We left D.C. with a quick stop at Georgetown bagels (just realizing after writing all these posts how many bagels we’ve eaten on the road, yikes). I was really excited and nostalgic for the tollbooths where you have to throw change in. I think Virginia was the only place we saw these.
We stayed with my aunt Susan and Darrell, who live in South Boston, VA and were very generous hosts. I loved the chocolates she left out on the bed! Our first night in town a whole bunch of my extended family came over to Susan and Darrell’s for dinner and a lot of catching up (including four of my five uncles on my mom’s side). This was so fun – I was even telling Susan the next day how my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Darrell showed us his kids’ impressive website that covers their hunting and noodling adventures. I had never heard of noodling before – it’s where you stick your arms into these deep mud holes in the river to catch catfish. Sounds scary as you could accidentally find a snapper turtle in there, not to mention the “flathead rash” one gets from the catfish themselves. They had some impressive catches – catfish, turkey, deer, you name it. Most of the men in the family are big into hunting, and we heard some great stories about their adventures hunting.
We ate some great Southern home cooking – including chili beans with venison, biscuits, cornbread and ham my aunt Susan made, jalapeño poppers Darrell made, fried chicken and livers my uncle Billy (aka Billy Crocker) made. Hot dog, I love biscuits (note also the very Southern use of “hot dog” as an exclamatory phrase). Lynn told me how grandma made biscuits with clobber, which is pure milk fat. I guess that’s the secret.
It was so interesting getting everyone’s perspective on who in my family I looked most like. Normally people say I look more like my dad and my brother looks more like my mom, but everyone down there said the opposite. I was also told I have the “Scheier nose.” I’m hoping this is a compliment… ?
There was a distinct difference in dialect as my family all have the Southern drawl. A few phrases we noticed used differently: they say “fix” rather than “cook,” “reckon” (which reminds me of Australia), and they opt for “right” in lieu of “very” (as in, “he did a right good job fixing that chicken). Wendy even made fun of Alan’s accent, for the way he said “June.” This is not to say Alan was not accepted with open arms, everybody loved him. In fact, my cousin Will was so excited he told my uncles, “I think we could turn Alan into a redneck in a week!”
My uncle John shared a story about going up into a tree as a kid to retrieve a dog or cat that was stuck up there, and he credits my mom for saving his life when she broke his fall. This is one of many stories about family injuries I heard.
Susan and Darrell’s place sits on a big piece of land, and just across the street is the land where my mom and her siblings grew up. Some of my uncles have been working on building new structures over there. Sometime during dinner a handful of the boys snuck off and called Susan to tell her to bring everyone outside. From the porch we got to watch a fireworks show they put on from the property across the street. It was quite the welcome!
I forgot how funny my family is. When leaving, Billy’s goodbye was, “well, I’m glad y’all got to see me!”
I played with Susan’s dogs for a bit the next morning. They are Norwegian Elk Hounds and they’re super cute. They’ve trained them to roll over and play dead when asked, “would you rather be a democrat or die?” They also drop to the floor if you point at them like you’re aiming a gun and go, “Bang! Bang!”
Susan fixed us a hearty breakfast of biscuits, bacon and cheesy eggs and after that we headed out for more family time. We visited my grandma in the nursing home. Susan is so incredibly great with her, and with older folks in general. She stopped to say hello and remembered everyone we passed in the halls. I was touched to hear that my grandma affectionately calls Susan a “hummingbird.” We also enjoyed the story about how when my grandmother would drive to the North Carolina state fair with my aunts and uncles as kids, when she got lost she’d just start following the other cars because “everyone must be going to the fair!”
Next up was Grandpa and Lucy. Alan was impressed with the furniture he’d built, and possibly more impressed by his gun collection. Then it was time to start shooting. Grandpa taught me how to shoot and I fired my first shot with his rifle. Alan wowed everyone with his impressive aim as a beginner and proudly took the paper plate with bullet holes home as a souvenir. I told him he could now officially be accepted by the Scheier side of the family.
I loved the story about how everyone called my brother Rainbow when they took him hunting as a young boy. He didn’t have any orange to wear so he just wore a really bright jacket that had lots of colors on it. Instead of Rambo, he became immortalized as Rainbow.
We checked out Grandpa’s garage and workshop, stopping to admire his and Lucy’s Native American spears, headdresses and jewelry, as well as coyote, wolverine and raccoon skins.
Our last stop of the day took us to uncle James and June’s house. They gave us a beautiful Brazilian cherry wood cutting board as a wedding gift that James had made himself. We were very impressed with his carpentry work, as well as the beautiful paintings he’s done. I must get my creative side from the Scheiers! We also discovered upon leaving that there is a superstition that warns against leaving through a different door than the one you entered.
We got back late and had some steak and potatoes with Susan and Darrell, which were delicious.
Our last morning Darrell tried to teach Alan how to shoot the bow, but Alan couldn’t get the bow back. Hadn’t realized how difficult those things are! After that we went over to the land across the street from Billy’s to shoot some of Darrell’s guns. We saw the platforms up in the trees that Billy built for deer hunting. Then we fired the big guns. I shot Darrell’s AR-15, which was stunningly loud, and a little terrifying for me. Once was enough, and I left the heavy weapons to the men after that. Alan continued on, practicing his aim with the AR-15 and then a revolver called “The Judge” and another handgun.
Just before heading out we stopped by the property across the street and checked out the work my uncles did. It’s really impressive how skilled they are!
I’m sure I’m leaving out lots of wonderful stories we heard while visiting with the family, but it was really an incredible experience getting to spend this time with my family that I hardly get to see.