Rappahannock Stories

Eugene J. McCarthy was known to the rest of the world as a United States Congressman and Senator from Minnesota, best remembered as a man who challenged President Lyndon Johnson with his opposition to  LBJ’s war in Vietnam.

But Gene McCarthy is remembered by folks in Rappahannock as one of our neighbors, as he kept a place up in Hawlin Hollow, outside Woodville.

McCarthy looked at his neighbors and the Rappahannock countryside with affection, delight and amusement.  He wrote some small books about this place and there are copies of them in nearby libraries.  Each is worth one’s attention.

The McCarthy book called “The View from Rappahannock” was published in 1989.  Its second chapter is devoted to looking at the county in the autumn of the year, when city people begin to come out to examine the fall colors.  He writes:

“Most of those who come to look quite probably do not know that it is Rappahannock County they are looking at.  They may well miss the sign just east of Amissville on Route 211, but a few miles beyond that town they must, if at all sensitive, note the subtle changes in landscape and in terrain.  Rappahannock land is rougher.  There are outcroppings of flint and of granite.  The hills are sharper.  The road takes on a different character.  There are no more of the easy sweeps that mark it on either side of Warrenton.  The Blue Ridge Mountains become more blue and Old Rag begins to stand out.

Most hayfields are clear, with the rolled bales fenced in hay lots; and the cows and spring calves graze in pastures and meadows with a quiet intensity, as though they knew they must be ready for winter.  The apple trees still carry green leaves.  Most have been relieved of their summer’s burden but some still show the red and green of late ripeners.

At the roadside and in the hedges a few flowers survive — yellow daisies and chicory, grey-blue asters that have escaped the highway department’s last cutting or come back after the mowers have pass, a few trumpet flowers blaze among the honeysuckle vines that encumber the fences.

And then the colors begin: first sumac, singed and turning to a savage orange and red; the pentecostal tongues of gum tree leaves; the dogwood, some green and red and others the color of dried blood.  Beyond these are the varied yellows of beech and poplar; of ash and hickory, and elm; the bronze, the copper, and the red of oak trees; and the sudden surprising flares of maples.  All these colors are tempered by the remaining green of willows in the low lands and the continuing green of pine, cedar and of hemlock and of the fir trees that run the ridges of the hills and mountains.”

That’s an excerpt from just one of Gene McCarthy’s dozen or so books, which seem to be available on Amazon.

by Jed Duvall, Amissville