Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Weekend of Luray, Lynching and Foxy Feats

On Saturday I should have driven up to PA to meet other urbexer buddies but a 3 hour drive there in the rain caused me to have second thoughts and I backed out. It was forecast to rain a lot of the day up there, and likely on the drive home too, along with traipsing about in thick mud. I guess I'm getting soft in my advancing old age but I wasn't up for it. So instead I headed for the mountains. With the heavy rain we'd already received over the past few days, I was rather curious about a hike I liked in Sperryville, where a couple of creeks had to be crossed before the climb up the mountain could begin.
 Even as I got out of the car I could hear the water crashing down towards the town, and at the end of a muddy track I saw the first creek. It was thundering past, tumbling over rocks and tugging large branches downstream with it. The stepping stones, or boulders, usually used to traverse the water were covered with the rushing current. There had been two cars parked near mine so some folks had gotten wet feet crossing this, but not me. I crouched down, respecting the sheer power coursing past me, and snapped some shots. I wasn't going to make it over to the second creek but I was sure I could safely assume the water level would be the same there, and whoever had crossed this one had likely gotten even soggier feet on the second crossing.
I backed up and plodded down the slippery muddy path back to the car, and continued over the mountain to Luray.
 When I arrived I was greeted to the sound of bluegrass music coming from the fire station, Luray were having their Festival of Spring. The joys of living rural is being able to attend these events without surging crowds and the inevitable frustration of trying to find a parking place. In less than 5 minutes I was walking into the fire station.
 The street was filled with vendors, crafts, food, drinks, services, and a few vintage cars. I walked up and down, looking at all, but the most interesting to me was a guy turning wood, making goblets. His page is here, he's made some beautiful bowls, not sure about the name though. None of his products looked 'bodged' to me.
Walking along the Shenandoah River, there were some dog classes taking place and a mother duck looking after her brood of ducklings on the grass. I fervently hoped she wouldn't be using the river as a means of transportation for her tiny charges, or that the Fair Duck Race events would be taking place. The water was gushing past at a tremendous rate.
 Back on the street I spotted a gentleman with a monkey, who was greeting folks with a huge lick on their cheek. This was Django, the monkey. I was happy to take a couple of photos but was not anxious to receive a thorough face cleaning so made sure I stood back.
 Walking back to the car I spotted a confederate monument, noticing how clean it was, not like some others in the state that have been vandalized, or have received demands that they be removed. An interesting article is here.
The clouds were heavy over the mountains as I drove back towards home, but I had one more stop. This evening there was a movie being shown by a local film maker, Tom Davenport, about the last lynching in Virginia, which happened only a few miles from my house.
 Tom Davenport spoke first about his film and its making, discovering as he progressed that there was a clear divide among people, those who wanted to know more about the event and those who wanted to 'let sleeping dogs lie' I was curious to see how the evening would unfold. 103 year old Rev. Alphonso Washington, the only living survivor from the time, and who was a 'house boy' for the Baxleys, spoke of the night it happened.
The trailer for the movie is here.
An article about the movie.
An article about the book.
Jim Hall's blog.
Everybody in the theater was gripped by the movie. I suppose for such an event to take place so close to home likely made folks feel a little uncomfortable, especially any who knew of or were related to those involved. The last speaker was a gentleman, Rufus Mincey, who told the audience that only 4 days ago, thanks to Ancestry and DNA, he had discovered that he was the grandson of Henry Baxley. You could have heard a pin drop. There was complete silence for a few seconds and then quiet mutterings between people as they discussed the merit of this new information.
As people left the auditorium, many were deep in conversation as they climbed the steps and met in groups outside in the foyer. I surmised there would be many vehicles filled with chatter on their way home that evening. This was certainly a piece of history that had piqued the interest of many.
 Sunday was a lazy day, meeting Emily and Rob for beers and plant buying but I planned a stop at Middleburg. As I drove to and from work each day I'd spotted some 'Foxes on the Fence' on Main Street and wanted to get a better look at them while the town was empty on an early weekend morning. The wooden foxes have all been decorated by local artists and are up for auction to raise money for the town, which apparently suffered hardship throughout the paving episode, which closed some businesses and upset many of the locals. I had to drive through it each day, and often wondered how the town was surviving, it seemed to be an unorganized mess from start to finish, with Main Street resembling an assault course and really requiring a 4 wheel drive vehicle, or better yet, a tank, to negotiate this street. I could see that many of the shops and restaurants were made almost inaccessible throughout the work, desperately trying to encourage folks to stop with 'Still in Business' signs erected in the rubble. But it was difficult to stop, since parking was impossible on much of Main Street and even some of the side roads were closed off. I really felt for the people trying to survive here as the 'work' went on for months, with huge potholes, high ramps, bumps and lumps all the way through so that cars had no chance of driving at the speed limit of 25mph, 10mph was safer. And blinding spotlights dazzled from above, likely rendering sleep impossible for some of the houseowners living in the middle of town.
But the wreckage has finally been cleared up and today the Main Street was dressed with these beautiful foxes, all adorned in original and stunning designs. I really don't know how the artists could part with their creations, they were all wonderful in their own unique way. the ones below were my favorite. I was amazed when researching that there wasn't more information available online. There was a Facebook page but the Middleburg Eccentric gave a beeter insight, although I would have loved to see more of the actual artists, and wondered how long these beautiful pieces of artwork took to create.

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