Friday, October 21, 2011

Solemn Southwest Virginia

Southwest Virginia is kind of its own state. Once you leave the friendly atmosphere of Harrisonburg in the northern Shenandoah, or the - whatever that smell is - in Charlottesville, you eventually enter the Roanoke Valley, which gives way to the New River Valley.

There are counties here who begged to be added to the TVA-defined "Appalachia," as well as counties who begged to be deleted off of that same list.  Most people who have come through this valley over the last 300 years have been proud and poor.  Some, mostly the mine owners and the railroad barons, led a priveleged life.  They are all gone now.

 Eventually, most roads lead to Roanoke, once a significant rail town of the South.  You can start to understand what makes up Roanoke when you learn that this rail town hasn't had any rail service in nearly 40 years.



Roanoke has the nation's largest operating farmer's market (1886)...it's too bad nobody goes. This photo was taken on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon.





The 1910 Shenandoah Hotel building tells no tales, but is at least somewhat protected by its newest tenant, the History Museum of Southwest Virginia.








As you wind through the valley, away from Roanoke and the old Norfolk & Western railroad, a new ethos appears.  A lot of shiny new pickup trucks, maroon ribbons, and turkey mascots are in the offerings.


This is Blacksburg.  But it, too, can be solemn.





Virginia Tech is one of six federally-designated senior military  colleges (The Citadel and Texas A&M are others).  While being federally administered in its early years (the 1870s), the  original leadership was strongly composed of brass from the Confederate Army.   Over time, the cadets have been awarded 7 Medals of Honor and 19 Distinguished Crosses.

Over 400 have died fighting for the United States, and their names are engraved on the pylons of Virginia Tech's War Memorial.




Construction on the Memorial began in 1951, and was financed by Virginia Tech alumni.   Each pylon is dedicated to one of the school's core values: Brotherhood, Duty, Honor, Leadership, Loyalty, Service, Sacrifice, and Ut Prosim (the school's motto- That I May Serve).

On our trip, the cadets were headed across town en masse.



Where they were heading is incredibly less solemn.  They deserve an afternoon off!


More soon!

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