Precisely at 8:05 p.m. on April 29, 2018, the full moon rose over the Massanutten Mountain range just east of Harrisonburg, Virginia. I stationed myself atop a hill behind Eastern Mennonite University on the city’s northwest side to ensure I had a clear vantage point to view the moonrise. I wasn’t disappointed as the moon peeked right at a change in elevation in the landmark mountain ridge. Massanutten runs through the center of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley from Harrisonburg northeast to near Strasburg.
I was fortunate that the evening was clear and the humidity was low, which allowed for a perfect view of the full moon. “Full Moon Rising” is my Photo of the Week.
I sat on the patio reading a marvelous book my best friend had given me before we hightailed it out of Holmes County, Ohio for Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. I didn’t read long, however.
A good case of what I’ll call the Shenandoah Sneeze forced me to retreat to the safety of our air-conditioned home. I had no choice. I was sneezing more than reading. I used more tissues than I turned pages.
Reading was only the secondary reason I had escaped to our outdoor sanctuary. I thought if I went outside the thick promising clouds would finally let loose a downpour. It didn’t happen. Apparently, I was under the spell of not only the Shenandoah Sneeze but also the Harrisonburg Hole. I’ll gladly clarify this localized lingo.
When my wife and I had our first appointments with our new doctor, one of the first questions she asked was if we had contracted any allergies yet. Apparently, newcomers to the Shenandoah Valley acquire hypersensitivities they didn’t have previously. Harrisonburg is The Valley’s notorious epicenter for such physical reactions.
I never had allergies my entire life of living in northeast Ohio. Now, every now and then when I step outdoors, or our home’s windows are open, I suddenly begin a succession of rapid-fire sneezes. I have no idea why or what is causing it. I’ve tried both over-the-counter and prescription medication. Nothing seems to help, so I just endure it. When an attack occurs, I retreat to a private space so as not to spoil a perfectly good autumn afternoon for others.
After the sneezing episode ends, my eyes itch and water and I have to breathe through my mouth due to nasal congestion. In relating this all too personal information, I am not asking for pity, only understanding.
As for the Harrisonburg Hole, that’s the real reason I went outside in the first place. The official forecast was a 90 percent chance of rain. It had been more than a month without rain. Not. One. Drop. I figured if I ventured outdoors the sky would inevitably open up. It didn’t.
Besides the parched yard, I had a selfish reason for desiring a good soaking. I had fertilized the lawn the previous morning when the dew wetted the browning grass. The moisture-laden blades of grass made the tiny granules of fertilizer stick. To make the fertilizer effective, I needed the promised precipitation. Otherwise, the lawn could burn out more than it already was.
You see the Harrisonburg Hole is a fabled meteorological phenomenon that affects our fair city and its immediate surrounding areas. Nine times out of 10, when the weather forecast calls for a high chance of rain, it doesn’t. It does rain, north, south, east, and west of “The Friendly City.” But it doesn’t rain in and around Harrisonburg.
So far I haven’t found one person who can explain why this occurrence happens so frequently. I just discovered a bevy of believers in the myth that apparently has more than a grain of truth to it. I can attest that I’ve checked the radar on more than one supposed-to-rain occasion only to find steady rain everywhere but over “Rocktown.”
I was hoping that in addition to rinsing the specks of fertilizer into the ground that a steady rain would also clear out whatever was in the air that was causing me to make the Kleenex brand rich. No such luck.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t too happy when Holmes County, Ohio decided to number their highways instead of using names. That occurred when the house numbering system was employed decades ago.
I maintained then and now that people remember names much better than numbers. Plus, local residents already referred to many of the rural roads by using a name. If you said French Ridge Road, Weaver Ridge Road, Cherry Ridge Road, Number Ten Road, Goose Bottom Road or the Charm Road, most folks knew where you were talking about. Even today when you throw out a number, you often get blank looks.
My logic fell on deaf ears of county officials. Instead of those practical and appropriate names, the good folks and businesses of Holmes County got stuck with numbered roadways. But if a stranger asked a local for directions to see the cabin built on a rock, they’d probably be told to turn off of Dundee Road onto Trail Bottom Road.
I was delighted to see that names triumphed over numbers in our new home in Rockingham County, Virginia. The roads are also numbered, but their names prevail. Only numbers identify the main routes like I – 81, US 33, and State Route 42. The rest use the beautifully colloquial names that make perfect sense.
Wonderful names you couldn’t invent don street corner signposts. They’re practical and memorable, which is what a road name should be. Keezletown Road leads to Keezletown. Silver Lake Road begins at Silver Lake near Dayton. Sparkling Springs Road dead ends into Sparkling Springs. See what I mean?
I feel like I’ve landed in Utopia. Even if you’ve never been to Rockingham County, Virginia, you probably can figure out what business is on Harness Shop Road. Singers Glen Road runs right through Singers Glen. And the village got its name because of people singing in a glen. That’s about as practical as it gets.
Mole Hill Road only takes you to one place, Mole Hill. It’s a well-known landmark that predates human history. Whether going east or traveling west on Mt. Clinton Pike, you are sure to drive through the quaint village of Mt. Clinton.
Even the parks say what they mean. Natural Chimneys State Park is home to an ancient sedimentary rock formation that highly resembles chimneys. Many even have an opening like a hearth at their base. And the road that leads you to the park? Why Natural Chimney Lane of course.
There’s also Whitmore Shop Road, Muddy Creek Road that parallels Muddy Creek, and Fog Hollow Road. No guessing where that goes. There used to be a mill on Wengers Mill Road. And yes, the view on Majestic View Road is majestic.
Now some places are intriguing but leave me wondering just how they got their names. Briery Branch, Ottobine, Clover Hill, Penn Laird, and Cross Keys are some examples. In time, I’ll likely find the answers.
It’s just that having lived in Holmes County all of my adult life, I know towns and valleys and ridges are similarly named. Killbuck, Glenmont, Nashville, Beck’s Mills, Farmerstown, and Limpytown would be a start. Spook Hollow, Panther Hollow, Shrimplin Run, and Calmoutier each have their own particular piece of Holmes County folklore.
Roads and towns with names that recall historical times are both fun and fascinating. In a way, they help solidify a sense of community. People can identify with them. Names like that connect the past with the present. That’s something a number simply can’t do.
My wife and I were walking with friends in downtown Harrisonburg, VA one afternoon when we happened upon this scene. This old, rusty signpost still stood in front off a remodeled office building. We wondered why they didn’t either restore the pole as well or just take it down.
Then I looked up. This pair of display lights stared back at me. I wondered what sign they had once illuminated with their soft, incandescent bulbs blazing away in the night sky. This rusty light pole stood as both a testament to the past and as a work of urban art to the present. In a way, the pole with its twin lights, long dormant, stood in stark contrast to the ugly utility pole and wires that now overshadowed this relic from yesteryear.
Is it possible to accidentally buy a house? I suppose so since we did.
I’ve attended auctions where someone has scratched their head or waved to a friend, only to hear the astute auctioneer bellow out, “SOLD!” Once the dust settled, the person embarrassingly explained his way out of the unintentional purchase.
Buying this house didn’t work that way for my lovely wife and I. Nor did we even try to back out. Once the hammer dropped, we enthusiastically signed on the dotted line. And we signed and signed and signed.
It didn’t take long to appreciate the consequences of our unintentional intentional purchase. We were in it for the long haul. “It” is moving to the Commonwealth of Virginia. We had our very personal reasons.
To uncomplicate this complicated story of our apparently surprise transaction, let me begin at the beginning. It might even help me to grasp what has truly transpired.
Our daughter and her family, which includes our only grandchildren, live in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They love it there. They work there. They play there. They even went to school there, Eastern Mennonite University to be exact. Their alma mater employs both our daughter and her husband.
In fact, our daughter is the head coach for the women’s volleyball team. She’s very busy August into November preparing for and playing the season. Of course, we want to watch her team in action. So over the mountains and through the woods we go from our home in Holmes County, Ohio to the magnificent in any season Shenandoah Valley, home to Harrisonburg.
In these hectic times, Carrie needs our help, well, at least my wife’s. Neva is the engine that keeps the household humming. With three busy youngsters, someone needs to see they are fed, watered, and clothed. Add in going to doctor appointments, baseball, choir, and soccer practices, and their schedules resemble those of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
Consequently, we spend much of the fall helping in Harrisonburg. We also make several six-hour trips from Ohio to Virginia to attend the grandchildren’s events throughout each year.
We’re not spring chickens anymore. So we began to consider moving to the valley. To see what our money could potentially buy, our realtor friend scheduled some house tours for us.
The last place got our attention. We wanted a turnkey home, one floor, no basement, smaller lot, a two-car garage, and municipal sewer and water. This little ranch had it all. The owners had also remodeled it just the way we would have done it ourselves. We immediately felt at home.
There were issues, however. We weren’t exactly ready to buy a home, according to our established moving timeline. At first, that was no problem because another couple had already put in a bid on this house.
However, those potential buyers and the sellers couldn’t agree on a price. Excuse the pun, but that opened the door for us. So we made an offer. In a matter of head-spinning hours, we had a deal. The house was ours. I signed the sales agreement electronically online. Neva signed on the hood of a car in a parking lot at 10:30 at night.
Apparently, we indeed wanted this house. We had better. We now owned it. Intent on keeping to our timeframe, excellent renters were quickly found for our new home.
If everything goes as planned, which it has so far, we will become Virginians by next summer. So there you have it.
The sun always sets in the west. However, some of the best colors of a sunset occur in the other directions of the compass. This photo that I recently took in Harrisonburg, VA is an example of that. The golden glow behind the Allegheny Mountains to the west created magnificent colors elsewhere. The high, wispy clouds in the southern sky danced with brilliance. The trees and house in the foreground accentuated the variable pink and blue evening sky.
Every time I see my three grandchildren, I marvel at how much they have grown. I used to think that a lot when they lived in Texas, and we only saw them three or four times a year.
Each time we visited, whether the venue was here or there, our Texan born grandchildren showed obvious changes. One would expect that given the infrequent gatherings.
But now that they live in Virginia’s lovely Shenandoah Valley, I seem to find myself saying that to them and about them each time we see them. And compared to Texas, that’s been a lot more frequent.
Since they moved from Pflugerville to Harrisonburg in mid-June, we have been together with Evan, Davis and Maren several times already. They have been in Ohio twice, and we have driven the 350 miles southeast four times.
The visits included a couple of celebrations since two of those trips marked birthdays. In July, we finally got to party with Davis on his fourth birthday. The Texas heat always discouraged us from mid-July visits, other than when he was born of course. We wouldn’t have missed that no matter how hot it got.
On our most recent trip, we celebrated Maren’s first birthday with a host of family and friends. It was quite the party. They may be living in Virginia, but their Texas roots run deep. Maren’s daddy couldn’t forget the good things about Texas. He bought a smoker and we had ourselves some swell tasting Texas brisket with homemade barbecue sauce.
Joining in on Evan’s special day was never a problem. Flying to Texas in mid-April, when the gorgeous blue bonnets were often in full bloom, was always a pleasure.
Now all of that has changed. Evan is enjoying first grade and is growing like a weed. He is athletic, inquisitive, assertive, and definitely knows he is the oldest of the three. In other words, he is a typical six-year old.
Davis enjoys his pre-school three days a week. On our last visit, his bouncy, blonde curls had been trimmed back to manageable standards. That didn’t seem to deter getting the attention of the girls at his soccer match.
A true lefty, no lines can confine his creativity. That included drawing with red permanent marker on the new tan bedroom rug. He can be a bit moody like his Nana. Nevertheless, it is a joy to be the brunt of his silly jokes. Playing along is all a part of being a grandparent.
My favorite moment with the boys came when they spent time with us here in early August. Nana and I took them to an Indians game, where Slider, the Tribe’s fuzzy mascot, jumped the boys, much to their delight.
Maren is the happiest baby I have even seen, unless of course she wants her mommy and her mommy is unavailable. Modeling might be in her future. She already poses for the camera.
By definition, Maren is really a toddler now that she has passed her first birthday. Close to walking, Maren stands by herself and never tires of pushing around the toy cart Nana bought her.
With those sparkling baby blue eyes, that constant smile and gregarious demeanor, Maren is already a knock out. At the rate she is growing up, I may be called into Virginia guard duty sooner than I think.