Category: I Grew Up on a Farm in Virginia
Growing up on the farm, probably in high school, I made a large, poster sized map of the farm. The basic map was a topographical map, showing elevations, roads, symbols for buildings, water lines, etc. I used sheets of plastic to make overlays showing general vegetation along with some special spots where we found wild lady slipper flowers, horsetail reeds, etc. There was another overlay for where we found Indian artifacts and the fossils. It was all very amateurish, but I did it.
The upper part of the farm was 100-plus feet above the river, but it was not flat—there were ravines, now tree covered with moderately steep sides—I could walk/climb up and down the sides of the ravines with little trouble. During some ancient time, water running off of the flatter land inland cut the ravines down to the river and the creek.
In one deep ravine, about a half mile from the house, there was a small spring in a cool, quiet spot where there tiny white flowers, green soft moss, and a log that made a great place to sit. It was one of my favorite reading spots.
It was also a great place to just lean back and let my imagination run wild—literally. Drawing on images from Disney cartoons (Bambi, etc.) and books I read about Indians, fossils, and my own observations, I could conjure up images of whales swimming by in some ancient sea, then deer stalked by Native Americans, New World settlers stalking turkey, tumultuous ante bellum years, and confederate soldiers building defenses against an approaching Union Army.
When I was in the 8th or 9th grade, I read much of Michener’s Hawaii in that quiet spot. I loved the book and the way he told the story—from the ancient geology, through the lives of the Pacific natives, the arrival of Europeans, and the evolution to contemporary times. During my first year in college, Mother had a copy of Chesapeake, which I also read—a typical Michener grand saga—and much closer to home.
It was then I began to think about writing “an epic novel” centered on the farm and its history. I would start with the geological origins, early life, the seas in which the whales (of the fossil bone fame) swam, etc., and work my way up to how the Virginia Indians came to the land. Then there would be some adventure or romance or conflict story in the time well before the settlers. The story would explore and paint the life and origins and settlement of the Virginia Indians. And then the English Settlers showed up–a tumultuous time for everyone. Again all built around imagined (but presumably plausible) events taking place on the farm, the river and nearby communities.
In the 1960s I wrote a few pages (may even have them somewhere). But, then life got in the way and nothing more was done.
Everyone says to “write about what you know.” Well I know a lot about the farm and the history of the area, and there is what I could imagine to add to that.
Contemplating posting it, chapter by chapter as the story develops.
Any thoughts, encouragement??
© 2014 Jeff Richmond