A book about the Blue Ridge Parkway for young readers

Month: November 2009

Going to Fancy Gap December 5th!

(Original post date: November 29, 2009)

I’m going to be doing our first official author appearance launching the book this coming Saturday, December 5th, in Fancy Gap, Virginia!  I’ll be spending part of Saturday afternoon (approximately 2:00 – 4:30 pm) participating in Fancy Gap’s “Old Fashioned Christmas,”  a series of events taking place from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.   I’ll have books with me to sell and sign, so please drop by.  This series of events is part of Fancy Gap’s participation in the coming year’s celebration of the Parkway’s 75th Anniversary.

A big thanks to Don Foster for arranging this and providing lodging for me at the Inn at Orchard Gap!

The gift of book design

(Original post date: November 26, 2009)

Our work on this book has been immeasurably facilitated and improved by the skills of our longtime friend and colleague, Rich Hendel, for many years the head designer and production manager at the University of North Carolina Press.  Rich designed both of David’s UNC Press books (All That Is Native and Fine, recently reissued in its 25th anniversary edition, and Rascally Signs in Sacred Places: The Politics of Culture in Nicaragua), as well as Anne’s Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History.  It was he who first suggested that we undertake the children’s book project, offering to design and produce it for us.  We knew even then what a generous offer that was, but we know much better now.  Watching Rich take the project from our first sketchy text to the book that eventually emerged taught us how how far beyond our own knowledge his expert work lay, and gave us a two-year course in some of the intricacies of book design and production.  As we went to press, Rich’s multi-page technical printing instructions to Regent Publishing Services could have been written only by someone who knew exactly, from long years of experience, what he was doing — which we emphatically did not.  Truths are rarely simple, but this one is: without Rich, we could not have done it.   Some of his wisdom and insight about book design appeared in his On Book Design (Yale University Press, 1998).

Stories our book is uncovering for us

(Original post date November 25, 2009)

In the few weeks since we saw the first copy of our book and began showing it to people, it has led us to  several stories from people whose family experience with the coming of the Parkway was similar to that of the family in our book.  The most recent story we encountered is that of my old friend Whit Sizemore, a farmer and an excellent fiddler whose band (the Shady Mountain Ramblers)  used to play for monthly square dances I attended at a local schoolhouse up near the Parkway.

Whit’s own story about the coming of the Parkway (quoted here from Blue Ridge Country, Feb. 2009) could have been the central narrative of our book:

When 70-year-old Whit Sizemore was a little boy, he climbed an apple tree to watch something amazing – the building of the Blue Ridge Parkway. He’d never seen the like of the bulldozers and steam shovels construction crews brought to build the road through his grandfather’s farm, where he lived with his parents, grandparents, an aunt and uncle, and two of his granny’s brother’s boys.

“It was a daily occupation for me,” he says of his apple tree observations.  Sizemore . . .  points to the spot at the bottom of a sloping field where the family drew cold spring water, and the place near the barn where they ground corn, wheat and buckwheat for themselves and neighbors with mills powered by the motor of an old ’29 Model A Ford. He waves a hand toward the all-but-obscured contours of a railroad grade, softened by time and the luxuriant growth of waist-high grass. The railroad ran to Galax, Va., seven miles distant, and was already gone when he was a boy, though his granny remembered it.

The farmhouse where he and his parents lived in a closed off bedroom at the end of the porch – ”We had to wade snow to get to the main house,” he says – is gone now too, a victim of Hurricane Hugo. But the red chestnut barn, a granary and a chicken coop are still standing and in good trim. They’re just barely visible from the roadway – part of an agricultural scene parkway officials are striving to maintain in the face of an advancing army of development.

To keep developers from turning his 23-acre farm into an “exclusive gated community,” faux “Alpine Village,” or some other  “just off the Parkway” eyesore, Whit sold it to the Parkway and leased it back for his lifetime.  Now the Parkway gets to protect it from development, and another treasured vista will be there for everyone to enjoy.

When the Parkway Came available for Christmas ’09!

(Original post date November 25, 2009)

We are proud to announce that copies of our new children’s book about the Blue Ridge Parkway have arrived and are available for shipping in time for Christmas!  Retail outlets should order from our distributor, John F. Blair Publisher, Winston-Salem, NC (Toll-free: 1-800-222-9796).  Individual customers can order signed copies directly from us by using our order form and mailing in a check ($19.95 plus shipping; form gives details).