I spent Saturday traveling through mythic Virginia. I visited beautiful little towns in the northwest part of the state, at the foothills of the Appalachians. These towns are just a crossroads, a church, a general store, and some houses, but they are well-kept and visited by tourists. This sketch, drawn on site except for the chain link fence which I added later, is of the portico of the general store in Philomont, located on the beautiful "Snickersville Turnpike."
The people who frequented the store all knew each other and the young lady who minded the store grew up right there in that town, though she is now a college student in North Carolina. It seemed to me that even though the people were familiar, they were still friendly and helpful to each other. I have heard all sorts of bad things about living in the intimacy of a small town, but as a visitor I didn't have to hear about it right there. Instead I wondered at a place that seemed to be living nostalgia, quiet and slow-paced in the August sunlight. Where I live, there is no sense of that kind of community.
But this wasn't a re-creation of "Mayberry." The general store had gourmet foods, local crafts, and Virginia wine. There was a bed-and-breakfast place right in the center of town, and Philomont was well aware of the tourist trade, that is, people like me. That area of Virginia is filled with extremely affluent people who own large estates, including movie stars and chief executives. It isn't even remote; it is about an hour's drive from where I live. Philomont's endearing rural quality has been maintained despite the urban pressures which have turned other parts of that county into wastelands of huge ugly housing developments. I hope it stays that way so I can go back.