(Notes from the first day of 2016 at the North River Mills shop)
Saturday, Easter weekend. Arrived at North River Mills at 12:17. Late for my first day, how sad. Anyway, arrived from Capon Bridge direction and am reminded why I usually go to the Mills via Slanesville. Winters haven't been kind to Cold Stream Road.
But alas, the Winchester Star, an essential part of a NRM day is no longer available west of Capon Bridge. It's part of a Confederate conspiracy, dontcha know. The idea is that since these 55 western counties severed their cultural ties with Virginia in 1863, the newly formed state of West Virginia has been groping for cultural and economic identity.
By ceasing to deliver the Star, the Confederacy hopes to widen that gap then simply wait for the total breakdown of West Virginia society. Then they'll swoop in and take over.
.. ! read the Star and ate a delicious albeit pricey meatball sub. It's a cloudless day with a slight breeze. At 1:09, a car pulls up to the church. Shortly afterward, a green pickup arrived at the old Granville Moreland place. A group of people got out and milled around. They didn't stay long.
No wonder. The place is still for sale and at the asking price, is likely to be so for some time to come.
This got me to wondering whether the old North River Mills Grocery was still for sale so I took a walk down there. Yes, the Realtor's sign is still there. The door hung wide open so I went in. There was almost nothing to remind me of my many visits there when the store still flourished.
However, one familiar fixture was the slotted wooden molding high on the south wall. Back in the day, each of these 50 slots held the barrel of a rifle or shotgun standing on a shelf below.
Proprietor Bruce Miller always kept this rack full of guns for sale.
I happened to be present one day when neighbor "Aunt" Audra (McDonald) Croston called to report groundhogs in her garden, Bruce took so long deciding which of the 50 guns to use that the groundhogs grew suspicious and had time to make their escape.
"Dang! Those groundhogs move fast." Bruce muttered.
By the way, Rob and Pati Scott own the old Croston place now and are fixing up the big old house. I spotted Rob's van at the house across the wide green yard. Steve Bailes tells me that the NRM natives know that it's really spring when Rob and Pati show up to work on the house closely followed by me appearing at the shop.
I decided to check out the original log structure around which the store was built. It is enclosed from all directions by additions and is really quite small. I had to go outside and around to another door as the floor of the addition was unsafe from that direction.
There was some animal movement so I held the .22 Magnum revolver at the ready. If I'm rushed by a rabid animal, I want to reserve the right to shoot myself in the foot — the most likely scenario.
No, I didn't do the TV cop handgun acrobatics as I entered each room. However, I fantasized about what I could do with a summer afternoon, a quarter keg of beer, a few "groundmen," a huge dumpster and a 955 Caterpillar, leaving only the log structure standing.
As I was walking back out to the road holstering the gun, the group that had been looking at the Granville Moreland place stopped and asked me about hiking Ice Mountain. I explained that since The Nature Conservancy now owned the place, all hiking groups need to be accompanied by a docent licensed by The Conservancy. At specific times in the cycle of the plantlife on the mountain, hiking is prohibited altogether.
Docents Steve and Terry Bailes weren't available since they were at the National Park Service C&O Canal Building in Cumberland, Md., where Steve was delivering a lecture about eating bugs. (Ewwwww...) However, to set up a hike, call Steve and Terry at (304) 496-7359.
Back at the shop, I discovered that the driver of the car that had parked at the church was Jim Rogers, who was planting some flowers there. Jim drove up and asked for my impressions of the group that I had just spoken with.
Since there have been so many burglaries in the area, vehicles that just sort of hang around are regarded with suspicion and a mass E-mail goes out to the community.
Come to think of it, those people didn't seem all that interested in my answers to their questions. So now I'm suspicious, too. I told Jim about how the shop got "hit" over the winter.
The Old Hippie and I stopped by there in order to pick up a kerosene heater as winter storm Jonas was brewing.
It was then I discovered that the tiny copper radiator from the Farmall Cub and an old 6-volt battery were missing. The thieves had squeezed through the very narrow opening between the double locked sliding door and the building itself. This would indicate that the thieves were just mischievous kids but hopefully not a child assigned the task by a drug-addicted adult.
The radiator can be replaced with a new unit for under $100 and the battery was probably shot anyway. So I'm not really hurting. The scrap value of these items is around $11. Imagine risking a breaking and entering charge for $11. Someone obviously has serious kidney trouble between the ears.
Walked over to the creek which sparkled in the pre-foliage sunshine. In New Jersey, this is the time that the sucker fish would leave the muddy Millstone River and swim up the creeks to spawn. As children, we would catch them by hand then let them go. Once in a while, we would clean and eat one of the bony, muddy-tasting fish around a campfire — then wonder why we bothered.
And speaking of bizarre culinary adventures, Steve and Terry arrived home from Steve's bug lecture. The lecture went better than expected with about 30 people in attendance. Several may have left as confirmed bugavores.
As the bug chef drove away, a few butterflies flew past. Pretty, yes — but attracted as they are to cow manure, not all that appetizing. They would probably not be as satisfying as a meatball sub, either.