Prelude to Winter

Excerpted from “November” in the Floyd County Almanac (unpublished first draft.)

…A seriousness settles upon us by mid-November, mornings not light enough to cross the creek to tend the cussed birds until after seven. The board-bridge across Goose Creek is treacherous, enameled with a coating of ice droplets, tossed up by the riffles we will hear from the porch. Soon they will go muffled by ice so thick it will hold our weight. Mostly.

Mornings now, my chores include making sure I head out to Ann’s car fifteen minutes before her departure at 5:45, gloved and garbed in my sweats, white bathrobe cinched tight around me, scarf or two around my neck, and my Elmer Fudd hat strapped under my chin. I crank up her little green Subaru. It will defrost while I sputter and slip and scrape and finally free enough window space for the slow road to the hard top, east or west, depending on the latest road condition info from VDOT511. That decision is also a part of my winter-morning meteorological duties.

The general rule is that, after the first significant snow or ice storm, we avoid the shortest distance to town or for Ann, to work. That route requires negotiating a northy five-hundred-foot climb out of here to Daniels Run, crossing frozen seeps in a dozen places where springs constantly empty across the camber of the single-lane road perched high above the cleft of the creek. There was one notorious hundred-foot section we called the Blue Ice Dome of Death until VDOT temporarily patched it.

Frozen and pitched and in the dark is not a good way to start a trip anywhere. So we just count on a little more time to get where we’re going for three or four months. It’s part of the rhythm of things here, the price we pay for living off the beaten path, and there’s no point grousing about it.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I liked reading this account of mornings in such a different environment. I espeically enjoyed the word picture of how you are dressed! Anyone who sees you gets a wake-up chuckle.