Last evening was wonderful. I had been asked to prepare a listing presentation for a family, out in the county, out in one of the hollows. The hollows exist all up and down the Blue Ridge and generally follow a stream out of mountains. The streams create some nice workable bottomland and have attracted homesteaders over the centuries that have tended to be pretty self sufficient. They have a sense of community defined geographically at first but then evolving into the rich lore of the mountains as families grow generation by generation and interact story by story.
Five siblings had gathered to interview me. We stood in the bare kitchen of the 1920’s farmhouse. It’s a small farmhouse, four bedrooms and one bath in a little over 1600 square feet. I stood along one wall while all five of them stood along the opposite wall. This was the very kitchen where they all grew up and ate every meal. The youngest was now more than 50. The wood fired cook stove was still hooked up to the flue and there were stacks of short stove wood on the back porch even though mother had passed away more than a year ago.
“She made the best biscuits in that stove, biscuits every morning. She made gravy every day too, never had a meal without gravy. Guess nobody would want that old stove now, would they?”
The four brothers had shared one room upstairs. They all had their own jobs and projects. One took care of the chickens, one took care of the hogs and they all took care of the vegetable garden, which was over an acre. They weren’t talking about it nostalgically but as if they had just been doing it all yesterday. I asked why the linoleum floor in the kitchen was rubbed black in a couple of places.
“That’s where Mama stood by the stove and that’s where Daddy’s chair always was. We always sat in the same place around the table you know.” You could see where the kitchen table had stood. It wasn’t a big table for seven.
We talked about the hollow a little, how you could get anything you wanted. Moonshine? Smiles all around. The property had been in the same family for generations. I expected to see some regrets but found none on their faces. None had continued the farming life. All were on an acre or two but all had moved out of the hollow and become successful in different professions around Charlottesville. I gave them my spiel and they listened carefully, asked important questions, then all five signed the listing agreement. It’s a beautiful property and some retiring couple will likely buy it and build a fine home on one of the high knolls with views all the way down the Piedmont Valley. They might chuckle as they describe the hollow to their friends in Alexandria but hopefully, over time, they’ll embrace the lifestyle as they learn it, as the trucks that drive by become familiar and the waves more sincere.
It’s a chance to understand an important and rich part of Americana where self reliant folk know they can rely on each other, where you know you could survive off the land if you needed to. You might just find a part of yourself that remembers.