Simple Lines from Simpler Times

Sometimes in today’s busy places you have to look really, really hard to find anything for your eyes to rest upon that gives you ease. This is especially true for me when waiting for tire repairs at a certain Christiansburg facility where the road is always being dug up again and more shoddy apartments and condos and commercial strips pile one upon the other, ad nauseum.

So I was pleased to discover, wandering around back of the sterile noisy place, that even here in what I think of as the armpit of Montgomery County, there is a remnant patch of the farming community that once flourished here. Once. Then it was paved over, shouted down and left to decay gracefully along the margins of the real world as we know it.

Old barns, among aged architectural remnants, strike me as particular graceful and noble. Maybe it is that at the same time their lines are pleasing, they once were filled with busy-ness of a less hurried kind than what goes on in that commercial zone today. Those hand-built barns hummed with the sound of human conversation, animal noises and their walls and stalls were filled with simple farm tools powered by those same animals and humans.

I do know that the metal barns that replace the old wood framed and sided structures leave me cold, even if the shape is more or less the same.

So I’ll just leave it at that, here on a Friday. I’ll be off shortly, running my mouth heading south, tour bus destination: the Blue Ridge Music Center–come rain or shine. And we’ll probably have some of both.

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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. Putting 125,000 miiles on our RV wandering arounf the back roads of America the past 11 years, I have greatly enjoyed many old barns. I have few photos, however, because there is rarely a pulloff to stop, plus I have a husband who only tolerates a limited number of photo stops per day..