, except for his lips which were a bubblegum pink and seemed an advertisement to kiss him, which I did later that day. It wasn’t long before he was nothing but hungry hands and eyes whenever it was just us two. He had a nervous air about him that got soothed when he was alone with me. I liked having such an effect. We laid together in the orchard the day he left the Hollow. He took my picture and sent it to me months later. In it, my skin was the silver of mercury. My black hair twisted wildly as Medusa’s snakes. My gray eyes teased his camera. He said he carried a print of that same photo in his bag. I liked to think of him looking at me, even from far away. I’m glad I haven’t forgotten that last day on the mountain with him. Even the grass remembered us for a while, pressed flat by two bodies, bruised by our romp before he left to go back to the world. Maybe I shouldn’t mention anything to you about me being with a man who wasn’t my husband. A proper mother, like the ones here in the city, wouldn’t. God knows there’s never been much proper about me. I was educated. Mama was the Hollow school teacher and she saw to that. But I’ve always used words I shouldn’t, like goddamn and bastard, and I let my heart get so hot it boils over. Mothers and girls never had much use for me, but boys and men always seemed eager to see me happy. After the snakes killed Daddy, there were plenty of boys, men even, who came around with apple butter jars or scratched and bleeding arms full of the best huckleberries from the thistly patch up on goat’s trail. If you want to know, I kissed a few of them. But Miles was the first man I ever laid with. I’m not ashamed to say the love I had with him, wrestled to its end in the cool shade of the apple trees, was sweeter to me than the best whiskey. Yes, your mama has
Nethers Post Office
tasted whiskey too. I hope you won’t take it too hard if, in the course of reading these pages, you find out I’m not as ladylike as you might have hoped. His boss at the Resettlement Administration aimed to make Miles a happy carpetbagger — Alabama and Arkansas, then the Midwest and on to California (where I’d heard the land was so rich, a strawberry seed spit into the dirt would bloom into a plant in a week’s time). It satisfied him to know his pictures would do good, that Uncle Sam would use them to make the case to the American taxpayers for helping folks down on their luck. I got my first letter from him when he settled in down south. When I looked up from those hushed pages, I was wading through a sea of white Alabama cotton alongside Negro pickers, black as wet fieldstone, glory-to-God hymns rising from their work-wasted bodies like steam. The wicked Dixie sun prickled our skin, stung our eyes with sweat. Prickly cotton plants tore at my clothes, jealous lovers, greedy for another touch. I was sweet on Miles before he left. Soon as I read that letter, I was sure I’d fallen whole hog in love. When it came time for me to write back, I was afraid my letter would be the end of it. Mama had us write plenty of practice letters at school, but my letter to Miles was only the second one I’d ever mailed. The first was for a school project. Mama found us a group of pen pals at a school in Washington, D.C. and I wrote to mine about the dead, bloated deer that exploded all over Daddy when he hit it with a stick because he was too drunk to think better of it. Everybody in class got a return letter but me, so I’d come to believe I wasn’t cut out for correspondence. I steered clear of dead, rotting things and wrote about my feelings for Miles instead. Mama always said I put too much stock in feelings. She called it a sickness and said I ought to hope for a cure, but back then I would have picked death over living without someone who could make the letters light up when they said my name. Miles did that in the beginning. So do you, sweet girl, every time you say mama. My Mama was healthy as a horse on spring grass, free from the kind of sentiment that ailed me. I suspected it was because I’d been such a calamity as a daughter. She had to harden her heart to weather the disappointment. I used to try to change myself to please her. I only succeeded once in a while and, when I did, her goodwill flitted away again quick as a hummingbird. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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John Nicholson peeling apples
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Children for resettlement
pressed her to swear she’d set him straight the next time, she wouldn’t do it. She just kept on about how we were in a heap of trouble if we got kicked off our land with no money to show for it. “Just flirt with him a little until we get one of those houses,” she said. “Let him think he’s got a chance.” I lost my temper. “He wants more than that,” I said. “Are you planning to whore out your own daughter?” She gave me two good smacks across the face and that was the end of it. Mama and I were always oil and water. Rowler shaking us up did more harm than good. He was after me to lay with him and all Mama could do was chew it over. I wasn’t a nervous girl, but I was near about having kittens over it. I had to sneak a sip or two of white mule (that’s what us mountain folks called whiskey) to get to sleep that night. BAD TIMES COMING [At the Corn Shucking at Ruth and Peter’s] By the time I got to the barn, a few of the men had taken up the fiddle and the mouth harp and two red-ear cheaters had downed their first drinks. We had a corn shucking tradition that the man who unwrapped a red ear got a swig of the farmer’s whiskey. Ruth’s husband Peter bought bonded liquor all the way from Kentucky. It tasted better than anything we made in mountain stills. You’ve never seen so many red ears of corn in your life. Peter was a good spirit so he never did call them on it. The corn got shucked in spite of all the drinking. Then people pushed the chairs up against the barn walls and paired off for dancing in the middle. I didn’t dare dance in front of Mama. Something about the heat still in her eyes told me it’d be best not to. I was careful not to bump the barn door open wider when I eased through the crack in it, so she didn’t see me leave. I found three of the men outside passing a quart jug of white mule. They were singing ballads and carrying on to an oil lantern that had grown so tired of their nonsense it could only turn out a weak glimmer. Torch was there with Red Monroe and Ruth’s husband Peter. Torch and Red made a harebrained pair when they were together, I can tell you. Torch started out like a brother to me, except when he was around Red sometimes I didn’t care to claim him. I’ll get to
HISTORICAL PHOTOS BY ARTHUR ROTHSTEIN, CIRCA 1935, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
There was some ugly business between Mama and me the day I got that first letter from Miles. I remember because I was all goo-goo eyed after I read my name written in his hand and not at all ready for what came next. A state man called Rowler was the cause of it. He came by our place and said the state had given our land to Uncle Sam for a park. We were to be out in five months or be considered at odds with the law. Mama told him we’d sell. Our land was worth fifteen dollars an acre, she said. She made a big speech about how we wouldn’t take any less for it. While she talked, Rowler looked me up and down and licked his lips like I was a slice of scrapple fresh from the frying pan. He was the kind of husky white man who had a layer of pasty fat on him from sitting on his ass in a desk chair, his cheeks flushed pink from sneaking sips of whiskey. His brown mustache twitched even when he wasn’t talking, until I thought it might jump off his face and scurry into a hole in the floorboards. He told Mama we wouldn’t get squat since Daddy’s people never filed papers with the county courthouse. I figured as much. Daddy always said the Livingstons didn’t need papers when a handshake and a man’s word would do. Seems like we didn’t need a deed when the whole goddamned Hollow was named for us. Mama was fit to be tied. Rowler grinned a pleased-with-himself grin. Then he tried to make a deal with Mama that would have made the devil flinch. “Your girl looks like she sure could keep a man warm at night,” he said. “If she had a notion to show me some kindness, I’d see to it you get one of the houses the government’s built for your people, down on Resettlement Road.” I took a sideways glance at Mama and saw she looked confused. Rowler must have seen it too because he spoke plain as he could and still lay claim to a shred of decency. “It’ll take some time with your daughter to bring out my generous nature. Without it, you’re on your own.” Mama went mute. He told her to take some time to think it over. He’d be back. Me and Mama had a whopping row after he left. I was mad as hell at her for not telling him off soon as he opened his mouth about me. She said didn’t I know what shock was and how could she be expected to have her wits about her after what he’d asked. But when I
Houses into Homes
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him a few pages from now. His troubles take some time to tell, so I can’t fit them in here. Red was a good ten years older than Torch. I guess that made him somewhere around thirty. Don’t be confused into thinking Red was any more mature for his age. He had himself a devilish nature that got him into plenty of trouble. When he was fifteen, he fell out of a scrawny pine his horny self climbed to get a look at a couple of girls splashing around Miller’s swimming hole in the altogether. He cracked his left hip bone and he had an old man’s limp because of it. You may have guessed from his name that Red had hair the color of fire. I’d heard it said redheads couldn’t be trusted. Daddy told me that was superstition folks carried in their suitcases from whatever old country they were born in. Daddy didn’t go in much for superstition. I didn’t usually either, but Red did a damned fine job proving this one to be true. When his mama died, he cut off her long silver hair and sold it to a doll maker in Luray for a dollar before his family could get her in the ground. He knocked up a girl in Sperryville after he made sure to tell her he was from a town called Syria so her Daddy wouldn’t be able to find him. Red surprised everybody when he managed to talk a godly girl from Corbin Hollow named Sarah into marrying him. She had her work cut out for her with him, I’ll tell you. The only thing Red liked to work at was sex. He knocked Sarah up five times in as many years. Rumor had it after baby number five she locked him out of her kitty except for his birthday and Christmas. I can’t imagine Red going without so, if it was true, I guess he had his way with sheep at night. When I found them outside at the shucking party, Torch and Red were fighting for a turn to prove who was man enough to muscle what looked to be a half-ton rock off the ground. Torch pushed his body into the rock and moaned with his eyes squeezed shut. He looked like a blind chipmunk trying to screw a pumpkin and I told him so. Torch said if he was screwing he’d pick a girl not a pumpkin and he’d be good at it. He offered me a chance to verify his skills first hand, but I told him to take a flying leap. Red offered me a cigarette, which I was fool enough to take. He handed me a book of nudie matches with three naked girls painted on the paper folder and across each comb inside, so that every match you tore out had tits or ass on it. Then he said, “Go ‘head, grab yourself a piece of ass, Bee,” which cracked Torch up. I pulled loose a match with a big pair of knockers on it and held it out to Red. “Aww Red, don’t you want this one? From what I’ve heard, these are the only hooters you’ll get your hands on ‘til Christmas.” Torch and Peter both yucked it up at my joke. Red did not. His face turned ruddy as his hair. He changed the subject quick as he could. “Peter,” he said, “play us that song Bee’s partial to. That ought to shut her up for a while.” Peter loved to sing, so it didn’t take any more encouragement then Red asking. Peter had a voice that would shake the ground much as any storm’s thunder. I didn’t mind since he was singing my favorite love story. I know you want to correct me and tell me to call it a song not a story, but if you let it sit with you a minute you’ve got to agree songs are just stories set to music, like the one Peter sang about two lovers who died young and got buried toe to toe:
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They buried Willie in the old churchyard, And Barbara there anigh him, And out of his grave grew a red, red rose, And out of hers, a briar. They grew and grew in the old churchyard, Till they could grow no higher, They lapped and tied in a true love’s knot. The rose ran round the briar. When Peter finished it was quiet for a while, then the real talk started. I’ll try my best to lay it out for you here, since the men were full of news about the Hollow getting turned into a park so that city folks could come weekends and crunch pine needles under their feet. Red, whose daddy Wilbur was so long in the tooth even his skin was gray, said Wilbur’d been threatening to die ever since they got the letter that said to clear out. Red told his daddy not to worry, because the government was going to buy everybody’s land and they
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were giving away farms down mountain to boot. I wasn’t sure that was much comfort to Old Wilbur. He’d been walking cockeyed up our rocky hillsides for so long I suspected his body might not work right on level land. Torch accused Red of being fool enough to buy a bottle of sugar water from a traveling salesman if the swindler said it would fix his tongue. Red ate a lye soap cake when he was a boy and it burned the inside of his mouth so badly his r’s sounded more like w’s. Torch’s remark wasn’t a kindly one, but meanness was the way Torch and Red related. Anyway, everybody was fit to be tied about the government’s letter, so folks were more hard edges than usual. When Torch talked about being forced to leave, his words came out in a soft growl like a hurt animal warning you off. Made me want to touch him to see if he’d take a bite out of me. Torch went on to calculate that if the government handed out free farms to all five hundred of us left across four hollows it would go
bankrupt. Torch got all kinds of smart ideas from the folks who stopped in at his daddy’s general store. It had a gas pump out front so they came from all over. He picked up a more refined way of talking there too, so sometimes he sounded more like an out-oftowner than a mountain boy. I was sure the store was where he picked up his bankruptcy notion. Torch’s remark started a heated debate about whether he was calling Red a liar. At the end of it, Torch called Red a backwoods brain and said we’d all be lucky to get pennies on the dollar for what our land was worth. Apparently, he’d heard Arnie Ross, from over in Corbin Hollow, talking down at the store. Arnie didn’t file papers at the county courthouse when he bought his land, so the government was calling him a squatter and saying they wouldn’t pay him a red cent. I wouldn’t have believed it if it wasn’t happening to Mama and me. Torch said they weren’t giving away farms either. “We’ve got to pay. My question is, if we don’t get a fair price for our land here, how in the sam hill do they think we can afford to buy government land?” Right about that time Red’s face started to look like a hog’s on killing day (I don’t know how those pigs know it, but they do. You look into their nervous little eyes and tell me otherwise). I remember exactly what he said, because he sort of croaked it. “You saying we ain’t gonna get nothing?” Peter didn’t like to see anybody in a tough spot (you’d never see hide nor hair of him come slaughter time), so he spoke up. He was rawboned, with a heart so big it was a miracle his thin frame could hold it. He told Red not to worry, that the government just wanted us out while they laid the park roads. “They gonna let us come on back,” he said. “It’s just for a spell, Red. Just for a spell.” All three men went mute after that. The festive mood they’d shared before had gone right out of them. Peter’s family landed in the Hollow smack in the middle of the 1800s and built a two-story frame house three windows wide, with four rooms and a stone chimney — pretty fancy for those parts. They farmed the land and made an honest living, if not always a goodsized one. Every one of Peter’s kin who kicked the bucket since then was buried on that land. When Ruth’s mama and daddy passed after she married Peter, she buried them there too. There were others who’d gone down the mountain. Indians lived there and left. They killed deer with stone-tipped arrows and stretched their hides across boulders to dry in the sun. There were Negroes there once too, slaves to the families that could afford them. As soon as Mr. Lincoln won the war between the states, they went away. Seems like all those folks were going toward something. Food. Freedom. There wasn’t anything waiting for us. Our houses and our dead were on Ragged Mountain.
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“Go Down the Mountain” can be purchased at fine booksellers and online at amazon.com PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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ACHIEVES ITS FORMER GLORY Careful detailing brings the nineteenth century back to life BY FRANNIE BARNES
n the west slope of Cobbler Mountain in Delaplane lies Montana Farm, 222 acres of rich Virginia history. The history of the circa 1850 estate is palpable, thanks to owners Peter and Kathie Schaumber. With two historic renovations under their belts — one, a historic Creole townhouse in New Orleans, and the other a row home-turned-tea-shop in Fredericksburg — the couple, who also reside in Washington, D.C., spends half the year in Delaplane, where they have made it their mission to restore the estate to its former glory. The property, part of the John Marshall Leeds Manor Rural Historic District, was originally the home of Channing Meade Smith, a Confederate soldier and prominent Mosby Ranger. The farm, which remained in the Smith family for close to 150 years until it was purchased by the Schaumbers, was operated as a working farm until shortly after World War II. The acreage, which is 60 percent open, contains a large frontage on Big Branch which flows into nearby Goose Creek. The property has been put into easement, demonstrating the Schaumbers’ dedication to historic and open space preservation that is consistent with many of the neighboring landowners in that part of the county.
VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF HISTORIC RESOURCES (TOP RIGHT)
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Clockwise from left: Channing Meade Smith, original owner of the property. The main house before restoration The main house before restoration with â€œThe Patent Houseâ€? at right. Front elevation of the main house today Open floor plan kitchen and family room after restoration
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Above: “The Patent House” was the first structure built on the property. When the Schaumbers purchased the farm, the building was in ruins, the roof had caved in, and three of the walls had only a few feet of original stone intact. With the help of a historical contractor, they replicated the materials to restore it. The structure, along with the other historic buildings on the property, were restored under the guidance of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources which recognized the historic significance of farm. Facing page, top: The Bank Barn, restored to working condition Bottom: The interior of the main house after restoration showing the Schaumbers’ dedication to a perfect combination of modern convenience, comfort, and beauty, and attention to historic detail.
The main house, with three full bedrooms, two full and one half-bathroom, two fireplaces, high ceilings, and a stone terrace, has been historically renovated with the addition of modern comforts. While every effort was made to restore using the existing materials, occasional substitutions have been made with painstaking adherence to accuracy, as in the case of some of the wood floors. Antiques or replicas of period style are used when original elements are missing, as in the case of the light fixtures — one, for example, is a replica made from eighteenth-century glass and harks back to the era when homes were lit with candles. The scored stucco exterior of the house received as much attention as the inside. The Schaumbers brought in Harold Cooper, a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from New Orleans — who worked to restore many properties there after the disaster — to restore and paint the exterior woodwork. Much of the landscaping, like most of the boxwoods surrounding the home, is more than 100 years old. On the property are other historic gems, such as the Mountain House which was built for Channing Smith’s children, the restored spring, the large walk-in chicken coop that remains in working order, and an original horse mount located in front of the Main House — one of the few remaining in the county. The property also features a two-bedroom, two-bath guesthouse which has been thoroughly renovated. And a delightful surprise is the aptly named “party barn.” Formerly another farm building to house farm equipment, the Schaumbers left the the apple press and tool sharpener to add charm to the décor, added electricity, two chandeliers, and windows to construct the perfect gathering spot for entertaining. There is a small fruit orchard on the property that has borne many apples, peaches, and other seasonal fruits and vegetables. Despite the wildlife that like to visit, the orchard has thrived and continues to be bountiful. Montana Farm is currently offered for sale by Sheridan MacMahon Realtors in Middleburg PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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The World’s Most Beautiful Race
in the Nation’s Most Affluent Region
Dave Atcherley and his 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport lead Richard Pineda’s 1953 Jaguar XK120 OTS SE Roadster and Marian Stoch’s 1937 Aston Martin 15/98 in a time trial near Montpelier during October’s 1000 Miglia Warm-Up USA.
SPORTING 21 Drivers Compete in the Middleburg-Hosted 1000 Miglia Warm-Up USA BY PATRICK SZABO PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAMDEN LITTLETON
“It’s not just a car race, Mille Miglia is about the connection that the driver has with the local communities, with the spectators. That’s exactly what we found in Middleburg.”
t’s become commonplace in Northern Virginia to see Teslas, Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Maseratis sharing the road with more usual cars like Toyota Camrys, Honda Odysseys, and Ford F-150s. But unless the drivers of those super and luxury cars are breaking the law and slicing through traffic, everyday drivers don’t get a chance to see those high-end cars compete for anything other than a lane advantage in rush hour traffic. That wasn’t the case in October, as close to two dozen racers snaked their cars around the famous bends of Skyline Drive, split the historic battlefields of Gettysburg, and pulled up to the front door of the fourth U.S. president’s house along a nearly 600-mile route that set the drivers’ sights on one goal—to win a spot in “the most beautiful race in the world.” For three days, 21 competitors driving classic and modern supercars roamed around Northern Virginia’s rural roads, through Loudoun, Clarke, Fauquier, Rappahannock, Madison, Orange, Greene, Rockingham, and Page Counties. They were racing in the second annual 1000 Miglia Warm-Up USA, and all were attempting to cross a finish line where one of them would be crowned the inaugural Coppa USA champion and given the chance to compete in Italy’s 2020 Mille Miglia—a century-old, 1,000-mile rally race from Rome to Brescia and back, known in English as the 1000 Miglia. From Oct. 24-26, 2019, nineteen Americans, one Briton, and one Pole drove their cars 588 miles from Middleburg to checkpoints in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., traveling as far south as Montpelier and as far north as Gettysburg. Those drivers, alongside their co-drivers, competed in two classes—the 1000 Miglia Era Class, which featured cars manufactured between the years of 1928 and 1957; and the Post1000 Miglia Era Class, which featured sports, grand touring, and supercars manufactured from 1959 to 2018. Spread out between the two classes were six Alfa Romeos, three Jaguars, three Ferraris, two Aston Martins, and even a McLaren and Maserati. Before the first leg of the race, the drivers traveled to Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia for a day of training that was required
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for novice racers and optional for veterans—or the drivers who had competed in at least two 1000 Miglia races since 2013. Seventeen racers took to the two-mile track for pre-race training, with veteran driver Dave Atcherley placing first in his 1928 Alfa Romeo. A day later, on Oct. 24, the warm-up race officially kicked off at 8:30 a.m. in Middleburg, as Mayor Bridge Littleton waved the green flag— an Italian flag in this case—and unleashed thousands of horsepower into the rural countryside. One-by-one, each car peeled rubber off Madison Street before stealing a quick right onto Rt. 50 on their way to Shepherdstown, W.Va., for a lunch break at the Bavarian Inn Resort and Brewing Company. From there, the drivers continued north to Antietam, Md., then to Gettysburg, Pa., before heading south back to the Creighton Farms gated community south of Leesburg to wrap up a 251-mile excursion. There, a Cars & Cocktails event invited residents out to examine the cars up close and talk with the drivers about their first days on the road. Day two of the race saw the drivers taking the green flag in Middleburg Friday morning for a 208-mile loop that had them traveling southward to Montpelier and Somerset, then west into the Shenandoah National Park to traverse the worldfamous paperclip turns and sweeping bends of Skyline Drive on their way back to Loudoun. Before the competitors returned to Middleburg just before sunset, they stopped in the Atoka Chase neighborhood about four miles west of town for an end-of-day time trial. It was there that residents really got to see the cars in action, as they motored past their driveways and fencedin horses on a 1.2-mile rural residential road. The final day of the race also began in Middleburg, but this time had an end goal somewhere other than Loudoun County. The drivers were racing 129 miles toward Villa Firenze—the Tudor-style, 92-year-old Washington, D.C., home of Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio. On their way there, the drivers climbed Capitol Hill, giving members of congress a glimpse of automotive culture as it was decades ago in a country that fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Germany and Japan against the U.S.
A 1956 Jaguar XK120 lines up next to a 1953 Jaguar XK120 OTS SE Roadster and a 1937 Aston Martin 15/98 for auto enthusiasts to get an up-close look at the vintage machines competing in the 1000 Miglia Warm-Up USA.
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SPORTING Earning the right to hoist the inaugural Coppa USA, and a guaranteed entry into the 38th modern running of the 1000 Miglia in Italy next May, was the veteran team of John and Julie Herlihy, who piloted a 1953 Jaguar XK120 OTS Roadster. Finishing second in the 1000 Miglia Era class was a 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Coupé Boano. Topping the Post-1000 Miglia-Era class was a 1963 Lancia Flaminia Touring Spider, followed by a 2016 BMW M4 GTS. In addition to the Herlihys, five other crews were awarded a guaranteed entry into the 1000 Miglia—the other veteran crew in the 1000 Miglia Era Class, along with that class’s top two novice finishers, and the top two novice finishers in the Post-1000 Miglia Era Class. There were no veteran crews in the Post-1000 Miglia Era Class. To earn those spots in the 1000 Miglia—a competition that for decades has been referred to as “the most beautiful race in the world” for the Italian hillside and architecture that the classic cars cruise through each year—the 21 racers didn’t bang doors through the winding back roads of the Washington region, but instead battled the stopwatch in an orderly fashion while sharing the roads with commuters, weekend drivers and the occasional speedsters looking to put up a fight against the supercars. Completing two of the warm-up’s three days was Dave Atcherley, a resident of northeastern Pennsylvania who competed with the 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport that his grandfather built nine decades ago. Atcherley said he found the car three years ago in Belgium and spent two years prepping it for last year’s 1000 Miglia Warm-Up USA, which was neither scored nor crowned an official winner. Like others in the warm-up, Atcherley got his start in auto racing by competing in rally races. Atcherley is so involved in racing that he even competed in an English rally with a Ferrari 308 the weekend before the warm-up race. Atcherley said the warm-up, while an unusual sight for American eyes, was a fun chance for him to navigate the twists and curves of the region’s backroads, until he was forced to withdraw from the race on day three, as did two of his fellow competitors because of mechanical issues that plagued a handful of the racers. Their mid20th-century cars were all stock and were relying on parts manufactured around the same time many of their drivers were born. But on hand to make repairs were numerous support teams. Forrest Smith, a New Orleans 48 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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resident with a background in motocross racing and engine building, was one of those crew members—his support going toward the 1956 Ferrari 250 GT Coupé Boano. Smith said that while his team followed a few miles behind the Ferrari with fuel pumps and other miscellaneous tools, they were prepared to make only relatively minor repairs to the car. “If anything serious breaks, you’re out,” he said just hours after he had helped to repair a decadesold clogged fuel pump on an Alfa Romeo on day one of the race. Although he wasn’t competing in the race, but following behind his driver with wrenches in hand, Smith praised the warm-up as an authentic automobile competition in which the drivers had to work their way to the finish line, seeing that none of the older cars had power steering and only a few sported hydraulic disc brakes. “It’s basically every form of racing, it’s just at higher stakes—you wreck these cars, you’re out a lot of money,” he said. While the race was a major success in the eyes of Middleburg’s town officials, and was an unexpected treat for thousands of metropolitan drivers, many residents were left with one big question when the checkered flag dropped—why here? The selection of Middleburg as this year’s race hub was more than an experiment to find out if the Hunt Country vibe meshed with the Italians’ visions for the event. According to Francesca Parolin, the general manager of the Mille Miglia, the selection incorporated feelings of community and, more importantly, excitement.
Above left: David and Lisa Atcherley race around Montpelier in their 1928 Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 Super Sport during day two of October’s 1000 Miglia Warm-Up USA rally race. Above right: Marian Stock and Bartosz ABalicki race down a rural backroad near Montpelier in their 1937 Aston Martin 15/98 during the 1000 Miglia Warm-Up USA in October.
SPORTING “It’s not just a car race, Mille Miglia is about the connection that the driver has with the local communities, with the spectators,” Parolin said. “That’s exactly what we found in Middleburg.” But beyond the questions of “why Middleburg?” or “why Northern Virginia?” came the overarching question of “why America?” Parolin said that was an easy decision to make. She referenced the classic car market in the U.S., which, she said, is the largest in the world. More than that, Parolin said the U.S. also features the largest pool of classic car owners who are willing to drive their hotrods, rather than simply put them on display. Parolin said her company has entertained offers to hold the warm-up race in Australia, China, and all over the Middle East, but rejected all of them because the classic car owners there wouldn’t necessarily get the whole point of the 1000 Miglia. “Part of the pleasure is of course owning the car, but also feeling it when you’re inside and you’re driving it,” she said. “Definitely D.C. is the right place for us.”
The race didn’t disappoint for anyone involved, especially the Middleburg Town Council and staff members, who felt victorious for negotiating a deal that saw their town play host to the precursor of one of the world’s most historic and well-known car races. Town Administrator Danny Davis said the Italian organizers told him that hosting the warm-up in Middleburg felt to them like they were running the actual 1000 Miglia. “We had brought just that sense of energy and excitement and community to the event,” he said. “It made them feel like it was the real deal.” That sentiment was shared all around, with a confirmation from Parolin that the organizers would consider Middleburg, along with a few localities in California, for the location of the 2020 warm-up race. “We hope to come back, that’s for sure,” Parolin said. “We came here to the U.S. because we want to tell a story—we want to tell people why events like Mille Miglia is important, why classic cars are important, because it is a part of our story and will be part of our future.”
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CONFESSIONS OF AN AIRBNB HOST The benefits far outweigh any reservations... BY TONY VANDERWARKER
never imagined myself running an Airbnb operation; too much like running an old-time boarding house. I’d heard boarding houses were common throughout the 19th century and up into the 1930s. In Boston in the 1830s, it is estimated that one-third to one-half of the city’s population lived in boarding houses. Though they declined rapidly due to the availability of low-cost housing, the internet revived the practice with Airbnb, allowing homeowners to add extra income by renting out rooms to paying guests, the same benefit boarding houses provided way back when.
From Charlottesville to Culpeper to Warrenton to Leesburg, the Piedmont offers a range of Airbnb selections — and hosts — to help visitors to the region to enjoy the food, wine, and culture of our beautiful, historic surroundings. 50 PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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TRAVEL My wife and I began renting a studio apartment over our garage four years ago when Terry McAuliffe was running for governor of Virginia. One of his campaign workers, who was a good friend, asked us if we could put up another staffer. While we were concerned initially that our privacy would be threatened, we soon discovered that we hardly ever saw the guy. When the campaign was over and our guest left, I said to my wife, “Maybe we ought to put the studio on Airbnb?” Her response was, “But you swore you’d never do that.” “Things change. Having that campaign staffer stay for six months turned me around,” I said. So we bought some more furniture and put the studio on Airbnb. If it sounds that easy, it actually was. We took some pictures, wrote some descriptive copy and uploaded it onto the Airbnb website. That was on a Thursday. The next day it was booked for the weekend by Japanese tourists from Tokyo and has been occupied practically every weekend since. The Airbnb story began in San Francisco when Brian Chesky and his roommates, who’d become friends at the Rhode Island School of Design, had the idea of renting out an extra room in their apartment to people coming into town for a trade show. Back then, the existing bed-and-breakfast was their model, so they offered breakfast to their guests. They were delighted that their idea worked and the three started following the same trade show around the country, renting apartments and leasing rooms out to guests. They soon discovered that they didn’t need to chase trade shows and that the idea of “living like locals,” as Airbnb puts it, had a wide appeal. What Chesky and his buddies literally tripped over was that many people wanted authenticity instead of the uniformity of the hotel experience, preferring the local color and character of lodging over the bland, expected experience of a hotel stay. There was also the economic angle: why pay $150 or more for a hotel room when you could rent a room in someone’s home for $75? They also found out that they didn’t need to serve breakfast, so they changed their name from the original “Air Mattress B&B” to Airbnb. Now the service is in 81,000 cities and 191 countries and is estimated to be worth $38 billion. When the tenants in a cottage on our farm moved out, we added the cottage, so now we have two Airbnb properties, one sleeping three and the other ten. People often ask us, “Isn’t it creepy having a bunch of strangers around?” or, the next frequently asked question, “Don’t you have to do a lot of laundry?” The answers are: “No,” and “Yes.” What we’ve learned is that people who use Airbnb don’t want to be locked up in a characterless motel or hotel, but instead like to have a pied-à-terre from which they can explore the surrounding area. They are seldom around, heading out after their morning coffee and not returning until the end of the day. And as for laundry, it’s an extra load, no
big deal. For the studio, it’s twenty minutes worth of cleaning up. As for the cottage, we pay our housekeeper to take care of it and add a surcharge. The studio attracts tourists and UVa parents, the cottage pulls in people going to local weddings, bachelorette groups, and people who want to winery hop. The extra effort on our part pays off. We’re making twice what we would with a full time tenant and income from the studio is found money. As both my wife and I are retired, we’ve found we enjoy hosting our guests, as Airbnbers are a special bunch. First, they choose the Airbnb experience. They pick out a property from hundreds on the Airbnb site and eagerly look forward to staying there. They are so appreciative of our hospitality and lodging that they always thank us effusively, something you would never see someone doing in a hotel. And they are often engaging, interesting people. We’ve had lots of foreign guests: a banker from Stuttgart, two artists from the Cotswolds, a couple from Mumbai showing their son UVa, parents from Beijing bringing their son to the Miller School here, and, of course, our first guests from Japan. Airbnb has an effective rating system with the guests judging their hosts and vice versa so everyone is on their best behavior. The guests don’t want to be blackballed and the hosts want to avoid a negative write-up, so everyone works hard to act properly. While we’re now big Airbnb fans, not all people are. In cities and suburban neighborhoods, people resent strangers suddenly showing up, eating up parking spaces, sometimes throwing rowdy parties, and taking rental units off the market. Imagine living in a subdivision and all of a sudden you realize your next-door neighbor is running a hotel. Rural counties like Albemarle are concerned that people will build more houses just for Airbnb use and that party noise will disturb neighbors. In Albemarle, the supervisors have even come up with a special term, “transient lodging,” as if regular tenants don’t come and go. And the planning commission is deliberating a bunch of restrictions to deal with what they see are potential problems, as are a number of other counties. Fredericksburg requires a special use permit, putting Airbnb properties in the same category as bedand-breakfasts. Arlington sets limits on the number of visitors who can stay in a short-term rental: six people per unit or two per bedroom. Miami Beach has really cracked down. A first time offense for violating regulations gets you a $20,000 fine, increasing to $100,000 for a fifth offense. In popular destinations, a number of people have expressed their concerns about their apartment buildings being transformed into unofficial hotels by neighbors using Airbnb and other short-term rental platforms to rent out their units. PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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www.domesticaspirations.com 8393 w main st., MARSHALL, VA 20115
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ought to be mindful of the huge amounts of revenue that Airbnb guests bring in. Another angle to consider is Virginia’s reputation. Given the Aug. 22, 2018, tragedy in Charlottesville and the hubbub recently created in Richmond, we Virginians need all the help we can get. The New York Post recently ran the headline “Virginia is for Losers,” referring to the scandalous behavior of some government officials, and I had one guest a while ago who asked us, “Is it safe to go into Charlottesville?” Hopefully, Virginia will attract millions more visitors over the next few years who will realize that, despite the crazy things that have happened here, Virginia is a beautiful state with lots of welcoming, terrific people, not to mention a group of supremely-talented basketball players. Okay, not all our Airbnb experiences have been positive. We have had a few glitches and some out-ofthe-ordinary experiences. Recently, a guest booked the studio through the Airbnb website, then a few days before she was to arrive, canceled the reservation. Another person saw the studio was available and booked it but then the first person rebooked the studio for the same
Photo by: Tara Jelenic Photography
Photo by: Tara Jelenic Photography
Lobbying for the hotel industry often results in these restrictions, as they see short term rentals as having unfair advantages. That pressure isn’t surprising given the amount of money involved. In 2018, Virginia Business reports that Airbnb announced that Virginia hosts made $104 million, welcoming 750,000 guests that year, and the number of hosts grew to 10,200. What those numbers don’t reflect is the amount of money these visitors to Virginia spend on food, gas, groceries, and other incidentals. We have folks escaping their hectic lives in D.C. who are delighted at the peace and quiet in the country and head into town and dine, shop, and visit the local wineries. I’ve never asked how much money they spend, but the Virginia Tourism Corporation says the average visitor spends $473 over three days. If you multiply that number by 750,000, you get $350 million a year. Now that’s some real money—all because of Airbnb. Not to mention the lodging tax that some cities and counties charge. The net is that when considering the potential negatives of transient lodging, local government officials
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dates and Airbnb somehow accepted her reservation. So we had two guests for the same space on the same date. What to do? We offered the first person the guest room in our house. She was delighted and everything worked out. The weirdest thing that happened to us was when we had two ladies from the U.K. staying in the studio. They asked us about security and we told them, as we tell all our guests, that we’ve lived here for over twenty years and have never locked a door. That night, the English ladies were sleeping when they heard a car pull up. Looking out the window, they saw four guys with their phones out shining them around trying to find the path into the studio. It was two in the morning and our guests were frightened that the guys were going to come up the stairs and do them harm. “I’m going to go and put my body against the door to keep them from coming in,” one Brit said, getting out of bed. Her partner answered, “Maybe you should put some clothes on first.” Hearing footsteps coming up the stairs, she quickly threw on a robe and rushed to the door. When she
heard the guys turning the doorknob, she pleaded, “Please don’t come in, leave us alone.” Silence from the other side of the door, then she heard the footsteps retreating down the stairs. Relived, she watched as the four guys got back in their car and left. Turned out, the guys had booked the studio for Saturday, not Friday, and so they were showing up a day early. When they discovered someone was in the studio, they checked their reservation, realized their mistake and decamped to a hotel. We slept through the whole thing and only learned about it the next morning when we saw the post from the guys apologizing for their mistake. Fortunately our guests laughed the intrusion off. We invited them to stay in our guest room for an extra night without charge, they accepted and assured us they wouldn’t mention the incident in their review of us. Whew! But after three years of hosting, it’s not surprising to have a couple unusual experiences. Excuse me, I think I hear the doorbell ringing. Let me go and greet our next guests.
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On bird dogs, unexpected endings, and unlikely beginnings STORY AND PHOTOS BY ED FELKER
he smell of shotgun smoke hung in the heavy morning air as Ripp, my friend Shawn’s young German Wirehaired Pointer, swam toward me. As he approached the pond’s edge, I knelt to greet him, watching as the white belly of the wood duck in his mouth pushed a V-shaped wake through the still water. It was a short retrieve, only fifteen yards or so, but the journey that brought that wood duck to hand began long ago. It began with a dog named Preacher. Shawn Story had always been a duck hunter. He had never owned a bird dog before, but hunted a lot with friends who used Labrador Retrievers, known for their water retrieving prowess. When he met and hunted alongside Freebee, a German Wirehaired Pointer owned by his good friend Justin Wisch, he became enamored with the breed. And when Freebee, the number one field GWP in the country in 2012, was bred with Oakley, the top winning GWP in the history of the breed and the only GWP to ever win the sporting group at the storied Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Shawn found himself in line for a puppy with as much conformational quality and hunting prowess in its pedigree as could be mustered. His name was Mountain View’s Pale Rider, Shawn called him “Preacher,” and he was
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born with everything his pedigree promised. He was an impressive physical specimen and a hunting machine. But good breeding is just the beginning. “As breeders we have done well by the breed to produce great dogs in the ring and field, but they are only as good as the owners that bring them along,” Preacher’s breeder, Claire Wisch Abraham, said. “People like Shawn and Justin did right by them.” Shawn trained through the Potomac Chapter of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA), and worked with Preacher every Sunday for three years throughout the offseason. Preacher attained his Natural Ability and Junior Hunter titles with exemplary scores before he was a year old. Field trial judges were unanimously impressed by the young dog’s natural ability. During the season, Shawn was hunting
at every opportunity for duck, goose, quail, and chukar. Shawn and Justin drove all over North Dakota hunting pheasant and sharptail grouse with Preacher and Freebee. Preacher was a rock star, a one in a million dog. Hunting was everything to Preacher. He didn’t care about toys or perk up at baby talk or relish any of the trappings of domestication that dogs typically enjoy. He wanted to hunt, period. Even on a walk, he was always hunting. Preacher didn’t love everyone. Maybe he didn’t quite trust most people. Maybe, like his dad, he just preferred a small but strong circle of loved ones. Regardless, I’ve always felt privileged to be inside this circle. Hunting with Preacher and watching him work
Top left: Ripp’s first wild bird retrieve, an early season wood duck. Bottom left: Shawn Story smiles with his young dog, Ripp. Right: Preacher enthusiastically retrieving a pheasant.
was an absolute joy. So it was extremely special to me that on my first duck hunting outing, a slow morning on the banks of the Potomac River when I shot my first duck, Preacher retrieved that Merganser and brought her to me. By the summer of 2018, at three years old, Preacher was poised to begin his first best season in the fall. He had trained. He had hunted. He was ready. Then tragedy struck. Shawn was traveling on business when his wife Tara called with the devastating news that Preacher had been killed in a tragic accident. Shawn was four hours from home when he got the call, and made it home in three-and-a-half. But Preacher was gone. A few months earlier, Preacher’s half-
sister Fanta had joined Shawn and Tara’s household. Another descendant of the great Oakley, Fanta was a star in the show ring, earning Grand Champion titles in both the U.S. and Brazil. But her showing career was winding down, and she had not proven to breed successfully, so they took her in. She fit in wonderfully and got along great with Preacher. But Shawn, Tara, and Fanta were all sorts of lost with Preacher gone. A few weeks later, Fanta came into heat. They wondered, would it be possible to breed her? It had never worked before despite numerous attempts, and Fanta was not getting any younger. Shawn knew he could have a thousand dogs and never get another Preacher. But it was a chance, however small,
to capture a little of that magic, that shared DNA, and to have his new puppy whelped and raised right at home by their sweet Fanta, with Shawn and Tara caring for the pups every step of the way. They had to try. The sire would be Player, a Grand Champion, Master Hunter and NAVHDA Utility Prize 1 winner out of Ed Shupp’s Hard Head Kennels. The pregnancy took, but it felt tenuous with more vet appointments and medications than normal. Ultimately, a c-section was performed due to complications and a fear of losing the litter. In the end, four pups were delivered but it was determined that this was to be Fanta’s first and last litter. “Please let there be a boy,” Shawn pleaded. Fate answered with three males in the litter of PIEDMONTVIRGINIAN.COM |
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DOGS four. Two were mostly white, like Fanta, but one had the same roan and ticked coloring Preacher had. Shawn told people he hadn’t decided which dog he would choose. “But in my heart of hearts, I knew which one I wanted to train to be my dog,” he confessed. Considering the litter’s inauspicious beginnings, Fanta’s breeder Kelly Shupp gave the four pups names with the theme of fate or destiny. Shawn’s new bird dog was given the moniker “Hampton Court’s Behold Fate’s Legacy,” but Shawn called him Ripp. Ripp and Preacher were obviously different dogs. Preacher was a phenom, after all, and holding any dog to that standard — let alone a new pup — would be ill advised. But Shawn began training, this time with a different attitude than he took with Preacher. He decided to focus less on the testing he did with Preacher, instead focusing on training just to hunt. “I did more training and trialing with Preacher when I know he would have enjoyed more hunting,” Shawn said. “With Ripp I’m trying to keep it fun.” With the help of two other trainers through his first
summer, Ripp began progressing nicely. Opening day for duck this fall was a crisp morning in Virginia, and would be Ripp’s first outing hunting for wild birds. Shawn, our friend Mitch Miner, and I waited in a blind at a local pond in the dark before dawn, Ripp fidgeting at Shawn’s feet. Shortly after first light, five wood ducks dropped in above us. We stood and fired. I took the bird farthest to the left, and Shawn and Mitch each dropped another. Two of the birds dropped close to the bank, but mine was in the middle of the pond. Shawn pointed toward the duck and told Ripp to fetch it. He swam out to the first duck he had ever seen, smelled or tasted. Confused at first – he had been training mostly with quail – he swam a few circles around the duck and even barked. But when he took it in his mouth, he heard the three of us cheer and praise him, and it all clicked. He knew he had “done good” and brought the duck toward shore with his head held high. He swam, then waded through the mud at the pond’s shallow edge and handed me the second duck I’ve ever taken, the first
since Preacher’s delivery of that Merganser a year ago. Ripp’s second outing the following week took place at the site of that first Preacher retrieve for me, also the site of Preacher’s very best duck hunting day later that season. The ducks weren’t flying that day but it mattered little. Shawn has always been a patient hunter and knows it’s part of the game. But he also had another reason for being there that day. As the decoys and gear were being packed up, Shawn took Ripp to the river’s edge. He opened a small vial, paused, and poured the contents into the water. The pair watched the current take away a bit of all that remains of a legendary dog. As the ashes disappeared, Shawn said to himself the words whose initials spell the name of the dog standing with him, “Rest in peace, Preacher.” And with that gesture, with that closure, the pressures on Ripp to replace the irreplaceable were washed downstream. He is a great dog loved by a great hunter and that is enough. Their turn to make memories together is just beginning.
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