Archives for December 2014

Clinchfield No. 1 and Two Books To Read

Yesterday I went to the Mendota Branch Library and picked up a few books.   Reading at night vs. messing around on the ipad at night is more relaxing.  I have trouble falling asleep, and too much time staring at the little bright computer pad messes with my brain’s ability to sleep.   Besides, in the past two weeks, I realized I’ve Googled and Pinned enough for about 12 months.    Give it a rest, Eva!

So I got several books from the library and then, instead of coming home and doing the many things that needed to be done, I started reading.

The first book I read as soon as I got home from the library was   “The Clinchfield No. 1 Tennessee’s Legendary Steam Engine.”  It is an easy read.  It is by Mark A. Stevens and A. J. “Alf” Peoples.  Do you like trains?   Do you feel trains have personality?  I do!     This little engine was the first on the scene after the Johnstown flood disaster in the late 1800’s. She was so brave.   She was rusting and rotting in Erwin, Tennessee when Clinchfield Railroad’s new General Manager, T. D. Moore, Jr.,  found her (bought her back from the Town of Erwin for $1) and had her engine restored and put to use for train excursions in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

There is romance in this little book!   She was certainly female with a  nickname among those closest to her of  “Rosebud.”

Clinchfield No. 1

In addition to the book, I found a great You Tube video on the Clinchfield No. 1.   It reminded me of a friend in Hiltons who recalls her mother yelling “get the clothes off the line…the train’s coming.”  When you see all of the black smoke from the coal-fired engine, that statement makes perfect sense.   Watch it at least long enough to see the black smoke pouring from her.

Because I lived in Northern Virginia and New Jersey (hard to believe)  I’ve ridden passenger trains lots of times, but they’ve all been operated by Amtrack and are more like riding a plane or a bus.     I definitely want to go on an excursion train ride after reading this.  I’m just sorry it won’t be with Rosebud; she is now retired and relaxing in a museum in Baltimore.

Next, since I read until 2 am and this morning I then read until we left for church, on the way to church, on the way home from church and then read after we got home from church, I finished a second book.  I was reading this:

Mountaintop School for Dogs

“The Mountaintop School for Dogs And Other Second Chances,” by Ellen Cooney — it’s based on the healing that occurs for both humans and dogs in an old ski lodge called The Sanctuary.   I was a little reluctant to read this because any story of animal abuse bothers me, but this story was centered less on what happened to the animals and more about their healing.   Dogs are saved and they, in turn, save humans.  I highly recommend this book.    The main character in the book is “Evie.”    Maybe that’s also why I liked it.

Finally,  don’t get Joan Rivers’ book.  I’m not a prude, but it’s not even funny.  It’s trashy and mean.   She can’t defend herself because she’s dead, but I opened it…read the first and last chapters…and I tossed it aside.  Back to the library for Joan.


Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage.


Good Things and a Trip to the Mendota Library

Hi!  Did you have a great Christmas?   Mine was quiet, but it was exactly as we thought so I wasn’t disappointed.   We stayed at home with our Luckie dog as she continues to wind down 15+ years.      And, after 30 years, Mike is learning that Christmas is a great time to buy your wife something she would not buy herself.   He went to Shoozie’s and got me a very nice gift.


Shoozie’s is a locally-owned store in Bristol and Kingsport.    When you walk through the door, you receive that wonderful leather smell that only a small shoe store can deliver.  They have purses, wallets, jewelry and shoes.

And…a funny thing happened last night.  We made our weekly trip to Chili’s and following that, I ran into Walmart.  It’s the first time I’ve been in Walmart in several months, and it was still crowded with after Christmas returns and Friday night shopping.   I went to the self check-out counter, and when I attempted to start my transaction, it spit out $14.16 at me!   Was I ever tempted to grab the money and run!     I’ve always wondered if ATM or self check-outs ever had these types of gliches.   The check-out person said he’d never seen anything quite like this.  He said he’d seen excess $1 bills come out but never such a specific amount.

Last night, I dreamed about going to the library, so I went this morning!   It’s Food for Fines month, and I had fines on both mine and Mike’s library cards.  Earlier in the week, I’d bought a bunch of canned stuff.    It went with me this morning in exchange for a clean slate.    I went from being a library felon to a good patron.   I had two bags (in the far right in the picture below) full of food.   I love the Mendota Library.  I used to work there eons ago.   I spent more paying everyone’s library book and video fines than I made.

Library Table

Don’t you think you can tell something about a person by the books that they read?  Ok….I like pop culture and dogs according to these selections.

Two books

I’m a sucker for anything with a train so The Clinchfield No. 1 came home with me.     Debbie Macomber writes the Blossom Street series which I like.  The other book is on quilts (like I’m going to make one any time soon).  

Books 1

This is a special piece of art for anyone who attended Hamilton.

Hamilton Schools

Hope your weekend is going well.  Thank you for going to the library with me!!


Our New “SPOT” and I’m So Thrifty

This post is about two things.   One is the new addition to our family.  His name is SPOT.   And it’s not a dog.   Here’s SPOT!


Hello SPOT–actually there’s a couple of SPOTS that have arrived.   SPOT is a water-proof device that will attach to a number of Adventure Mendota’s kayaks.   (Here’s the website for Adventure Mendota.  It’s coming along nicely.)   SPOT uses a satellite that will message us on where our “asset” is.     While we’re currently working with the settings, SPOT should tell us where a kayak is so we’ll know when to go pick it up!     As the kayak approaches the Mendota Bridge, it’ll be time for the Fork Taxi to make a run down the road.      We’ll rock down the road in our MEOC (Mountain Empire Older Citizens) bus.    I cannot wait to drive this!!   It’s a little plain in the picture below.    It’ll be outfitted with new decals.   I wanted to spray paint peace symbols and flowers on it, but Mike is just too conservative.    It’ll say stuff like “Float the Fork,” our website address and phone number.  Boring.  Don’t you think I ought to get at least one panel for pursuing my artistic abilities?  “Flower Power!”

.    Fork Taxi

There’s more that has been going on.   I went back to full-time employment.    I was concerned with how fast we were pulling money from our savings.  Mike is more easy about those things,but I wasn’t comfortable with it, and  concurrent with that–we knew Adventure Mendota would have start-up expenses.    My original thought was to pursue going back in the spring, but things worked out a bit faster.   Tomorrow is my 5th week at working full time again.   I feel so fortunate to have found a good job with really, really nice people in Bristol.     God is good.

I’m also still working a bit with About Face.    I enjoy the social media work and  as long as Sue needs me, I’ll do it.   I’m also working closely with Mike preparing for Adventure Mendota.    Whew!   This, combined with the loss of my camera, has been the reason that I’ve not blogged as often as in the past.    It has been busy!     Thankfully, I now have a new camera, but I’m still going to blog only on Sunday and Wednesday evenings for the next six or eight weeks.   I’m learning better time management.

So.. I’m back working, and I’m being very careful with my earnings.  I want to save money as well as conserve money.    Mike and I have divided up the way we’re paying for the small amount of assets we’re purchasing for Adventure Mendota.    The kayaks have been ordered, and I’m responsible for them.  He actually will pay for them,  but my responsibility is to replace the money, so I will  “pay back” every two weeks enough money to purchase one Old Town Twister kayak, one set of paddles and one lifejacket.  It works!

Patsy Carrier, one of my lifelong friends, said once “I didn’t realize how thrifty you are, Eva”.    I wasn’t always, but I have been for the past few years.   It’s rewarding.

So here is one way I save money.    I seldom dry clean a sweater.    I use Dryel.  Mike’s son, Aaron, has always been careful with his money, and he is the one who taught me about Dryel.    (He’s probably still holding one of our checks where we paid him for mowing the grass when he was 14. )   Have you ever used Dryel?  Most of my sweaters aren’t really dirty…they are more furry or just need freshening.    Sam shares in some of this responsibility.  He’s lying here thinking of what fun it is to shed.   He’s not a grumpy cat; he’s a mean cat.   He will hiss at me if I move him around on the bed.

Sam the Cat

Here’s what the Dryel looks like.

Dryel 1

It’s easy and so much more convenient than going to the cleaners every week.     Just spray the areas that might need extra attention.  Like the underarms or neck areas.


I do this with up to four items.   From there, I take one of the “wet” packets that are included.  Here’s what they look like below:

Dryel Packet

I put that little wet cloth and up to four items in the bag that’s provided and let it dry on “Normal” for 30 minutes.

Dryel Bag

Afterwards, I usually hang whatever is in the bag up for about 30 minutes to continue airing out.    Later, the items are folded  and put  away.   Since it costs about $5 to dryclean a sweater, I am way ahead.  I cleaned eight today.  The Dryel was about $10, so I saved about $30.

Sweater Drawer

$30!  That’s a paddle!!

Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage.      Hope you have a wonderful Christmas holiday.    We are having a quiet Christmas this year due primarily to Luckie’s worsening condition, but today in church I heard something that resonated with me.    Christmas is not my birthday party.  It’s Jesus’ birthday party….so while Christmas will be quiet, we are still going to celebrate.  Hope you do, too!





Wreathmaking in Mendota 2014

This weekend  Mendota had a wreath making event at the Holbrook Farm.   Helene Holbrook hosted about 15-20 neighbors for a cookie exchange, wreath making, stories, and music…just your typical Mendota get together.   Lots of food…naturally!    Helene always has chips and salsa.  Why is it good at her house and just so/so at my house?

Food at Helene's

There was greenery for natural wreaths, but the demonstration focused on the mesh wreaths.  I’ve tried this before and made a mess, so I was interested in watching Mary McCroskey do it.  I know she’s made several.  In Mendota, we say “she’s a Millard…they can do anything with their hands.”   It is true.

Mary and Margie

Mary bunched the mesh and tied each bunch with plastic ties.   I’d tried this using pipe cleaners and while they blended with the mesh nicely, they weren’t very tight and it affected the fullness of my wreath.   It would have been a great Pinterest flop.  Have you ever seen Pinterest flops??   Here they are.   Hilarious.

Here’s the right way…back and forth.  She’ll cut those ties off when she’s through.

Mesh Wreath 1

Here’s how it looks on the reverse side.

Pretty Red Wreath

Mrs. Taylor peeking through her red wreath.  It looks a little crooked here, but when she hangs it up and pulls on it, it will be “right as rain.”    Where did that expression come from??

Red Wreath

Helene purchased this mesh at Sam’s Club for $5 per roll which makes one wreath.  Check this one out–it’s so hard to have the right wreath for January–it’s not Christmas but it’s sure not spring either.   This wreath is perfect.  I want it.

Snowman wreath 1

And we had storytime.   Don, who is many, many months older than me is someone I honor due to his advanced age and good taste in the selection of his wife, read a Christmas story.  Here’s Don.  How come he is so much older than me?  


His daughter, Lizzie, who is 23 but cherishes her childhood in Mendota asked him to read this book, because it reminds her of Christmas in Mendota.     We sat in Helene’s warm, sunny living room and listened to Don’s voice.   Don is an ordained minister, and he understands how to speak to his audience.  He read sincerely and effectively.    I shut my eyes…and I saw the story unfold.

Christmas in the country

My mother read to her children every day.   We all knew how to read before we attended school.  We learned from following her finger with our eyes as she read the words.    Apparently, the love of being read to has stayed with me, because I thoroughly enjoyed this time.

Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage and following along in my rural life.   Leave all that shopping in the ‘burbs behind and come to the country!


The Crooked River Farm December 2014

First, it was this awesome fence.  Mike admired it when we drove by.   “That is one nice fence.”    Like everyone else, we wondered “what’s next?

Crooken River Fence

And then we learned….

Crooked River Banner

So it was great fun to go down today and meet David and Annette, owners of the Crooked River Farm.     With about a mile of riverfront property near the Scott County line…just down from Mendota…a few miles above the Carter Family Fold, they are working on Annette’s dream.   It’s about preserving the natural beauty of our valley and sharing it with others.

Here’s where it starts…

Crooked River Event Barn

This barn began its life in Ohio…it was a mill!   It was disassembled and moved to Waco, Texas, where it was almost sold twice.   Something happened with each sale.  This barn was meant to come here.    It’s found its forever home in Poor Valley. 

In the picture below….I believe Annette said that this is the area where there will be an indoor/outdoor fireplace.   Can you see the glimmer of the North Fork?   Every direction is a view of Clinch Mountain or the North Fork of the Holston River.

Crooked River Event Barn 5

Inside the barn, there will be a mezzanine, restrooms, a warming kitchen and the gathering/seating area for receptions, meetings, etc.   Right now, however, it’s blue sky, wood and a bit of steel to ensure support.

Crooked River Event Barn 4

I love these pictures of the framing and rafters looking up into the sky.  Here’s another one.

Roof of Crooked River Event Barn

As you look outside the rear of the barn, there’s a winding road that leads to a second barn and curves around to the river.  Also, the area in the left of the picture below will be a truffle grove (or will be in about five years).

Truffle Grove

Here’s the second barn (below).   I like the angle of this picture as it shows how tall the barn is.   I took this picture from the winding road pictured above.    This old tobacco barn is being “skinned” with hemlock which is a rot-resistant wood.    I use hemlock in my raised beds for the same reason.

Crooked River Barn

This barn will have two bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen/living area.   If there is a wedding, this is where the bride will get ready…or maybe where the honeymoon couple spends their first night.    They will love the views.  Or maybe they will be too busy to notice!

View from Barn 2

Here’s Annette and David.   I liked them immediately…they are not afraid to dream.


Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage and going with me to the Crooked River Farm.     We’ll go back!!    Please  follow Annette and David on their journey–like them on their Facebook page and let your friends know about the Crooked River Farm!



Adventure Mendota is Approved!

It’s official!
ApprovedWashington County rocks!  Tonight the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Adventure Mendota!

Mendota rising!  Ecotourism is arriving!

Thank you to everyone who is supporting us! We’ll work hard to “do you proud!”


The Copper Dog on Nordyke

If you have driven out of Mendota, you may have seen the copper-colored dog that someone has abandoned on Nordyke.  I saw it tonight and tried to call it.   No luck.  It is probably so psychologically damaged by now that it would never make an acceptable pet.   However, if there is someone out there who catches this dog, I’ll take it.   I want to help this dog.   You know how to get in touch with me.

This is not an invitation to others to give me their unwanted dogs.   I’m not ready for another dog because I have Luckie who is very old.   The copper colored dog is an exception.

And to the person who abandoned this dog on Nordyke or a dog or cat anywhere… or who has ever “changed their mind” about their ability or desire to care for a dog or a cat — if you abandon it, I hope there is a special place in hell for you.   If there is “karma” in this world, when you reach the time that you receive what you are due for your thoughtless actions, I hope you have a moment where you realize why you’re having your pinch of bad luck.    You disgust me — and most of the world–  if they saw you as you abandoned the animal.     

I’ve been in a position where I had to give up an animal I could no long care for.     It was very hard, but I did the very difficult but only responsible thing.    At the end of the day, however, I knew the animal was neither hungry nor cold.







William Lee and Eva Winnora Sproles

Happy Thanksgiving!    I hope your Thanksgiving was everything you wished for.  Mine was good.

My sister, Nancy, and her family joined us for Thanksgiving, and at the close of the meal when we were talking about what we are thankful for in our lives, Nancy read something she’d put together from collected memories of our grandparents, Will and Eva Sproles.    She’s trying to put together a book about our family.  In a day of emails and texts, many of us no longer have the cherished letters that we keep for future generations.    So, this is her attempt at putting pen to paper to ensure that our family’s history is intact.

The Story of William Lee Sproles and Eva Winnora Fleenor

As Remembered by Their Granddaughter, Nancy Barker Booher

Will was born in 1884 in Washington County, Virginia in a community along the North Fork of the Holston River. An old country church and a swinging bridge is all that is left to mark that pretty place called Riverview. It was a fair place to spend one’s childhood, with the river running swift along the farmland and the view of Clinch Mountain on the other side of the river. Will was born into a large family with lots of brothers. They were farmers. They were hunters. They fished the river, and most of them were coal miners. Even to this day, many of Will’s relatives lie sleeping in their graves in the Riverview Cemetery, but Will rests in the Mendota Cemetery beside his beloved wife, Eva.

When Will was almost 10 years old, just a few bends down that same river, a beautiful baby girl was born to Frank Fleenor and Nellie Horne Fleenor. They gave their baby girl a beautiful name, Eva Winnora. A few years later, they gave Eva a sister, Stella. Eva and Stella were very close and both learned to swim “like ducks” and loved living right by the river. It was to be that soon Eva and Stella would have to lean on each other. Frank died young—at about 26, and Nellie left soon thereafter. After Frank’s death and Nellie’s leaving, Eva’s paternal grandfather, John Benjamin, took care of his granddaughters. I believe he was a widower at this time, as Eva, only a child herself, would tell of standing on a stool to cook for the family and work hands. A few years later, Eva and Stella’s grandfather was dragged to death by a team of horses, while the girls stood watching and screaming in the doorway. Eva and Stella had to rely on each other. For some reason, their mother did not take the young girls. Why she did not the take the girls remains a mystery.

We believe that Will and Eva probably met and married while she worked as a cook for lumberjacks—remember, Eva had to find ways to take care of her younger sister, Stella. William Sproles was 25, and Eva was 15 when they marred. He would always claim that he married her because he felt sorry for her as she had no one to care for her. However, when you look at her pictures or if you have ever eaten at her table, you would know why she stole his heart.

When they began their married life, Will went to work in the mines in Dante, Virginia. He would leave on the train to dig coal all week and then return on the weekend. Now, I’m sure you have heard that the Scotch-Irish coal miners like to drink, spend money and party. In Will’s case, that was true. The story goes that Will left home with a beautiful head of black, curly hair and came home on the weekend with a shaved head. Samsom and Delilah? It seems he got on a “toot” as Eva told it, and someone shaved his head. She said it never grew back right. “It served him right,” she said. Eva had a very classic clock on her mantle, and it came from another one of Will’s “toots.” Somehow he arrived home with no pay but a very nice clock as a peace offering. In spite of all this turmoil, Will and Eva had four children—Louella, Lorraine, Ralph and Leah Vivian.

Eva said that when her last child was born, she could hear Will and some others in the kitchen laughing and having a fine old time. She said she made up her mind right then, “if airy another baby is born in this house, Will Sproles will have it.” That last baby with my mother, Vivian.

Eva was not perfect. She made some funny mistakes herself. Every year she made blackberry wine. One year, there was a lot of wine left over in her canning jars, and she decided to pour out the wine and use the jars. “Well,” she thought, “I’ll just pour all this wine in the bucket to feed the pigs,” not thinking how it would affect them. After she fed the pigs, she walked by the pen and to her horror, they were stumbling around. She thought, “Oh my goodness! If they break a leg, we’ll have to shoot them!” They were not even her pigs. They belonged to Uncle Dow. Fortunately, after stumbling around for a while, they slept it off. It was years before she ever told how the pigs became drunk.

When I knew Will, his coal mining and “tooting” days were over, and he was a hard working farmer, and Eva was the farmer’s wife. He raised tobacco, plowed the garden, chopped wood, raised pigs, took care of horses, and all the other things that farmers do. When his oldest daughter married, he would ride his horse over Clinch Mountain down into Russell County to visit her and then ride back the next day. Eva cooked, raised a garden, sewed clothes from feed sacks, made beautiful quilts, canned all their meat, made grape juice, pear and apple butter, and strawberry jelly and jams. She won blue ribbons for her cakes. Applesauce cake at Christmas was her specialty. She even made all their soap. The only thing they bought at the store was sugar, coffee and flour. Corn was ground on the village mill. Every Sunday, Eva would cook a huge Sunday dinner for anyone who happened by. Many of these years were spent in their house in Mendota which was purchased with Eva’s $300 that she received when her grandfather died.

Will was very social, and since he never learned to drive and did not own a car, he was always willing to accompany others to town. After preparing a big meal and realizing Will was off on one of these trips, Eva would say Will was in “loafer’s paradise.”

Will and Eva Sproles raised four children and had ten grandchildren—Billy Jessee; Barbara, Betsy, and LaVerne Sawyer; Shirley and Phyllis Sproles; and Mike, Nancy, Pat and Eva Barker. They lived a long and satisfying life. They taught us many things from their mountain cultures and their satisfying and colorful lives.

Sproles Family

This was the story of Will and Eva. William Lee Sproles–my grandfather (left) and Eva Winnora Sproles–my grandmother (second from left).   Aunt Lou (Louella) is third from the left; Aunt Lorraine (forth from the left); my Mother, Vivian, and my Uncle Ralph.  The picture has my name on it in my mother’s handwriting.   


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