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The Online Magazine FOR and ABOUT Southside Virginia







May '09 Contents

May '09 Cover


See You in the Morning By Gert Slabach

A Mouse in the House By Tammy Tillotson

Shadows on the Roanoke By Auntie Bellum

Halifax Heritage Festival (Event Photo Gallery)

Danville Community Market (Grand Opening - Photos)




South Winds
(Life in Perspective)

Southside Gardener
(May "To Do List")
By William H. McCaleb

Ask Bubba - Advice
Skools Out


Editor's Page
(Low Cost Entertainment)
V & B Comics
(Verrnack & Blupirk)

Press Releases

South Hill Happenings

Spring Fest (Sat May 9th)

Beef Fest (Wed May 27th)

YMCA Active Older Adults (Wed May 20th)

Local Ins Agency Achieves Certification
(Brandon Scearce Insurance Agency Achieves On Your Side Certification)

Past Issues

Past Issues are available from June 2008 through the current issue.
Select the desired issue from the drop-down box below.


Shadows on the Roanoke


 By Auntie Bellum



A shade within clear boundaries
A reflected image
Shelter from danger or observation
An imperfect and faint representation
An inseparable companion or follower
A source of gloom or unhappiness
A state of ignominy or obscurity

   The above definitions represent just a few of the dictionary�s explanations of this most common, but illusive, image. Shadows can shimmer as the mirror image of the surrounding land and sky when reflected in water. Half-light at dawn and dusk changes patterns from bright colors to intriguing shades of gray. On the ground, the sun casts long shadows that can distort an image into something that bares little resemblance to the thing that creates it. In late afternoon, who can tell which is the golfer and which is the flagstick? The shadow of a triangle has been man�s timekeeper for thousands of years. Ghosts, or haints, and spies are referred to as shadows, and detectives shadow their prey. Overall, the dim dark shadows are an essential tool of story telling in words, film or fine art.

   Each of the arts uses shadows for emphasis and punctuation. Films, particularly the magnificent black and white ones, were studies in shadow. Their stories were told through intimation, and how better to intimate a thought than in shadow. A shadow, hanging menacingly just out of sight, or darting across a street is a harbinger of impending danger.
"April Love" - A painting by Arthur Hughes

   Historically, in Greek drama, violence was always done off-stage, and the silhouette of a hand with a knife descending, implying rather than emphasizing the violence that is happening off screen or off set, has been a tool of stage and film craft since the inception of both mediums.

   Shadows are not all truth, but they do tell truths that can�t or don�t show up in full light. A painting by Arthur Hughes called April Love is a wonderful example of the painter�s telling truth through shadow. A lovely young lady is silhouetted against an arbor of green, but at her feet in the shadows is her lover. The eye is drawn to the beautiful woman, painted in light with almost iridescent shimmers in the blues, violets, and greens of her dress, but the truth of the picture in observed only upon careful reflection.

   Words and their shades of meaning work in literature as the painter�s pigments do in art, to blur or accentuate a mood or situation. Blinding sun is the opposite of piercing shadow, both intrusive and obscuring, but opposite in shade and meaning.

   The shadows on the Roanoke River have been my inspiration for nearly 30 years. It was what they said that drew me to this place initially, and by never taking them for granted, have led me to things that would never have happened had I followed the light. Seen today, the Roanoke is a tranquil, wide river that follows a winding and bifurcated trail from the mountains above and beyond Roanoke City all the way to the Albemarle Sound.

   But take time back half a century and the river looked entirely different. The banks were steep, and the water was nothing like as wide as it is today. The Roanoke was a friend when it wanted to be, but unpredictable and cantankerous when provoked by storms up-steam that would send millions of gallons of water down to disrupt the lives of those along the river. In fact, the Occaneechee called this river �Morituck, the River of Death�, perhaps, because the spring floods would bring havoc to their villages on the islands and along the shores. Finch's Nest Bed & Breakfast - Blairs, VA

   An attempt to make the Roanoke navigable in the 1820�s was abandoned when half of the projected locks that had been completed were ravished by a tantrum of water. Without our modern satellite imagery and instant communications, the river was a monster that would strike without warning. Crops, stock and people perished when the water rose.

   In the 1940�s steps were taken to make the river more cooperative. Eight hundred miles of shoreline were created and a very large, very deep lake was formed that obliterated much of the previous culture. Occoneechee Island, formed from thousands of years of sediment where the Staunton and Dan Rivers united to form the lower Roanoke, was buried under 70 feet of water, and with it went the stories of the first entrepreneurs who occupied this spot and used it quite successfully as a ferry point. The Indians had a trade route that spanned what are now three states, and Occoneechee Island was one of the few natural crossing points the to the Southwestern lands that the river offered. In fact, at low water, one could ford the river handily. At any season, the Indians required a tax to cross, and this provided the Occoneechee Nation with great wealth, and correspondingly, great power. Occoneechee State Park on the banks of Kerr Lake is part of their traditional homeland, and every year the Park sponsors a PowWow, where the culture of the Occonccechee is celebrated.

   The Indian nation met its demise at the hands of Nathaniel Bacon, who brought the Colonial cause to this next political beachhead. The ferocious Occoneechee were an impediment to the expansion of European culture into what is now North and South Carolina. In 1676, the first American Revolution occurred because the Colonists felt that the Crown was not doing enough to protect them from the Indian incursions.

   Nathaniel Bacon led a troop of men to settle the Indian problem once and for all. The elimination of the Occoneechee�s power base allowed for colonial expansion without the threat of Indian violence. So, on Occoneechee Island, a full 100 years before our independence in 1776, Colonial interests were put above the interests of those of the Crown. Bacon and his followers sowed the seeds of �sedition� that brought about our independence.

   Occoneechee Island has continued its place in history as a safe crossing, and is so today, as the bridge to the Town of Clarksville passes over the island. Ferries plied their trade at this spot until 1917 when the first bridge was constructed. Clarksville has grown, the roads have widened from one lane to two lanes to four and from mud to gravel to plank to macadam. A second, wider and taller bridge now carries traffic away from the only town in Virginia on the lower Roanoke.

   The shadows of thousands of years of history are visible to anyone who cares to look, and we hope to delve into them over the next few months, and share what they have told us. The road less traveled allows for the spirits of other times to tell their stories. The history of this nation has crisscrossed the Roanoke at Clarksville. Famous men and women have lingered and left their imprint on this land that Col. William Byrd dubbed �The land of milk and honey� during his progress in 1728 to survey the line between Virginia and North Carolina. Among his party was a young surveyor named Peter Jefferson, the father of our third President, who dodged the flies and alligators in the Great Dismal Swamp during this epoch journey to define the indefinable.

   We are telling the stories as we have heard them. As with any good story, there may be a shadow of the truth








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