Two Years Later. Here We Are. What Are You Going To Do About It?

If there’s ever been a time to think clearly it’s now.

So here we are, almost two years into two weeks to flatten the curve. How are you feeling about yourself these days? You still buying into it? Do you actually believe the story you’re being told, that this is about your health and safety? At no time in history, for the good, have such extreme measures been taken to stop a virus with almost no real danger of being fatal. Yet, here we are two years later.

Back in April of 2020 I made this post called, “Keep The Fire Burning : Why A Hug, A Handshake & Friends Matter Now More Thank Ever.”

Here’s a little of what I said in that post. ”

I’m not debating the existence of a virus or its origin. I am debating the fact we are losing the very humanity we say we are all practicing by distancing. Ratting out neighbors and friends. It’s one of the most inhumane things being done right now. Many people that profess themselves to be good Christians are doing exactly opposite of what Jesus was known for. Washing the feet of others, taking care of the sick and diseased.  Instead we are now running and hiding, leaving a loved one to die alone in a nursing home or hospital. Some think this is the end of times. It is not.

I’m a hugger. Anyone that knows me knows that. These days it’s become such an anomaly that when two friends that are okay with it cross paths it’s another entire celebration of it’s own. High five!

Do you not see what those in power are doing to us as a society? 6 foot distancing. Masks. Don’t get near anyone. Don’t assemble. Don’t go to church. Can you imagine if someone told you this 25 or 30 years ago? You’d laugh in their face.”

 

I wouldn’t change a thing I said back then over 1.5 years ago. If anything it should be in bold!

We are losing, folks. Losing human touch. Even today you have to calculate if you should hug someone, shake their hand, ask permission. Fist bump instead?? How are you feeling about staying home and not visiting your mom, or grandma to protect yourself and others? Grandma is gone now, you never got to day goodbye. Why, because you have been intimidated, influenced by powers that could care less about your true well being. To the contrary. Have you turned off the idiot box long enough to see what’s actually happening in countries like Australia, Austria, Germany, Canada? People being locked in camps because they won’t quarantine, get the vax, and so on. Sound familiar? Go real a little history if not.

We’ve seen otherwise healthy, rational humans turned into scared, hopeless robots. And that’s exactly what’s wanted. Just when do you think this ends? Do you magically think it will end when everyone is vaxed? Has their vax passport? Believe me, people in these counties I just mentioned above know what’s up. They are leaving in droves. I personally know 6  people that did just that before they couldn’t get out. They knew what was coming. History repeating itself.

I won’t preach here. If you haven’t seen it by now, you probably won’t. I’ve had to let many people go over the last two years. It’s like watching someone drown. They madly thrash in the water screaming for you to save them. “Help, help!” But you know if you do, they will pull you under and you drown too. So you must let them go.

It’s my hope you hug, you shake that hand of a longtime friend. You release your fear. Be with friends. Take that mask off. Take the mask off of your children, now! See the smiles, live your life. Celebrate this season for all it has to give. Rebirth. Life. Hope.

If there’s ever been a time to think clearly, it IS now.

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I Didn’t Vote For Trump. I Didn’t Vote For Biden. Now For Afghanistan

Screenshot courtesy of Benny Johnson – Facebook.

To the dismay of many of my Republican friends. Here’s some news. I didn’t vote Trump. Lord knows I didn’t vote Biden. I’ve never been that intoxicated. I voted for Jo Jorgensen. Spare me the attacks of how I threw away my vote. I had my reasons. Now that we have that off the table. There is this.

One of the reasons I often vote libertarian these days is because both parties have failed us greatly. In short. They are habitual liars and I’ve yet to see a modern day Republican for smaller government. Cutting budgets or the like. Most of them look like drunken Democrats padding the budget even more.

Which brings me to occupation in other countries. I don’t support it. Take care of the homeland and then other missions where we can. That said. “IF” we are going to insert ourselves into battles globally (great going GWB) then we should at least have the decency to leave orderly and provide stability in a transition.

What we just watched happen in Afghanistan is beyond the word failure. It’s a tremendous humanitarian debacle that falls squarely on the shoulders of this president and his administration.

I have a good friend that I worked with for a number of years. She’s one of those hundreds of photos you saw during the fall of Saigon. This person has never verbally discussed what it was liked trying to flee with the family in tow as a child. But I’ve read her accounts annually when she remembers the day as a little girl in a plane headed to the US. Decades later she and her own family are doing well here. But you can tell from her written words it’s something we can’t imagine. I can’t help but imagine that she’s emotional over what’s playing out now. Though we haven’t discussed it.

Imagine someone in Afghanistan so desperate they cling to the wheels of a departing airplane rather than stay. Only to fall a thousand feet to their death back on the runway below. That’s how desperate the situation is there. We failed every person in Afghanistan that we promised, “We’ve got your back.” Hardly. That’s a big problem when we insert ourselves into other countries.

Another very close friend of mine is beside herself today. She has served 6 month rotations in Afghanistan for the past several years. She and hundreds of others did have the backs of the people In Afghanistan. She got home earlier this year. She is heartbroken and mad about what she’s witnessing. Rightly so.

This is so reminiscent of my teen years back in high school. Carter was President and Reagan was waiting in the wings. American let a lot of people down back then too. But we healed and made things better, eventually.

I could say so much about the current ongoing blunders. But Benny Johnson’s photo above & below says it all.

Screenshot courtesy of Benny Johnson -Facebook.

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Fly High. We’re Gonna Miss You Big Time Terry Martin

Terry Martin with me back in 2018 just after finishing up the detail job on my truck. His shop was in Nellysford, VA near the Blue Ridge Pig & Basic Necessities. Terry passed away over the weekend.

Kind and gentle souls are hard to find these days. I was lucky enough to find one in Terry Martin more than a decade ago. I got to know Terry over the years when I was the emcee for the annual Wintergreen Mountain Music Festival. Terry was often the sound man. All of those microphones, instruments, monitors, etc. Terry knew how to make it all work and sound absolutely perfect.

When you spent an entire day year after year doing those festivals, you get to talk a lot. Terry and I did that for sure. I found out Terry had an auto detailing business in nearby Nellysford and I started having him take care of our vehicles too. The job he did was impeccable. Every time he finished it looked like it was driven off the showroom floor.

Photo by Jody Carborn from Terry’s Facebook page. When Terry wasn’t detailing cars this is where you’d find him. At one of many concerts across the area in Virginia and beyond, setting up sound and running the mixing board.

Aside from Terry’s attention to the details in detailing, and being a topnotch sound man, he was just one hell of a nice man. We talked often when I was eating next door at Basic Necessities or if he was cleaning on one of our cars. A couple of years ago Terry dodged a big one. He had a heart attack, but bounced right back. He was back at it in no time. He told me, “That scared me. I thought I was a goner.” But he wasn’t and he lived to see more days.

And I haven’t even touched on the outpouring from the music industry. So many of them are remembering Terry in their messages after learning of his passing this weekend. He was so loved by all of his music family.

I don’t know what happened this time or how Terry passed. That’s not what’s important. Terry is gone and I will miss my friend. I’d always pass through Nellysford and look for the white BMW SUV near the old carwash and know Terry was in there busy detailing cars.

It’s going to be empty there now, sad and strange.

Fly high Terry, make some music and save us all a spot.

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Farm Standard Time (FST)

Looking at the Blue Ridge Parkway from Maple Brook Farm, Virginia – July 2021.

We all know about DST. That’s where we advance our clocks one hour each spring of the year then fall back an hour in the fall to Standard Time.

Ever since I was a kid growing up on the farm back in West Tennessee near the Mississippi River I’ve been on what I call Farm Standard Time. FST if you will. I bought that same standard with me to the mountains here in Virginia back in 2004. Other than my time in the TV news business where, as my former TV weather colleague Dave Brown says, “You are a slave to the clock,” I’ve operated on FST.

Too many of us these days have become a slave to the clock and, hence, we miss most of life that’s in front of our very eyes. If the Covid debacle hasn’t shown that to you, I’m not sure what will.

Mind you, my life wasn’t always days on the farm here in Virginia. I had deadlines in a TV news job in the old days. But even then, I tried to carve out a gig that allowed me freedom to explore and not be under the direct thumb of some micromanager. For the most part I was successful in doing that. I traveled over several states hunting up stories I liked to tell except for the occasional plane crash or prison break, I was own my own doing my own thing.


Above, a sample of the life Yvette and I lived before checking out of the TV News business and a simpler lifestyle here in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

When Yvette and I met we knew TV news wasn’t the lifestyle we wanted, especially to eventually raise a family in. We went against the grain and looked to get out, everyone thought we were crazy. We knew we weren’t. Today some of those very people wished they’d followed our lead and left. After a fellow anchor found out we were leaving TV News she said, “But you won’t be on TV.” Our response was, “That’s the plan.”

Some folks can’t sit still and enjoy a thunderstorm in the distance. The sound of creek on a hot summer afternoon. The sound of crickets and birds. Dew on a cornstalk just as the sun is rising over the mountains. I admit, sometimes it’s hard for me to shift into neutral, but not very often.

My son Adam on an afternoon run here in the rural mountains of the Blue Ridge. He and I run together about 3 times a week. It’s been one of the ultimate father/son bonding times.

If we all took more time, really took the time to ignore the noise, turn off the TV and enjoy what’s right in front of us, life would be so much better.

Ditch the clock and get on FST.

 

Looking at the Blue Ridge Parkway from Maple Brook Farm, Virginia – July 2021.

 

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The Mountains Miss You, And So Do I : Saying Goodbye To Steve Crandall

Photo By Tommy Stafford : My friend, the late Steve Crandall looks at the Blue Ridge Mountains off in the distance. Steve was always in awe of the beauty that surrounded where he lived. May 8, 2006

Roseland
Nelson County, Virginia
By Tommy Stafford

I’ve thought for months what I’d say when this day finally came. I really, really hoped I wouldn’t have to, but here we are. My friend Steve is gone. Mind you there are countless people that knew Steve far better than me. Lots of people have been friends with him much longer than the 17 or so years I knew him, but this is my personal remembrance.

Long before there was a Devils Backbone, Yvette and I became friends with Steve . We became friends with his wife Heidi and his children, Mallory, Justin & Brittany. Mallory was the first baby sitter our kids ever knew. One of their absolute favorites too! Heidi and other friends even hosted a baby shower at their farm for our first child, Adam, back in 2008.

Steve’s youngest daughter Mallory with our son Adam. On the left he was weeks old in 2008, on the right one year later at the one year anniversary of the opening of Steve’s Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company. November 2008 & November 2009.

When a younger and more naive Tommy & Yvette came to Nelson, Steve welcomed us with open arms. When we started our magazine with nothing more than a red notebook binder with writing in it that said, “Story goes here, ads go here, etc,” Steve said, “I’m in.” He bought the entire first year and paid it up front. He barely knew who we were back then. But he believed in what we were doing. That magazine lasted 16 straight years. 193 issues. Steve was our first client, but this wasn’t a first for Steve. He did many firsts in business. But that’s not what I remember Steve for.

Steve with Yvette back in November of 2016 here in Nelson County, Virginia at his restaurant.

When Yvette and I were trying to have kids, and it wasn’t as easy as it looked, Steve constantly encouraged me. He said, “Being a father will be the greatest thing you will ever do in life!” He was right. Steve loved, loved, loved his family. Back then his kids were working their way through the final years of school and college. He was always talking about how proud he was of his entire family.

Steve was already sort of a celebrity in Nelson. His construction company Tectonics II was already very successful and it was normal seeing Steve around. I remember what Greg Shifflet, the former and longtime owner of Graves Grocery said about Steve when we did a story on the store back in the early 2000’s. “I don’t know how many people who come in, all they gotta do is shake their head at me and I can whip their sandwich up,” he laughs. Steve Crandall of Tectonics II in Beech Grove, eats breakfast there every morning. “He comes in, waves his hand,  and I got it for him because I’m the breakfast man!”

Steve (right) with his son Justin Crandall back in March of 2015 during the relocation of the old Arrington Depot across the lot at Devils Backbone. Justin took over ownership of the family construction business, Tectonics II, a few years ago.

Steve and I would often have what we started referring to as the men’s quarterly lunch. It was just guy talk about life and such. Steve always invited us to get togethers at his farm to make us relative newcomers feel welcome. Birthdays, Christmas parties, and such. I vividly remember two such parties. One was Steve’s 50th birthday, the other in July after a huge derecho hit the county. The temps were around 100 degrees and power was out everywhere, Steve still had his 4th of July party. And it was fantastic!

Steve (left) with one of his best friends, Tom Saunders just after a 2008 turkey hunt. Steve and Tom spent many days hunting and teaching others how to hunt.

Though Steve wasn’t responsible for teaching my wife Yvette how to hunt, he was the spark that got her interested. One of Steve’s very best friends, Tom Saunders, actually took Yvette under his wing and made her a very good hunter. But that started with Yvette being introduced to all of the amazing meals we had with Steve. Many from hunts he’d been on.

Steve in this photo from June 2012. His wife Heidi shot this as he was sawing his way down Route 151 after a major windstorm (derecho) downed trees from Northern Virginia to the NC/VA state line. Steve was literally clearing the highway where people could make it down the road after the storm.

The Steve I personally knew and liked wasn’t so much the energetic business, brewing and building icon that many others knew of him. It was just the guy that would sit on the tailgate of his truck and look in awe of the mountains and say, “Don’t we live in a beautiful place?” Or when the derecho downed trees everywhere he could be found sawing his way down 151 with a making the way for others. Or just calling me (at 5:45 AM!! – he was an early riser!) just to chat about something he was thinking about.

After spending the first 10 years in the north part of Nelson County, we finally bought a farm on the other side just a mile or so from Steve. He and his family became neighbors. I would pass his house several times a day headed down the mountain into Nellysford. Never in. million years did I think I’d be passing there one day and looking to the right and knowing he was gone for good.

I won’t go into details here other than to say that cancer took Steve’s life. He shared a lot of details, and concerns in those early days after the diagnosis. Fear wasn’t one of them, at least not back then. Steve was full of life and he knew all things in nature have a shelf life, including him. If it was going to be his time, so be it. He wanted to pass at home and, thankfully, he got that wish.

The last time I saw Steve and got to talk to him in person was shortly after Thanksgiving 2020. His wife Heidi called and said they had a lot of pumpkins if we wanted them for the pigs. While I was loading them, Steve walked out and chatted for a bit before walking over to his side by side and took off with a friend to check some game cameras. I spoke once more to him by phone in early 2021 and that was it. He never said it outright, but I could tell it wasn’t good. I never saw or spoke to him again after that. But I never quit looking at that house and farm on the right every single day as I passed.

And I will never stop looking at that house and farm on the right ever single day as I pass. I’ll smile and remember you Steve and all of those great memories of the past.

See you on the other side my friend.

 

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The Friend I Never Got To Know

I barely got to know Sam. In a matter of months we first met, became friends, and just like that he was gone. No, he didn’t die, but it almost felt a little bit like he did.

For 7 years we’d put up with a less than desirable neighbor. When you have a neighbor out in the country you generally have a lot of property bordering each other. So, it’s either really good or nothing at all. Ours was the latter. So when the property finally sold and one of the people living there was Sam, I was ecstatic. Sam was this slow talker with a thick Texas accent. Every word had at least three syllables. But he was good as gold, with a golden heart to match.

Sam was old school. And that, was just fine. He often quoted scripture. He was a brilliant cabinet maker and custom woodworker, turning out some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen. He’d often stroll down from the pine woods bordering our property when he’d hear me on the tractor. We’d have long conversations about current times, people and yes, Texas. Sam never quite felt at home in the Virginia Blue Ridge. Wind and snow didn’t help as we were transitioning from winter to spring. He missed those hot Texas days and many of his Texas friends. It was complicated too, I’ll leave it there. But …  Sam was my friend. Yvette had become really fond of Sam too.

I got a text one morning from Sam. He came in to load up some gear he was taking back to Texas. He said, “Hey I left you something on you back porch to remember me by!” I never got to see Sam in person before he headed back. I wish I had, I wanted to shake his hand, give him a hug, and a proper thank you. Don’t get me wrong his other friends that live there now are fine people and are truly wonderful neighbors, but I’ll always miss Sam dropping by to say, “howdy.”

That photo above is what Sam left on our back porch last week. It’s a custom made Texas star from wood collected out of a barn built in 1890. Sam used to make them back in Texas. He had a slogan for people he sold them to. “We can’t make you a celebrity, but we can make you a star!”

It was a perfect gift and a perfect reminder of the friend I sort of got to know. I’ll look at it often and remember those great conversations sitting on the tractor talking forever about life, God, and so much more.

You were a good one Sam and I’m glad we got the chance to meet. You truly are a star.

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10 Years Ago Today TV News Lost A Legend. I Lost My Friend : Remembering Doug Viar

Doug and his wife Margaret during a visit they made to see us here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. June 2007

Ten years ago on this very day Doug Viar died. I’ve written a similar post to this one every year on the anniversary date of his death. I can’t believe it’s already been a decade.

This year’s anniversary remembrance was going to be different. I was coordinating a get together back in Memphis with some of the still remaining news people that worked with or remember Doug. Thanks to Covid that’s not happening. Doug wouldn’t have wanted us to make a fuss over him anyway, but he’d also be mighty pissed that people are refusing to live their lives now. He would be saying something like this. “People better get on with their lives. We aren’t here forever!” He would know. He died at just 69 years old. He was watching severe weather that had been developing that morning. Got up to go to the kitchen and dropped dead. Given the alternative of lingering in some horrible state, I assure you Doug would have wanted to go that way versus the alternatives.

Above, his voice became so familiar to those living in the mid-south. Doug was a real newsman. He would completely laugh at what’s become of the TV news business today. Heck, he was already making fun of most of it as he was leaving.

Doug and I met when I was a teenager. He finally hired me as a DJ at country music radio station back in the late 70s. That’s where I finally got to do a little news too. Guess you could say that was the start of my broadcasting news career.

Where my broadcasting career all began back at this tiny 1000 watt (daytime) 500 at night country AM radio station. WDSG in NW-TN Now dark for over a decade. – We played actual vinyl albums and 45’s. Bumper ID’s and commercials were cart machines. Zero automation! But some really good memories there! Circa late 70’s ish. Doug Viar was the station manager that hired me there.

Photo courtesy of Clayton Hayes. There’s me, Tod Hayes (left) and the late Doug Viar covering a presidential visit by Bill Clinton back in the mid 90s in Northwestern Tennessee. Dyer County.

Doug was a serious newsman, but didn’t like to be serious all of the time. He knew how to have fun for sure.

Above that’s Doug back in the early 80s trying to do the into for a television magazine show he produced and appeared in. It’s one of the funnest moments I remember. He simply couldn’t get the words out!

Doug was admired professionally all across the industry. Nationally and locally. One of my former weather colleagues from Memphis, Tennessee station WMC-TV said there was none other like Doug.

“I worked many remote shots with Doug Viar running the satellite truck. He was the consummate pro. We never missed a time slot and the feed was always flawless. I had enormous respect for Doug and found him very easy to work with. We lost him way too soon.” Dave Brown, retired Chief Meteorologist, WMC-TV Action News 5

That’s Doug on the far right with Dave Brown and his wife Margaret. Dave believes this may have been at Jack & Shirley Parnell’s 50th Anniversary in Memphis.

Once I moved to the Virginia Blue Ridge back in 2004 Doug and I didn’t get to see each other as often as we once did. But whenever we got the chance, to visit we did. We talked several times a week. I remain good friends with his wife Margaret and his daughters Lori and Michelle. Also I stay in touch with his brother, George. Ironically George was my flight instructor back in 1980. Little did I know Doug , also a pilot, and I would fly hundreds of hours together chasing news stories all over the mid-south and Southeastern U.S.

Doug and me during a visit at a local restaurant in Dyer County, TN in May 2007. I was back visiting friends and relatives at the time. We always made it a point to see one another the I was back that way.

10 years is a long time. I miss being able to pickup the phone and ask Doug what he’d think about all of the stuff happening these days. I know what he would say, but I won’t say it here. Whenever I see severe weather breaking out, or a prison break, or an airplane taking off into the sky, I think of Doug, There’s probably not a single day that goes by that I don’t have a memory of some story we went on. A missile silo that exploded, a plane crash, a barge accident, a murder, a manhunt, or dozens of other stories we covered together over the years.

I learned lots from Doug, and I hope I’ve been able to pass just a little of that on to news people of today.

See you on the other side one day Doug.

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I Knew This Day Would Eventually Come – Happy Trails Printed Blue Ridge Life Magazine

A much younger Tommy & Yvette. This was our first publisher’s photo in April 2005. It was taken a few months before at Kris Kringle / Saunders Christmas Tree Farm in December 2004.

Roseland
Nelson County, Virginia
By Tommy Stafford

It’s amazing how fast 16 years can go by when you’re an adult, and you’re adulting. Not so much when you’re a kid and you’re waiting on the 16th birthday so you can drive! April 1, 2021 makes 16 years to the day we launched then Nelson County Life Magazine which was later rebranded as Blue Ridge Life Magazine.

Our first cover of then Nelson County Life Magazine back on April 1, 2005. To the right our first publishers statement when we just began. Click on the image above read the very first From The Publishers.

Back then there were a few wineries here in Nelson. No breweries. No distilleries. And other than a hand-full of long-established local eating places, the only other dining option was Wintergreen Resort. The resort has already sold twice since those days and is now leased and managed out of Utah.

Back then we didn’t have kids and spent most of our days renovating a 1900s farm house we’d bought in Greenfield the year before in 2004. When finished up for the day we’d either get a pizza from the old Ashley’s Market nearby or head up the road to D’Ambolas Italian Restaurant to eat.

Yvette in March of 2006 renovating our first house here in Nelson County. She was building bookshelves in what would eventually become the parlor. We sold that house after 10 years in Greenfield and bought our current farm in Roseland in 2014.

Our path to starting the magazine was a bit curvy, with lots of twists and turns, much like the mountain roads we drive today here in Nelson. We met in the TV news business back in Tennessee and continued reporting into the early 2000s in Memphis.

Circa 2000. Yvette and me on the set of Action News 5 (WMC-TV) the NBC affiliate in Memphis, TN where we both reported and I did occasional weather. This was about 3-4 years before we left the TV news business permanently.

At the same time we were developing an exit strategy from that business. It was certainly better then vs now, but not by much. We literally sold drinking jars on the internet to get out of the news business to be able to buy our first home here in Virginia.

There we are almost two decades ago. October 2002. NW Tennessee. We literally sold drinking jars with handles and canning jars on the internet. This was just a small part of the inventory. The company we founded was RuralRoot.

We sold that company, RuralRoot, about a year after moving to Nelson in 2004. It’s long since closed down. But the couple we sold it to did a great job with it until the markets changed. (Google, Wal-Mart and the like took it out several years later.)

We launched Nelson County Life Magazine on April 1, 2005. Facebook had technically started just a year before, but was barely heard of back then and had no advertising component at all. Today Facebook dominates (for bad or good) advertising markets. Cheap $20 ads that target specific places. Local print advertising isn’t over, but it’s on life support in a lot of places. In spite of its downsides – and there are many – Facebook is good medium to share info and stay in touch. Most of you got to this article because it was posted in social media and led you here.

A few years after NCL started we realized we needed to broaden the reach. We’d boxed ourselves in with advertisers and stories. We rebranded the magazine to Blue Ridge Life starting with the January 2013 issue. It was well received and it took off!

We survived the housing bust of 2008. That almost took us out. In just a month more than a third of our revenue disappeared. It took five years to get back to where we were. But we did by 2013. Because Yvette and I had started the business from scratch, we’d done every single job there was to do, from delivering magazines, to taking photos, to laying it out and selling all of the ads. So when 2008 happened we went back to the basics, survived, kept hunting unique story ideas, and kept publishing.

August 2011, Brian Shanks (L) and John Washburn, founders of Bold Rock Hard Cider stand on the original grounds of the cider barn construction. In the coming years the operation would double in size time and time again. The local company eventually sold to a large adult beverage corporation.

When a new brewery or eating establishment was planned, we were there. From the time the footers were poured, to the roof going on, until they were in operation. Many of those establishments advertised, but as they were sold off to corporations, they dropped off. It was an evolution, and a predictable one.

October 2008. Jason Oliver, Head Brewmaster for Devils Backbone Brewing,  stands behind the bar under construction. Nelson’s second brewery would open to the public several weeks later. The entire operation eventually sold to Anheuser-Busch Companies, a division of InBev.

 

December 2006 – Blue Mountain Brewery founders Matt Nucci, Taylor Smack, and Mandi Smack look over the property where Nelson County’s first brewery would open about a year later in October 2007. Blue Mountain continues today as a locally owned brewery.

As the years ticked by, digital media grew. It began taking more and more of our market share. But there was still place for a printed magazine like BRL, especially in a big tourist location such as Nelson. It was actually the only way to get the message out to some in a county with still-sparse internet in places. It remained highly successful.

Enter the Covid scare of 2020 which essentially shut down all restaurant and hospitality organizations for weeks. They still aren’t back at full operation today. What was left standing of those businesses greatly curtailed or eliminated their advertising dollars.

Enough of how we got there. We. Are. Here.

Within the last two years we knew this day was approaching. Long before any of us heard of covid. We were already looking for the right time to exit. We learned from previous businesses, to leave when you’re strong, not limping over the finish line. In early 2021 we made the decision to end run with BRL on issue 200 in November. We could take our time to fondly reflect over the past 16 years and land nicely just in time for the holidays. A way to take plenty of time to say, “so long.”

Then a few weeks ago one of our large advertisers decided to not renew their advertising contract. This meant the loss of big money. We’d already been propping up the magazine in some months with money from other companies. So we decided that instead of limping over the finish line as discussed above, we’d finish strong. April 2021 would be our last issue. Exactly 16 years after we started.

Photo By Kate Simon : You’ve become accustomed to seeing our family in the publisher’s photo each month for 16 years. This was one of our final ones taken in March 2021.

So this is it, folks, for the printed edition. The website (blueridgelife.com) will continue for the foreseeable future. We continue to use the Blue Ridge Life Magazine brand. I’ll be maintaining it mainly for breaking news and weather information, as we’ve always done. We all remember that derecho!!  Our smartphone app will continue as well, along with our social media pages. They all have thousands and thousands of followers and I won’t be pulling the plug anytime soon. Yvette’s real estate business is soaring and I have more than enough on the farm and handling soon-to-be teenagers!

We cannot adequately express our gratitude to each and every one of you for the past 16 years.  You and the advertisers are the reason for the magazine’s success. You always saw us out front, but there are countless people behind the scenes over the years that made it happen. Names like Jennie Tal Williams, Paul Purpura, Diana Garland, Marcie Gates, Hayley Osborne, Kat Turner, Lisa Davis, Stephanie Gross, Kate Simon, Victoria Godfrey, Elizabeth Ferrall, Woody Greenberg, Lynn Coffey, Mary Withers, Chet White, Lee Luther, Olivia Carter, Kim Chappell, Rachel Ryan, Ray Whitson, Woody Elliot, Earl Hamner, Jr, Norm Shafer, Joanie Dodd, Christina Kline, to name a few. There are so many more over the 16 years who I can’t remember right now, but you mattered just as much.

September 26, 2013 marked the final publication of The Hook that was launched back in 2002. Hawes Spencer the publisher was a loyal confidant in helping us get our start at BRL.

I have a couple of others I want point out. Hawes Spencer. Former publisher of the now shuttered, The Hook. Hawes had no clue who we were and offered all kinds of advice to help get us started. He never asked for a thing in return. He just wanted to see us succeed.

Steve Crandall in this photo I took back in May 2006. This is the exact field where Devils Backbone Brewing stands today. Steve told me not long after we met in late 2004 that he dreamed of having a brewery there one day.

Steve Crandall of Roseland. Steve was our first advertiser when he was still running Tectonics II. His son Justin has taken over that business today. Steve bought an entire year of advertising the first day we launched back in 2005 and paid the whole thing on the spot! He took it on faith. He didn’t really know us either. We have never forgotten that. Years later after founding Devils Backbone, we all prospered once again. Though it was a tough ride those first few years.

Finally and most importantly: my wife, Yvette. All 193 issues you have read, she put together. Through derechos, blizzards, child birth, illnesses, she never, ever missed a single deadline. Not one. That’s unheard of. But then again, that’s Yvette. She deserves the rest, and the praise.

Yvette back in November 2006 with our rescue kitty Angelo. She was busy laying out one of the early issues. Our final issue of April 2021 marks issue 193.

For me personally, I will echo what Charles Kuralt said on his final broadcast of CBS Sunday morning back in the mid-1990s.  (Here’s a link to that Kuralt final broadcast by the way. It’s a fantastic farewell.) It’s also in the final printed April 2021 issue. I echoed those thoughts to our longtime writer and friend, Victoria Godfrey, in our very last story. Here, it’s in the caption from the image below which was taken in my favorite place, Pinecone Land. Our daughter Peyton named it that when she was about 4 years old.

“Time for us to part, you and I. Saying goodbye to the viewers of “Sunday Morning” is like saying goodbye to old friends. That’s the way I feel. Thank you for making me feel that way. I aim to do some traveling and reading and writing and to watch this program the civilized way for a change: in my bathrobe while having breakfast.
“There is a rhyme by Clarence Day which says what I want to say: ‘Farewell, my friends, farewell and hail; I’m off to seek the holy grail; I cannot tell you why; remember, please when I am gone, ‘twas aspiration led me on; tiddly-widdly-toodle-oo, all I want is to stay with you, but here I go, goodbye.’”

As Yvette said in our final From The Publishers, “This isn’t good-bye.”

Stay Tuned. 

 

 

 

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Processing Day

I always take a photo a day or two before the pigs leave. I always want to remember them back on the farm. They become very loyal over time. That’s what makes their final day so hard.

Roseland
Nelson County, Virginia

The day the pigs leave the farm to go to the processor is always a tough one. Let’s just call it what it is. It’s the kill date. Processor just makes it sound nicer. I was around this sort of thing during my childhood back in Tennessee but never was involved so much on a personal basis like here in Virginia. We’ve raised hogs for food for almost all of the 7 years since we sold our other house up the road and bought here. This particular day never gets easier. When we started, it was Yvette’s idea. I really wasn’t interested in going back to livestock on the farm. It’s a lot of work. Before, during and after. But it’s always so satisfying knowing you’ve grown and provided your own food. Now more than ever before. As the months ticked by Yvette became so busy I had to take on more of the involvement until I finally took it over completely. And have grown fond of it again! When you get pigs just a month or so old them and raise them till they are ready for slaughter, you can’t help but get attached some. If you don’t. You’re not human or you lack a soul. I commend those farmers who slaughter on site. It’s not easy, mentally or physically.

Right after getting back to the farm from picking up the pigs over in Madison. October 2020.

A fellow farming friend of mine, Elizabeth Van Deventer over on Davis Creek, always helped me out this on perspective. She has lots of livestock and poultry. She always thanks the animal for their life and what they provide. A prayer if you will for each one.

Elizabeth Van Deventer in a story about her farming techniques. This was back in 2010. You can click on that magazine cover above to read her story and how she feels about the right way to raise animals.

I’ve done the same here. I did it today before the pigs left. I know Yvette does when she slaughters chickens. Each one. They are to be respected. Appreciated. Honored. Confined industrial feed operations are horrible and are as far removed from how livestock should be raised. These animals have open spaces and fresh pasture. The end is nearly the same. The in-between is not.

As the trailer leaves the farm headed for the processor. March 19, 2021.

Today Yvette drove the pigs to their final destination. After spending every single day in with them I didn’t have the heart. From picking them up as little pigs to feeding and moving them in storms, wind, and snows. They look up to you to provide. Having your own meat is rewarding. But if your head is on straight and your heart is right, you never gloat on this particular final day.

Now the removal of temporary electric fencing begins. Removing the shelter, and replanting the pasture for the coming season.

It’s strange when you walk back into the field to remove the feeders, the housing, the fencing. It’s quiet. Strangely eerie. With spring coming now it’s time to till up the ground where the pigs once were and plant new pasture. The hot days of summer are ahead, and I’ll be bush hogging the pasture a lot in the coming months. With each pass. I’ll remember each of the animals raised here and honor their memory.

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Godspeed My Friend & Fellow Pilot, Steve Shannon

Steve back in early December 2001 doing what he loved to do most. Piloting across the Mississippi River bottoms of Western Tennessee.

Dyer County, Tennessee

I was sitting in my favorite Mexican restaurant here the mountains of Virginia when I got the message from a mutual friend Joe Markham down in Florida. “Steve Shannon died this morning.” Within a minute I had a message from his daughter Stephene telling me the same thing. How do you describe Steve Shannon? It’s hard to do, but I’ll try my best.

For years when I was piloting TV news tapes all around the mid-south in a private plane Steve would often ride co-pilot just to hang out and enjoy the flight. I enjoyed the company since many of those flights were by myself. I’d made the routes so many times it got major boring at times. Years later Steve had the bug and got his own pilot’s license. He mainly flew for fun in a Piper J-3 Cub that his brother in law at the time had. I eventually even had Steve fly me in that plane when I needed some aerials from a nice low and slow plane.

The only time I had a near death experience in an airplane Steve was with me. As was his daughter Stephane mentioned above. She was about 14 at the time. It was just a few days before Christmas in 1984. I’d flown from the Dyersburg, TN airport (KDYR) to the Jackson, TN airport (KMKL) to pickup a news tape from the late Doug Viar. From there I was to fly it down to Memphis and drop it off at the Downtown DeWitt Spain airport (KM01) right on the Mississippi River. From there a cab would take it to the station to air. Then we’d take off and head back home to Dyersburg. I’d made the flight dozens of times. Uneventful. This time we’d just climbed out to about 3500′ and headed into a fleeting sunset as the night lights starting coming up. Then the engine started coughing violently. Though it never quit, I had no power. Nothing worked. His daughter Stephanie in the back understandable got scared and started crying. Steve who had just lit a cigarette and settled into the pretty night ride dropped his cigarette in floor of the plane when the coughing motor startled him. I made a gentle turn back to the airport in hopes to make the runway. If I didn’t it was going to be Interstate 40, at night! Yikes! We’ve made it back and had to be towed off the runway. Lucky. We all laughed eventually but knew we were damn lucky.

Steve back in 2001 fueling up the plane for us to take a short trip over backwater in the river bottoms.

Steve and I were business partners for years. Steve didn’t play. He was as generous as they come, but also had zero tolerance for bureaucratic BS. My wife’s nickname for him was always Sneaky Bastard. She was right when she said Steve wasn’t always the most articulate, but he was damn good in the trenches. And he was. From tower projects, to two way radio systems, to founding a major alarm company, to being a reserve deputy and constable that would ride with me at night when I was a cop, Steve had his hands in just about everything. Steve taught me to water ski. He helped me become a better pilot. How to navigate life and not take BS from people that dished it out.

I haven’t seen Steve in person in probably 10 years. The last time was right after he’d been recovering from one of his many heart surgeries. Steve smoked a lot. I mean a lot. When we met up that day, we had BBQ and French fries. He had a cigarette after lunch. That was Steve, hard headed but solid. Good in the trenches. Yes, Yes he was.

As we say in flying when the skies are clear blue, “Rest easy Steve. Severe clear ahead!”

It was a mighty good run Steve, glad I was along for some of the ride.

 

 

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