Weekly Journal

Here's a compilation of everyday thoughts and articles I've written. Many have been published as part of my recurring columns in the News Messenger, the twice-weekly paper in Montgomery County, Virginia.


* * Sharing Thanksgiving, Joining Facebook

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is certainly one of my favorite holidays.  Placing it on a Thursday rather than a Friday or Monday gives us that one extra day off work, one more than is typical for holidays.  It is a time for family, food, and togetherness with friends.  What could be better?

As I mentioned in last week's blog, at the urging of my daughter and several friends, I have joined Facebook.  If you have been following this blog and would like to be a Facebook friend, please search for my name.  There are several listings for people named Michael Abraham, but I am the guy with the funny hat and the suspenders.  This picture was taken as I was preparing to enter a coal mine doing research for the book.  Once the book is published, I will make an announcement to everyone on my friends list with information as to where the book can be purchased.

As I have said before, I appreciate the patience everyone has shown in getting the book into print publication.  This process has taken much longer than I once expected.

I have had some discussions with friends in the area about forming a writer's club.  If you live in or near Blacksburg and are interested in joining such a group, please let me know.





* * Learning about the sheriff's work

This week, I had the opportunity to meet with the sheriff of our county, Tommy Whitt, to ask him about how his office would handle a fictional circumstance like what I have been writing for my new novel.  In it, a minor character admits to accidentally killing his fiancée.  Tommy is someone I have gotten to know over the years but we had never had an in-depth conversation before.  Tommy quickly put me in a playacting role as if I were the confessed murderer.  I must admit, it was a bit scary to be questioned by a sheriff in what was an alleged in murder admission!

Yesterday, I drove to Union, West Virginia to do more research on my novel.  I spoke with a former sheriff of Munroe County.  He is an elderly man now and while lucid enough, was extremely hard of hearing.  His daughter assisted in the interview and we literally had to shout in order to get him to hear what I was asking him.  I was also able to speak with the county magistrate who I happened to meet by chance in the hardware store.  I was also able to see old friends including Jay Banks, Craig Mohler, and Rod Graves.

I have recently signed up for Facebook and am reconnecting with many old friends.  Hopefully, this can be another avenue for publicity for The Spine of the Virginias, as soon as that book gets published.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!



* * Showing old friends our area of Virginia and West Virginia

Jane and I had a wonderful weekend with our friends, Charlie and Marti from Seattle.  I lived in Seattle from 1981 until 1991 and Charlie was one of my first and best friends there.  This was their first visit with us since we moved back to Virginia in 1991.

On Friday, we went into Blacksburg and toured the campus of Virginia Tech.  Marti took photos of the campus, including the memorial for the students and faculty murdered in the shooting rampage on April 16, 2001.  They thought the campus was lovely, with the limestone, gothic buildings.

That afternoon, we turned south and visited with Lee Chichester in Meadows Of Dan.  Lee is a the falconer who keeps two hawks.  We accompanied her as she took the red tailed hawk hunting for squirrels and rabbits.  The hawk was able to scare up one squirrel but was unable to kill it.  Lee told us that when a rabbit is killed it admits a loud and sorrowful scream.  Jane was happy when Lee’s hawk was ultimately unsuccessful at killing anything.

We then toured downtown Floyd and had dinner at one of the restaurants there.  Our evening culminated in the attendance at the world-famous Friday Night Jamboree at Cochram’s country store.  After the first hour of gospel music, a bluegrass band entertained us as a crowd of cloggers and tap dancers danced.

On Saturday, we took Charlie and Marti to the hotel at Mountain Lake where the movie Dirty Dancing was filmed.  One of the chapters in The Spine of the Virginias is an interview with Buzz Scanland.  Buzz is the general manager at the hotel.  The hotel itself is grand.  The Dirty Dancing connection is fun.  And the fact that the lake periodically empties itself out and then refills is geologically interesting.

Our next stop was the short hike along the Appalachian Trail to Wind Rick which is an overlook on Potts Mountain of the Little Stony Creek Valley.

Our third stop was atop Peters Mountain where we walked to the Raptor Observatory at Hanging Rock.  Although we only saw one raptor, coincidentally a red tailed hawk, the day was bright, sunny, and unseasonably warm.  It was the perfect day to be atop an Appalachian Mountain. 

Our fourth stop was at the Swinging Bridge Restaurant in Paint Bank.  We had a nice chat with Mikell Ellison who is the manager.  Mikell is also profiled in the book and she is a great conversationalist.

Our fifth stop was with Tracy Roberts who lives on SR 42 between New Castle and Newport.  Tracy lives in a pre-Civil War house that I wanted Charlie and Marti to see.

On Sunday, we drove to Bramwell, West Virginia, where we got a personal tour from Mayor Lou Stoker and her daughter Dana Cochran.  Lou and Dana are also profiled in The Spine.  Bramwell is an enchanting town with many exquisite homes.  Jane had not met Lou and Dana before and everyone enjoyed the tour very much.

Afterward, we drove through Pocahontas, Virginia and Welch and Mullins, West Virginia on our way to the New River Gorge.  We spent the night in a bed and breakfast called the Morris Harvey House in Fayetteville, only 2 miles from the great arch bridge over the New River.  I had a nice conversation that evening with another guest, a retired Mennonites minister from Stanton, Virginia.  He and his wife were there on their 50th wedding anniversary.  He was very excited about my book and asked to be put on the mailing list.

On Monday morning, Charlie and Marti departed eastward towards the beaches of North Carolina.  They were delighted by what they saw and experienced and the weather couldn't have been more cooperative.

Jane and I took a hike on the rim of the New River Gorge to a place where we had an exceptional view looking to the south at many rapids in the river and the gorge itself.  We sat in the warm, bright sunshine for perhaps an hour watching the buzzards soar on the thermals emanating from the gorge.  We were also delighted to see what I think was a Peregrine falcon.

By early afternoon, I was back in Christiansburg at my office.


* * Research trips to Glade Springs, VA and Monroe Co., WV

Last week I took two interesting trips.  On Monday, I traveled down Interstate 81 to a town called Glade Spring, about 90 miles away, to meet Frank Kilgore, who I profiled in The Spine of the Virginias.  Frank is a lawyer from far Southwest Virginia who has been active in promoting the health, welfare, and economic development of that region.  Frank is one of the founders of the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy which has been tremendously successful in bringing new life to that community.  He is also a founder of the Appalachian College of Pharmacy in Oakwood, which is near Grundy.  Frank is launching a new magazine called Mountain Peeks.  He and I have been discussing potential ways that I can assist with that magazine.

In Glade Spring, Frank and I had lunch with Lee Coburn.  Lee is a young man who ran a successful advertising agency in Atlanta.  Lee has relocated his agency to the tiny community of Glade Spring, hoping to get out of the traffic and rat race of Atlanta.  He has purchased and refurbished many downtown buildings in Glade Spring.  Like many small Appalachian towns, Glade Spring had seen its downtown fall into disrepair in recent decades.  I am planning to return this week to take some pictures and interview him and others to learn more about their efforts to rejuvenate that community.

On Wednesday of last week, I rode my motorcycle to Monroe County, West Virginia.  I met with several old friends including Pete Ballard in Peterstown, Fred and Barbara Ziegler in Greenville, and Craig Moehler, Jay Banks and Rod Graves in Union.  I was able to learn many new things about that community in preparation for my second book, my novel called Union WV.  Rod and I toured the historic Rehoboth Church which is one of Union’s most visited landmarks as it is the oldest church west of the Allegheny Mountains, built in 1786.

I am still awaiting word from a potential publisher for The Spine of the Virginias.  Meanwhile, I am exploring self-publishing options and working on the novel, Union, WV.

Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees throughout the area, but with several bright sunny days, it is still a beautiful time of year.


* * Hiking the Appalachian Trial to Angel's Rest in Giles County

Our peak leaf season is a week or two past.  That makes this one of my favorite times of the year to hike the nearby trails. 

The Appalachian Trail has more miles in Virginia than in any other state.  While I have never hiked the trail in its entirety, I often pick off short chunks of it in backpacking trips.  I have hiked in New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

This week, we had quite a bit of rain.  On a clearing morning, I took a hike on the Trail to an overlook called Angels Rest which is on Pearis Mountain near Pearisburg in Giles County. 

The trail ascends rapidly to the crest of Pearis Mountain.  It took me about one hour and 40 minutes to go from the base of the mountain to the top.  It was a cool and with wet leaves, it was extremely slick walking.  From the overlook, I got a nice view of long straight section of the New River near Pembroke.  I walked on the trail westward for a few additional miles on the crest.  One the return trip, I stopped for lunch at an overlook with a nice view of the Wilburn Valley to the south.  The few trees that still had leaves were bright yellow and very pretty.  I slipped and fell twice and have a purple bruise on my left thigh.

Most of my week was spent writing and editing my second book, my novel called Union, WV.  This week, I will return to Union for more research.  I will stop to see several friends, people met doing the research for The Spine of the Virginias, including Pete Ballard of Peterstown, Fred and Barbara Ziegler of Greenville, and Rod Graves and Craig Mohler of Union.