Category Archives: Virginia

Family Time in Southern Virginia

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.

::this little guy joined for the ride down to VA, I thought it was good luck::
::this little guy joined for the ride down to VA, I thought it was good luck::

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.

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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.

::one of James' paintings::
::one of James’ paintings::

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.

Virginia

We spent a couple amazing days visiting Jenni’s family in Southern Virginia, where her mom grew up.  Except for Susan, this was my first time meeting everyone.  Jenni’s grandmother, Margaret Scheier, passed away last week.  May she rest in peace.  It is a blessing that we were able to spend time with her.

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October 22-24, 2013 (Tuesday-Thursday)

I knew on the drive down from D.C. that I was entering less familiar territory when some road tolls in Virginia required me to throw quarters into that plastic basket, and also when I spotted the first Confederate flag of the trip.  South Boston, VA was our destination.  It is near the border with North Carolina and the economy centers on manufacturing, which has not been easy for some time in America.  A short drive down the road is Dan River, which once was home to a textile company that sadly was the debtor in the first major bankruptcy assignment of my career.

Susan and Darrell kindly hosted us and the first night they had over nearly all Jenni’s aunts and uncles who live nearby, except James and June who were out of town.  Southern fare was in full effect, including bean stew with venison, fried chicken and fried livers, baked ham, biscuits, cornbread and jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon.  Billy brought the chicken and livers, and for his cooking prowess he is known as Billy Crocker.  Lynn informed us that grandma used to make biscuits with clabber.  Susan taught us a great trick: a mix of peanuts and candy corns makes a good treat.

Mid way through the evening some of the fellas disappeared and called Susan with instructions to gather everyone and come to the front porch.  The guys had driven across the road to the family’s property (where Jenni’s mom and her siblings grew up, though the house is now gone) and surprised us with a fireworks show!  After Devin’s in Maine, this was the second fireworks show in a few months courtesy of Jenni’s peeps.

I learned some new lingo like “fix” for cook, “reckon” for believe and “right xxx” which is hard to explain.  Molly and Hogan, Susan and Darrell’s Norwegian elk hounds, roll over when asked if they’d rather be Democrats or die.  We heard the story of how Jenni’s grandma Margaret loved the NC State Fair and each year she would get lost driving there.  She always said, “it’s OK, we’ll just the follow car in front of us because I’m sure they’re going there, too.”  As luck would have it, we were in the area during the 10 days this fair is open for the year and vowed to go.  Which you will read about it in my North Carolina post.

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One of Darrell’s two sons joined with his family and there was robust discussion of hunting, fishing and noodling.  In case you don’t know, “noodling” is yanking enormous catfish out from the muddy banks of rivers with one’s hands.  These creatures are often 40-50 pounds and have been recorded well over 100 pounds!  Gloves are worn often these days to minimize flathead rash, which is the painful looking injury inflicted by catfish bites.  Even gloves will not save digits if one is unlucky enough to find a snapping turtle hole instead of catfish.

There are different hunting seasons for different animals and implements.  My memory is a tad foggy by now, so please excuse any inaccuracies or omissions.  They hunt deer and wild turkey, along with various other animals.  Bow and arrow, muzzle loader, rifle or shotgun may be used for different targets and at different times.  A heavy contraption may be used to ascend and set up a platform in the trees.  Darrell’s boys have an impressive website dedicated to the outdoorsman lifestyle.  Check it out here.

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On Wednesday we went into the historic old town area and saw Susan’s friend.  The day before Jenni and I had stopped at Caffe Peroni which has a surprisingly eclectic beer selection.  A couple doors down is Bistro 1888, which is supposed to be good.  I saw a little structure selling 20 pound bags of ice 24 hours/day for $2, the first of many in the South.  Later we visited Margaret at the nursing home in Clarksville.  She was beyond thrilled to see Jenni and gave us ear to ear grins when she voiced her approval of Jenni’s good choice in marrying me.  Susan was wonderfully kind and loving to Margaret and is like the mayor there.  Afterwards, we passed a widemouth bass mailbox and crossed Buggs Island Lake before heading to Jenni’s grandpa George’s and Lucy’s home.

This is quite a special place.  George is a gifted carpenter and built much of the furniture in the home, including a bench that in a style I can only describe as pointillist writing since I don’t know the carpentry equivalent says “Caglayan” on top and “Open Sesame” on the side, which was the name of one of Alper’s companies.  George shared old photos of Jenni’s immediate family (by the way, when Devin visited at a much younger age he wore bright clothes to hunt and thus earned the name Rainbow, not Rambo) and told us his ancestors were brewers in Hungary.

He has a garage workshop where he used to make bullets, including shaping the metal and loading the powder.  He was an award winning archer.  There is a side house with an astounding collection of Native American pieces, dolls, spears, pelts of coyote, wolverine, and raccoon, and much more.

Then we got to the guns.  Tons of guns, as Guru would say.  Again my memory is foggy and I will not do this justice, but his collection includes several handguns, a Winchester 1873, the Colt equivalent of the Bushmaster AR-15, a Tommy Gun complete with violin case and all, and more.  I shot the plain old .22 rifle.  And I did the family proud.  After a couple rookie rounds, I hit my stride and from about 20-25 yards showed the paper plate who was boss!  Jenni let off a couple rounds, too.

Juices now flowing, Susan took us over to Danville to James and June’s home.  James is quite the artist.  He showed us many paintings and flawless woodwork he has crafted.  The man is passionate about wood.  (Yet again, that’s what she said.)  He sent us off with a handmade Brazilian cherry cutting board.  That night, Darrell grilled some ribeye steaks, Susan made baked potatoes and garlic bread, and we watched the Red Sox win their first of four World Series games.

Before continuing south on Thursday, we got a bit more QT with Darrell and the hunting tools.  I was slightly embarrassed when I could not draw his compound bow.  It is the wrong length for me, but more strength might have done the trick.  Darrell could not have been kinder, assuring me that it’s all about what muscles you use regularly and that even he struggles at the start of the season.  I reckon the latter was a pity nod.  Whether he struggles at the start of the season or not, he was masterful before our eyes.  He put two arrows in a blue dot the size of a plum from 40 yards out.

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We drove to some property that Billy leases by the river and broke out the big guns, literally.  Darrell’s collection rivals that of grandpa George, and he generously let me empty a bunch of rounds.  Ammo is not cheap for guns like these.  I shot a Sig Sauer 9mm with a 15 round clip and The Judge, an epic piece that can shoot .410 shotgun shells or .45 long colt bullets.  The AR-15 was probably my favorite, and I was pleased to hit a log sticking out of the river perhaps 90 yards away.  I was also pleased when my hearing returned to normal a day or two later.

Here are some other things I learned in Virginia…two new superstitions: (1) touch the windshield and make a wish when driving through a yellow light; and (2) it is bad luck to exit a dwelling from a different door than that which you entered.  Jenni’s family does not mind eating with hands nor off each other’s plates, just like my family.  There are a lot of towns around here that end with “ville.”  Hard work and being down to earth command great respect, and success is not begrudged.  The Midtown Market in Danville is said to be enjoyable.  Chains include Cookout drive through with lots of milk shakes, Bojangles and Sheetz Gas.  We saw gas as low as $2.89/gallon.  Spending time with Jenni’s family was a highlight of the trip for me, and I look forward to some hunting, fishing and Billy Crocker’s frog legs and pork shoulder on my next visit.