When I lived in New York a few years back, I took a road trip through Virginia and Pennsylvania. I wrote a guest post on Krystal Wade’s blog a couple of weeks ago about my adventures with the Amish. You can read about it here. Today, I’m going to share a bit more.
Our next stop is the town of Woodstock, Virginia. The night we arrive happens to be the last night of the county fair. Amid the cattle auctions, amusement rides and stalls selling something called ‘funnel cakes’ are two large buildings that read ‘Exhibits’. Inside are stalls set up by the various shops and businesses of the town advertising their services. And in the middle of all these stalls are the local church stalls. The Baptist church has adorned theirs with large yellow placards containing quotes from God (exactly who recorded these quotes is unknown). Examples include: “God says: Don’t make me come down there” and “God says: Evolution? You’ve got to be kidding.” (I was just curious who it was God said these words TO? Who was this mysterious transcriber with a direct line to heaven?)
Anyway, I must have missed those quotes in religion class.
Then there is the Catholic Church’s stall, which is raffling guns – one an antique Civil War gun and the other a modern hunting gun.
Obviously, it’s a case of if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
The strangest thing of all though is the looks we get from the locals. It’s not that we’re dressed that differently to them or look that different, they just seem to have built-in radar for outsiders and their glares unearth uncomfortable memories of Deliverance and Southern Comfort.
The next day, we stop off in New Market. New Market’s claim to fame is that it’s the site of an infamous Civil War battle in which students of a nearby military school (the average age of whom was eighteen) faced an advancing northern army, and won. My friend, New York Lawyer, Neal, wants to see the Hall of Valour, a museum that was erected near the site of the battle. Stopping at a large building we presume to be the museum, we go in and ask if it is, in fact, the Hall of Valour. The guy behind the desk replies ominously, “You don’t want to be going there.”
“Why’s that?” Neal asks.
The guy shakes his head. “Just don’t want to be going there.”
A quick tour of the museum tells us why.
It turns out that our gruff host is the owner of this museum (and all the items within are his private collection) and, impressive as it is, it’s sole purpose seems to be to act as a stern rebuke to the mainstream Hall of Valour located nearby. The war is referred to as the ‘War between the States’ or ‘The Great Conflict’ – never the Civil War. One exhibit featuring John Brown (who in the town of Harpers Ferry, just across the border, has a plaque commemorating him as a hero) refers to him as a ‘cold-blooded madman’. Other exhibits talk of the South’s right to decide its own fate. It becomes clear that for some the ‘great conflict’ is indeed far from over.