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The Alleghany Traveler: Urine, Solutions, Concerts & Demolitions

The lockup cell was rank with the smell of urine, the other occupants didn't seem too happy, nor did I, and for the most part, they weren't from "high society." It was the night before Thanksgiving years ago when, instead of hitching up Calypso for my normal travels, I fired up an old Chevy Vega and proceeded down the road.

That was my first mistake. My second mistake was that after stopping for a stop sign, I took off far too quickly and squealed my tires. Then I made by third big mistake, I decided to drive 47 mph in a 35 mph zone and that did it: a blinking light from a motorcycle policeman was easy to see in my rear view mirror. His arm waved me to the side of the road and to stop.

He gave me a ticket after looking at my driver's license. Then said, "Follow me downtown. We don't have reciprocity with your state." He was taking me to the central lockup in the fine city of New Orleans.

At first, I thought it was some kind of a joke. But after "booking me" and putting me in a glass "cage" with about 3 normal people, about 15 others who looked to me like a combination of thugs and prostitutes, I began to get worried.

It wasn't long that somebody called my name and I was allowed a telephone call. It was going to take $75 to bail me out, but I didn't have that amount of cash on me. I was almost praying that my roommate was at our apartment, for there were no cell phones in those days. I lucked out, he was home.

In about an hour, he came to the lockup, paid my fine and I was freed.

I tell you all this story for two reasons: first, when you have the option of using real horsepower, do it. People make way for my hansom and you can't get your horse to do 47 in a 35. Secondly, stay out of jail.

It's this last note that I wish to expound upon. Jail, even temporary jail, can be ugly. I don't care if you're 14 or 74, smelling other people's stuff ain't nice. And far worse: those of you young people who somehow have are convinced that "it won't happen to me" are out there in Pluto land. The people who tell you this kind of nonsense are the same people selling you the stuff that you shouldn't be fooling with in the first place. That's what illegal drug use produces: despair, stench, low if any income, dependence, disrespect and self-disrespect.

But talk is cheap. I'm not so sure that merely telling young people to stay away from illegal drugs will have much, if any, effect on them at all. My take on all this is simple: appealing to a person's sense of a decent future seems to me to be the best possible course. If you want to spend a huge amount of time smelling other people's odors, always wondering if somebody is going to snitch on you, always wondering how you're gonna pay your drug blll (and what's gonna happen to you if you don't...), worrying if you'll get caught driving under the influence and then the worse thing of all: wondering how you'll EVER be able to escape the huge monkey that has attached itself to your back, then you'd better prove to yourself that you are worthy of self-respect and use your brain (instead of cooking it) and just say no.

A local "Healthy Youth Coalition" has formed in the Highlands area and will soon do its best to spell out the actual, real dangers of illegal drug use.

I applaud these kinds of efforts, but this group probably can't get as frank as I can. I can speak far more roughly about it.

Here's my final line to all of our young people on this subject: spend a day - just one day at a place like the Craigsville prison. Smell the smells. Watch people having to do exactly what they are told 24/7/365. Have your freedoms taken away and then worse, have a felony drug conviction on your record that will follow you wherever you go for years and years - diminishing your job prospects and haunting you every day of your life - and then ask yourself if that supposed "friend" who's selling you all those various illegal pills, crack, heroin and similar stuff is really doing you a favor.

I don't really think it takes an intellectual to come to the right conclusion.

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Sometimes a bit of compromise allows for a smoother future. There are cases when there is no actual right or wrong, but the truth or fairness finds itself somewhere in between. That appears to have been the case when the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors decided to give employees and constitutional officer employees a raise this past week.

On the one hand, a couple of meetings ago, the words were clear from at least a couple of Supervisors: funding pay raises from the county's fund balance was NOT a good idea. But then came the solution. Funding THIS particular pay raise from the fund balance might be okay as a one time thing prior to spending much more time getting a higher payroll factored into the overall county budget...which is what will happen during the course of the next fiscal year.

It was a good compromise. Employees, especially those of the Constitutional officers, seemed happy with their $1,000 raise (who wouldn't?) and even part time people got a nod with a $250 bonus.

Communication and dialogue, understanding and fairness, paying attention to subjects that nearly cry out for a solution - it was these types of considerations that obviously led to a good solution. Right or wrong? Who knows? What all of us know is that for the entire county to function well, good employees need to be kept and incentives to continue to do a good job are always important.

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Two fun concerts occurred over the weekend. One was The Homecoming Festival, featuring a bunch of Virginia-based bands over the course of a very warm weekend. The organizers probably didn't count on so many other festivals and entertainment opportunities being offered at the same time. A firepit for an interesting evening gathering place was a very nice touch, among other amenities. I hope all went well for the vendors and artisans, too.

And in Iron Gate, the First Annual Clifton Forge Bluegrass Festival got off to a rousing start with a couple hundred people turning out to hear five very talented bands, one coming from as far away as Maryland. Organizer Bill Cook charged just $5 each and good food and drink were available. All the proceeds went to the Clifton Forge Shrine Club, which sends that cash to assist with the Shriners' hospitals all across this land. It was a warm evening indeed on Saturday, but that didn't stop some dancing and partying. I thought the folks who sat outside the concert hall got the best of the scene; it was far cooler and faster access to refreshments!

Cook told the crowd that he planned the double the size of the event next year and I have no doubt that he'll pull that off...

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Talk about a let down! Many of us gathered up at Scott Hill to watch the old C&O Smokestack brought down via some well-placed dynamite. We all were expecting a big show, a huge blast and a monster cloud of dust and debris as a result of the explosion. Nope! There was a brief warning sound, a couple of crack sounds and poof, down it went, with a section about 50 feet from the ground buckling in the process. She came down in just seconds and the well-known Clifton Forge landmark was no more.

Since that time, many people have indicated that they wanted one of the bricks from the stack. Wow - if that were the case, I'd have been over there selling them off for $5 each. Bet I could have sold several hundred! At any rate, I am not aware that any such sale will occur; rather, many will be dumped into the old turntable pit to take the place of that structure. Poor ole mosquitoes! There will now be one less place for them to breed and gather since Rob Catelin, the C&O Historical Society and the H. R. Grubb Crane Company of Richmond finally got that huge bit of history moved to a place near where its permanent home will be at the C&O Railroad Heritage Center.

The move was not without a bit of controversy - the timing for the two big sections to be moved through the town - but it came off, despite being a bit late. Very, very early on Friday morning, the monster pieces were taken up Ridgeway St. and Main St. to their new home via a fantastic computer-controlled trailer. We expected the speed of the trailer to be that of a slow walk. That wasn't right. It moved 3-5 times that fast once it cleared the railroad tracks near the Amtrak station.

It may be the case that Mr. Catelin and the C&O Historical Society have saved an item that could bring in thousands of visitors to the town each year once it is restored and re-installed. A solar array will be constructed to help provide the 440 volt power to run the turntable, probably the first of its kind in the entire world. Railroad enthusiasts - and there are THOUSANDS nationwide - will come to Clifton Forge not just to see a bit of history (it's nearly 100 years old), but also to learn about how railroads work and their importance in the transportation of not just goods and services, but people all across the nation.

Think about it: the whole project may well cost more than $1.6 million and along the way, there were many very helpful individuals supporting the effort. There were also a few pains in the rear folks, but for purposes of this column, it's time to just let those folks be. They know who they are, but I'm not going to let this overall valiant effort get besmirched by lower class behavior of the very few...

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The Alleghany County School System is making progress on a number of fronts, from innovative and progressive class ideas to school improvement plans, etc. So, when it was announced last week that Clifton Middle School narrowly missed the statistics necessary for accreditation this next school year, it was a downer for sure. That doesn't mean progress to correct the problems there isn't being made. Sometimes, turning things around isn't a function of instantaneous solutions, but one of a lengthy process.

Exactly what ARE the problems at the school? I don't really know. Other than some pesky behavioral problems, reading and writing skill levels are ALWAYS a challenge - no matter what school division you examine.

New CMS principal Sarah Rowe has her work cut out for her for sure. What she'll need on a continuous basis is complete parental and administrative support. Kids coming into CMS from the county elementary schools face a new experience and that process needs to be as smooth as possible.

I'd be willing to bet that 75-90% of student-related problems are ACTUALLY irresponsible PARENT problems, but you'll never hear school officials say anything like that. In my humble view, if as a parent you don't know that your kid isn't making the grade with respect to any key skill - you're more than a bit clueless. YOU are the one who is irresponsible and you're merely passing along that irresponsibility to others and transferring YOUR problems to teachers and administrators to fix.

There is no substitute for parenting. Zero. NADA. Zilch. There never will be. Some parents may not know what to do with an errant child - and those who are facing this problem should know that plenty of help to get this problem under control is available via social services and other outlets.

Admittedly, providing vision for your child at an early age is extremely tough. Providing the right kind of example for kids is tough. Denying any given problem no longer is an option; it's a pitiful excuse for inaction.

The Alleghany County School Board isn't happy about the non-accreditation of CMS and I'm sure that county parents may expect to see increased analysis of this situation as the months proceed.

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If our nation did not have major pipelines, we'd be in one heck of a mess. Necessary fuels are transported by these structures that make our lives better in almost every respect. But that doesn't mean that because a particular pipeline may cost more than $5 billion that the contractors installing it should be allowed to do anything less than the most safe practices all along the way.

A group of very smart folks showed up at the Country Cafe last week with Jackson River Preservation President Bill Wilson and Cowpasture River Preservation head Dick Brooks on hand to serve as hosts for those in attendance to view some areas of concern that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project would impact in Northern Bath County and Southern Highland County.

Wow - some of the areas to be crossed in those regions are among the most beautiful that Calypso and I have ever seen. Beautiful streams, pristine springs, lovely mountain views and lush green valleys.

Nobody doubts for a moment that the big pipeline will be built. It is scheduled to transport natural gas in huge volumes all the way to the East Coast. But considering that a trench ten feet deep will have to be dug to house the big pipe, including the traversing of very steep grades, underground streams, mountain tops and rivers will need to be crossed. The question is: how may this be done so as not to disturb the very nature of the areas surrounding it? Carefully, is the answer. And technically speaking, VERY carefully via plans that will have to pass tough scrutiny of the Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, both of which were represented at the tour.

Almost everybody learned much more than they knew before the tour started by the end of the day...which is great news. And now for the implementation of that knowledge via insistence on "best practices."

Disturbing any local water supply for any reason is one thing; possibly disturbing it permanently is yet another.

Calypso and I took out a moment for a quick drink at one Jackson River stop and we took stock of the surrounding beauty. We're confident that everybody understands one thing: messing up the pristine nature of our area views, water supply, wetlands and associated assets is NOT an option. There will be hell to pay if that is even approached by the pipeline installers.

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It's warming up outside. Time for short and T-shirts, flip flops and cool drinks. Make sure that I know all about any given rumor or tidbit of news. Pass along your secrets. Of course I'll pass them along.

In closing: I'm impressed with the young Greenbrier East student who is on the edge of completing a wonderful Eagle Scout project in memorializing the eight who died as a result of the flooding in White Sulphur Springs last year. Cameron Zobrist: you did one heck of a nice job. Congratulations!

Just send your emails to traveler@alleghanyjournal.com.


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