Goodbye Floyd Water Tower

651767327_00157df83b_mThe tower is down.

Roger Mannon of The Floyd Press reported:

The water tower, a part of the town skyline for most of the 20th century, was pulled down and cut up for scrap. Residents and passers-by watched from back yards and streets as workers used torches to cut away the legs and guy wires. The actual demolition took several hours, but the whole process took much longer.

The tower was 78 feet tall and weighed 31.1 tons. It was owned by Daniel Bower. It was rusty.

“It hadn’t been used for town water for decades,” Mannon wrote.

You might think it would have been neat to clean it up, maybe paint something on it, again making it a beacon of our little town. I thought that, secretly hoped for it.

But according to Paul Shively, sandblasting and repainting the tower “would have cost upwards of $100,000.”

The town council discussed it, but, shoot, we don’t have that kind of money lying around for an old water tower. So they cut down the artifact of 20th century life and hauled it off to the recycling center.


My March Writer’s Retreat at Ambrosia Farm Bed & Breakfast

AmbrosiaSign_06There are still a few spots available for my upcoming writer’s retreat at Ambrosia Farm Bed & Breakfast in Floyd, Virginia. It begins on Friday evening, March 7 and runs through Sunday morning, March 9. The cost is $120 plus lodging.

Here’s the fancy-pants description:

“Writing and Publishing Your Nonfiction Book”

Author and blogger Neil Sagebiel of Floyd, Virginia, will lead a writer’s retreat on nonfiction book writing and publishing. Neil will cover topics such as story development and research, the book proposal, the writing process, literary agents, publishers, working with editors, and related areas. Participants can discuss and work on a current project and/or simply bring their ideas and questions.

(Once all participants are identified, Neil will email questions related to their background and interests and work to tailor the time accordingly. This retreat will include time to work on a current project and/or other fun writing exercises.)

Neil is the author of THE LONGEST SHOT: Jack Fleck, Ben Hogan, and Pro Golf’s Greatest Upset at the 1955 U.S. Open, which was published by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press. THE LONGEST SHOT was named one of the Top 10 Sports Books of 2012 by Booklist and was also praised by the New York Times. His second book will publish in September 2014.

Neil is also a freelance writer and the founder and editor of ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG. Contact him at

Our Lone Stoplight

651767327_00157df83b_m2Floyd has just one traffic signal. It’s at the intersection of U.S. 221 (Main Street) and Virginia Route 8 (Locust Street).

Since it’s the only stoplight we have–not just in town, but in the entire county–it’s pretty important from both a functional and symbolic standpoint. Our lone stoplight is considered the geographic center of the county and serves as the starting point for directions to Floyd County destinations.

“How do I get to your place?”

“Well, from the stoplight, you head toward Roanoke on 221 …”

I’ve heard talk about a second traffic signal at the intersection of East Main Street and Barberry Road to help regulate school traffic. It makes some sense but would also be a signal of growth that many would regret.

But back to our lone stoplight.

The lines are painted well back from the intersection to keep cars a safe distance from the big trucks that need a wide berth to make the turn in the center of town. Which also means there’s no turn on red. Miss the light and you have to wait–unless you cut down Oxford Street or behind the courthouse to avoid the light altogether, which I sometimes do.

Now why would I ever avoid the only stoplight within 25 miles?

There’s no good reason. I guess it’s a sickness I still have from living too long in large cities.

Out to Lunch: Jim Flowers, VT KnowledgeWorks

This is the first “Out to Lunch,” which I hope will become a series.

Jim Flowers.
Jim Flowers is the Executive Director of VT KnowledgeWorks, “a regional business acceleration center serving technology-based enterprises at all stages of the corporate lifecycle.”

I met Jim several years ago after he arrived in Blacksburg. Our first get-together was for coffee at Starbucks on the main drag in Blacksburg. A few years later we had lunch at Panera in Christiansburg. On Tuesday, Jim drove all the way to Floyd (my town) and ate lunch with me at The Country Store. (Jim had a grilled cheese sandwich. I ate beans and rice.)

What brought Jim to Floyd?

We’d gotten together at three-year intervals, so I guess we were due. But there was a more compelling reason. Jim has taken a shine to golf. He is a 70-year-old beginner. The “geezer golfer” (his term) wanted to pick my brain.

I had a list of advice for beginners ready to go, but I learned during our lunch conversation that he already had a lot of the basics figured out. I was impressed. I did recommend a book, Extraordinary Golf: The Art of the Possible by Fred Shoemaker.

I guess I’ll see Jim again in 2016. Maybe sooner.

Author Wendell Berry Visits Floyd

Wendell Berry.

Like other small towns, Floyd, Virginia, is a quiet, unassuming place. And yet, more often than one might expect, well-known people visit this one-stoplight town, whether musicians, politicians, authors, or others.

A few years ago bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver came to town because a lady connected to our local library wrote a letter to the famous novelist. Kingsolver, as I understand it, isn’t keen on public appearances and book tours. But she came to Floyd and spoke in the high-school auditorium.

Today, Wendell Berry arrives in Floyd.

Berry is a distinguished author and writer of more than 50 works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. He is a farmer and activist whose writings and life have focused on community, conservation and a simple, slower lifestyle. The 79-year-old Kentuckian has won many awards (T.S. Eliot Award, Thomas Merton Award, National Humanities Medal to name a few). Most recently, Berry was the recipient of the 2013 Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.

In the Floyd Press, Colleen Redman reported:

[Wendell Berry] will conduct a book signing at the Floyd EcoVillage on Friday, November 22 at 4:00 p.m. Berry will speak at the Floyd County High School auditorium at 7:00 p.m. and will participate in a panel of national experts on the topic of forests and community. A moderated question and answer period is also scheduled.

Berry will travel to Yale University for a speaking event shortly after Thanksgiving, but first he is spending time in Floyd with common folk.

Recommended Civil War Reading

My friend Peter Read moonlights as a Civil War historian. Recently, Peter gave an interesting talk at Jessie Peterman Library (Floyd, Virginia) on the Battle of Chickamauga. The timing of his talk coincided with the 150th anniversary of the battle, a Confederate victory that decimated both sides. Only the Battle of Gettysburg saw more casualties.

Peter also passed along a list of his favorite Civil War authors and titles.

Bruce Catton: The Coming Fury, Terrible Swift Sword, Never Call Retreat, Glory Road, A Stillness at Appomattox, This Hallowed Ground

Peter Cozzens: This Terrible Sound, The Shipwreck of Their Hopes

James McPherson: For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War

Steve E. Woodworth: Six Armies in Tennessee: The Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns

Those of us who live in or near Floyd are looking forward to Peter’s next Civil War talk in November.

Long-Awaited Bridge Opens Near Floyd

I drove across the new bridge this morning. Part of U.S. 221, it crosses Pine Creek about three miles northeast of Floyd. The new bridge is 46 feet across, nearly doubling the former width. It took more than a year to build.

I first heard it was completed on Facebook. Then I read about it in this week’s Floyd Press. (There was a large photo of the bridge on the front page.)

A friend on Facebook commented: “Citizens of Floyd County applaud the completion of the bridge at U.S. 221 and Shooting Creek Road. This project was completed in record time; they set a record for the longest time it has ever taken to build a two-lane bridge! We thank BOTH workers who labored to build it for us!”

Just about everything is slower in Floyd. We have slow food, slow talk, slow construction. And that’s OK, mostly.