Clinch Mountain Fire – Mendota

A few weeks ago, we had the unsettling news that there was a fire on Clinch Mountain.  It was on the “Mendota” side of the mountain, and before it was out 10 acres had burned.   “Thank goodness that is over,” we all thought.   Later in the week on another part of the mountain, another fire was discovered and close to 900 acres were burned before the fire died.

On Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving, another fire was discovered on Clinch Mountain–not far from where the first one occurred.   This looks like a beautiful, foggy morning, but it is misleading.  It’s smoke.   (Picture taken by Amy Larson)


Primarily, the fire is moving along the forest floor, and in many cases, the leaves on the tops of the tree are not even affected, and it’s difficult to see where it has burned if you are looking at the trees from a distance.   However, it is burning, and some of the dead trees are on fire as well as the underbrush.  They take longer to burn.  The picture below was taken by Randy Powers.


If you are a mountain person… you understand how difficult this is.   It’s not just safety that comes to mind,  it’s the violation of the mountain we love.    This pictures below were taken by Amy Larson and  Saul Hernandez, the Tyler District County Supervisor, who has been watching this closely.


Pinnacle Road, which I still call “the Mountain Road” as it was known for generations, acts as a fire line, keeping the fire from crossing further if the wind is not blowing hard.


The fire moves along at a steady clip…burning the very, very dry leaves and brush on the mountain floor.    Acres and acres…close to 1,000 by now have burned.  Some say fires leave the mountain healthier, but this is not good.  The mountain was full of acorns which sustain deer and other wildlife.  They are burning.


At night, we can see the “big picture.”  It is terrifying.   Brandon Moore took the picture below.  I did not sleep at all the night this picture was taken.  We had Mike’s son and daughters in town and our plan to was to go to IHOP on Thanksgiving morning and eat before they drove back to Northern Virginia.  I did not sleep until it was day light and I could look out and see the mountain.  We opted out of IHop and I slept most of the morning.


Mendota is in Poor Valley…at the base of Clinch Mountain on the Washington County side.  Homes are tucked in close to the woods.   We all love living near the mountain.  I feel unsafe without Clinch Mountain at my back.    However, when this looms nearby as in Pam Powers’ picture on Thanksgiving evening.   it’s unnerving.


Goodson Kinderhook Volunteer Fire & Rescue has been working for three weeks on the fires.  Here’s four of our guys.   Saul Hernandez took this picture.


The air quality has been affected all around us.   Randy Powers took this picture from Cracker Barrel at Exit 7 in Bristol.


Here’s a picture taken this afternoon by Amy Larson, and our latest official update from Saul Hernandez.


As many of you already know the fire jumped the line that had been cut by Virginia Dept Forestry on the west side going towards Gate City. A new fire line has been cut and Goodson is on stand by ready to protect structures. They have also started a back burn to head off the fire going down hill. The fire has also jumped fire line on North side last night and burning into Russel County. This fire will easily burn over 1000 acres maybe more by time it is said and done. Just spoke with Chief Venable and as you can imagine the guys Goodson Kinderhook Volunteer Fire Department are pretty tired. I would imagine so is Brumley Gap Vol. Fire Department and Forest Service. Please continue to pray for their safety and for some rain.

Please join me and others in Mendota in doing exactly what Saul has suggested.   We love this beautiful mountain.  The photo below was taken by Angela Fleenor who is a friend of my friend, Joann Vicars.


Thank you.



Getting Ready For Thanksgiving

Mike and I have spent a month outside of our house.  We had our floors refinished and the house repainted.   It’s so nice.   I love watching home decorating shows, and I’ve admired the neutrals I see.   However, I’m just not a neutral person.    I like color, and I’m old enough at this point to follow what I like.

Our dining room is a terra cotta color.  It’s not red, but it’s clay colored.  Like Virginia clay.   We painted it a few years ago, so during the painting this year, it was only the trim that received new paint.   Everything in this room has a story.    Mike made this table that we use in our dining room.


We drink from Mason jars.    The plate is an old plate I bought a long time ago.    I have several pieces of mismatched china and I used a few of the plates when I sat the table.


Place mats are burlap.   I used two tablecloths so that the table would have some color.


When we did the painting and refinishing this past month, we put up a new light over the dining room table.  It’s very, very simple.  I wanted something I could put greenery in and this one will work well in that way.    The other one had apples on it and, believe it or not, I loved it but I was tired of it.  I wrapped it up and hid it in the attic.  I will use it again.  Look at the picture below.  We recovered the seats of the chairs using different fabric.    Nothing matches in this room.   I love the messy look!!!


The rug is one I haven’t used since I lived in Cary, NC.   I still like it and drug it out of the attic.   I made a little sign that says “Grateful” but it’s not up in the picture below…it is sitting on the floor.


We are having Thanksgiving on Wednesday evening since on Thursday, Aaron has to get his girls back to their mother for some time with her.   This was perfect because Neth, Will and Sandy can join us.   I am not going to cook at all.  I bought the turkey at the Bonefire Grill in Abingdon, and then I’ve bought prepared side dishes except for a few things.  I want to have fun and go the movies tomorrow instead of slaving in the kitchen.


I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.   We have so very, very much to be grateful for.




Lucky Me!

I am so lucky to have my two sisters, Pat and Nancy.   They both are deeper thinkers than I am.   When I went to Meredith College as an adult, I had to read many of the “great works.”    I toiled through them, but what was so surprising is that Pat had read them all.  For pleasure.  I cannot image. 

Pat also had a special relationship with our grandmother, and last week she wrote something on Facebook that I want to keep and read.  And read again.

Here’s the object that served as her “muse.”


And here’s what she wrote:

I was walking through Food City today and smelled a wonderful aroma. I tracked down the source and suddenly I was yanked off my feet and I flew through time and space and was 5 years old again and standing in my Mamaw’s side yard. It was late summer and the grass was crisp under my bare feet. The sun was hot on my shoulders. I could hear the far off voices of my parents cutting tobacco in the field. I could really hear my Mamaw saying, “Don’t you eat any more of those grapes!” I could see her in my mind. She wore a printed cotton house dress and an apron. I knew what she smelled like, too. She smelled like the blossoms from her Sweet Bubby bush because she always carried those blossoms in her apron pockets. Finding these grapes has given me a happy afternoon. I don’t think I’ll eat them for a while. I want to close my eyes and smell that aroma again and be 5 years old and see my Mamaw a few more times.

Is that not the sweetest story?



Boating on South Holston

In the early spring,  I asked my brother-in-law, Gerald, if he’d take me out in his boat.   Since I had about 60 other “little boats” (kayaks) to think about shortly thereafter, we didn’t  go until this week.   We picked what we thought would be a perfect day.  It was going to be 70 degrees and sunny.    It did turn out that way, but we left at 10:00 am  and for some reason, the fog hung over later than usual so most of our time was not in the sunshine.   Instead it was a gray, silvery morning on the lake.    Very pretty.   We’re getting ready to launch in the picture below.


I was the helper who got to hold the boat.  Gerald backed it down and then went to park the truck.   My job was to stand on that slim little ramp with a cord both keeping the boat from floating off and keeping it from hitting the ramp which had some rough metal sticking out that would scratch it.   I did not tell him but I wasn’t paying attention and almost fell off the ramp.  What if I had fell in the water and let the boat loose?   I would have had to make up a story that a bear got on the ramp and pushed me in.


I’ll be super careful next time!

Everything went well, and off we went.   We both had sweatshirts on so during the cooler morning.  The water was so pretty.  It was warm at 75 degrees.   It takes a while for this much water to cool off, and just last week, our temperatures were in the 90’s.


Here’s the Captain.  I suppose I was the first mate.  I was Gilligan.


Just like on Gilligan’s Island, here’s a deserted island.  I’m glad we didn’t capsize because there appears to be no Professor, Maryanne, Ginger or Mr. and Mrs. Faust.   There was no tv crew.   The only picture of me was my feet.


Look how pretty the water is.


We had a Garmin which showed us where fish were, allowed us to follow the same path back and displayed the depth of the lake.   The deepest place I saw on the Garmin was 214 feet.   This is very important as the water is low as we approach winter and if you’re not careful, you could end up in a shallow area and tear your boat up.

This is the famous 421 Bridge.  It is so pretty and , back in the day, I know people who have jumped from that bridge.  Me?  I jumped from the Nordyke Bridge in Mendota.  It was so shallow I had to wear tennis shoes because I knew I’d hit the bottom.   The people who jumped from this bridge didn’t have to worry about hitting the bottom.

In the picture below, this is a pump station where Bristol gets drinking water.


So…about 2/3 of the way into the trip, the sun finally showed up.


Look at the Holston Mountain in the background.   It was hiding in the fog just minutes before I took this picture.


There is lots to do in our area.   We have lakes and rivers and mountains.   Feeling lucky.

Pretty homes.


It was over too soon.  The sun was really nice as we left.   Getting a boat out of the water is interesting.  If the propellers aren’t running, you can’t steer a boat, so you actually have to drive it up the boat trailer and hope you center it.  Gerald did a good job.  We then made sure everything was hooked up and tied down and took off.


A very fun day!  I did learn, however, that when you are hauling a boat, you better not need to go through a drive through and eat.  No one accommodates boats!



My World September 24, 2106

WOW!  Has it ever been hot and dry in Mendota, Virginia!    It was 90 degrees yesterday when I took this picture from the Mendota bridge.  I was waiting on kayakers to come in.   I’ll go back to this same spot next week and the following week so that I can record how the leaves will change as we approach real fall weather.

Clinch Mountain View From the Mendota Bridge

Clinch Mountain View From the Mendota Bridge

For some reason, this lady and her little one cooling off in the river was a sweet view for me.   When I grew up there was no air conditioning, and the river was a place we went to cool off.    That is when my relationship with the North Fork of the Holston began.


Adventure Mendota is suspending kayaking until it rains and we have more water in the river.  Hopefully, the rain will come concurrent with the leaves changing.   During this time, between taking afternoon naps and going to the movies and eating out–like all the time–Mike and I are getting ready to have all of the trim and a few rooms in our house painted as well as have all of the hardwood sanded and refinished.   We have movers coming October 6 to move the heavy stuff so the next ten days will include our moving the small things next door.  We’ll be staying in the guest house while all this is happening and using the garages for storing larger things such as mattresses, etc.  Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

A few years ago, our son and daughter in law put their house on the market and were told that the trending paint colors were lighter…blues, grays, beige and “greige.”   “Not me,”  I thought.   Our son jumped right on it, and I thought it was a mistake.   Well, I guess this old girl might be a few years behind, but I’m having our master bath, guest bedroom and laundry room–all painted in shades of blue.

Mike and I are NOT painting ourselves which is the best news of all.  Our painter will use whatever paint we choose, but he likes Behr paints from Home Depot and can provide a 20% discount on the paint.  It’ll be a Behr paint.   It’ll be a color like these which I borrowed from Pinterest.


Can you imagine how dirty my house will be after the hardwood is redone?



Ruby Smith…. A Century Of Life

My mother had two best friends in her lifetime.   One was Connie Collier and the second was Ruby Smith.    On Saturday, Ruby’s 100th birthday was celebrated by her friends and family.   Here’s a picture of my sister, Pat,  and Ruby that was taken at the event.


Pat wrote about Ruby on Facebook, and she expressed her thoughts so well, that I’m just going to copy them!   Everyone wanted to stop by and say hello to Ruby.  So much so that it was hard for Pat to slip in and get her picture made with Ruby.    Pat observed that “Ruby was surrounded by friends and well wishers…serenaded by jewels of a lifetime, her grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

This next picture is a picture of Ruby and her husband.   I never met him.  He died at a young age.  I do know, as Pat mentioned on Facebook, there was no social security for Ruby to rely on.   Her resourcefulness was her social security.


She had to be resourceful.  She had two daughters to raise.    Pictured below–and I’m so afraid of misspelling names– are Wilhelmina, Ruby and Frances.   Wilhelmina’s life was cut short by breast cancer.    When I was little,  I loved slipping over when Mom and Dad were visiting and asking Frances to let me play in her makeup.  I thought she was so exotic because she owned eyeshadow.


Ruby told me once that she contacted a doctor (I think) who owned a small piece of land and asked about buying it.  She wanted to have a tobacco allotment so that she would have a regular income.   He sold the land to her and she paid it off over a period of time.   Mother and Daddy helped Ruby by “sharing” the allotment.  It was “bottom land” behind the Mendota Baptist Church.   Pat said that there were lots of jokes between the three of them about this being “Ruby’s bottom.”    It went right over our heads.

Here’s my father working in tobacco.   When he died someone said that all of the widows cried along with our family, because who would keep their refrigerators running…their furnaces…their stoves?   W. T. Barker could fix about anything and he did not charge if someone could not afford it.


And Mother…there just are no words.  Like Ruby, she was extraordinary.


I am fortunate enough to own quilts that Ruby has made.  I gave the one below to my nephew, Will, and it will be given to his daughter, Faith, at some time in the future.   It has pieces of our mother’s clothing in it.

Will Gardner Quilt

Here’s another quilt she made.   I adore this quilt and every time I see it, I think of Ruby.

Yellow Guest Bedroom After Photo Corner View

Here’s my grand niece, Ari, and my brother in law, Gerald, eating cake.   Ari told her Uncle Gerald that she “didn’t know Miss Ruby until today but she was glad she made it to 100!”    We are too. 

Can you imagine all that Ruby has seen in 100 years?   Happy Birthday Ruby.


Door Knobs Or Channeling Aunt Clara

We are moving next door in about three weeks while our house is being updated a bit with fresh paint and refinished hardwoods.    Since we essentially have to move out of all the rooms with hardwood, and that is all of the bedrooms, living room, dining room and hallway, this is a great opportunity to get rid of things.   I was so embarrassed when we had unexpected house guests last month and there was no place for them to hang clothes.  Our closets were full.  Stuffed.  The horrible thing is at least one half of the stuff was things we don’t wear.    This week I began taking things to both the consignment shop and Goodwill.    I’ve taken at least one very full car load. I’ve also make several trips to the dump.

So while I’m getting rid of things, Mike is thinking of acquiring things!   Go figure!   We started our search looking for old metal chairs that people used to have in their yards.  We looked in Gate City and then headed to the Homestead Shoppe in Church Hill.  We didn’t see any.   I thought of something else I wanted, however, so the day was not lost.

Do you remember Aunt Clara from Bewitched?  She was Samantha’s beloved befuddled aunt who collected doorknobs.  I channeled her today while we were at The Homestead Shoppe.    I’m amazed I could even think.   When you have this attention deficit thing that I have, it’s hard to find anything when there is a lot of everything.  It’s almost impossible.  Here’s what I was looking at…


If you are ADD like me, it’s really hard to focus on anything when there is a lot of stuff…and remember, when you’re looking at this, you’re also talking ALOT and then there’s the circus train that is always going on in your head at the same time…Choo Choo…”Look at me and notice nothing!”     I’m serious.   This is what it is like. circus-train-carnival-ride-item-561I kept looking for the knobs…of course, they were invisible.  Mike, who is focused, found them immediately.   Here they are…


And here’s another slightly different knob.  I’d really wanted to find three completely different knobs but I ended up   with two alike and one different.


The asking price was $50 for these.  $35 for the one with two knobs and $15 for the one with one knob.  Mike negotiated it down to $35 for both.     And here is my inspiration picture.  Mine will be white on a blue wall.


This will replace my old towel bar.   I doubt that I’ll still pick up a towel from the floor–I’ve never learned to pick my clothes up–but perhaps I can display a towel on the new towel bar doorknob thingy!!

Here’s something else I found that I am thinking about.  I don’t have a place for it.   It was $17.


Don’t you love it?     Valleydale Packers.  Bristol, Virginia.   I’m enjoying this down time with Mike.  We’re goofing off lots.   We suspended kayaking until we get some rain, so it’s a vacation.




My Goals – One More Thing Done

I’m still working on my 2016 goals.  So far, I’ve got my ears pierced and they grew right back up.    I’ve lost 11 pounds but still have about 15 to go.   I’m on to a new goal.  I have always wanted to enter something into the Washington County Fair!    This year, I did.   And guess what?  I won 2nd place.

It started like this…just plain ol’ Concord grapes taken from a neighbor’s vines.


Add in a good friend to work with, and making grape jelly becomes a very good way to spend some time.  I worked with Sandy Lester.  We both worked on these grapes like we were being paid a gazillion dollars for the jelly.  We made somewhere between 75-80 pints.   Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas?


Yesterday Mike and I drove up to the Washington County Fair Grounds and I entered one jar of canned tomatoes, one jar of black raspberry jam, one jar of grape jelly and one “repurposed item”.    The judging was today, and it was like being in high school and going to see if you made cheerleader (I did not).   I could not wait to see if I placed!!

At 5:30 pm today, I went back to the fair and paid the $12 entry fee to get in so I could check on the judging.   My canned tomatoes?  I couldn’t even find them!   My black raspberry jam?  Lonely and naked.  My repurposed picture frame turned jewelry organizer?   Lonely and naked.  Crying!   My grape jelly?  Well, she was wearing a red ribbon!!


Here she is sitting with her friends…other grape jellies.


She doesn’t mind being second place.  She’s going to work really hard to get 1st next year!!



If I’d entered ten things, I could have gotten into the fair for free.

It’s fun to live in a rural county in a small town.


I Choose Love

My favorite picture of the past few weeks.    I choose love.  How about you?

Good picture


Shopping in Abingdon, Virginia

Our small river outfitter, Adventure Mendota, got rained out today.   We had to return a child’s PFD (life vest) to her grandmother at The Virginian in Abingdon, so we decided to head up to the Abingdon Farmers Market.

I bought bread.  It’s actually made in Mendota.


Picked up some treats for River at Barkery & Co.    He got right down to putting these away.

Barkery and Company

Purchased some of my most favorite juice in the world from White Birch.  Nicole Dyer owns White Birch and she’s been a strong competitor in the business challenges we were in together.   For some reason,  I was first resistant to trying these juices.  I thought “healthy” would not be “tasty.”    No so.   I love the Pink Punch and the Orange Dream which tastes like a Dreamsicle.

White Birch

Went up to the Holston Mountain Artisans shop on Park Street.   I bought this small quilted banner to hang on the wall in the guest house.   It was made by Laura Bryant and was $12.

Quilt hanger

I also bought this very special wall hanging which I’ll save as a gift for a child  It’s called “Wild Dogs” and was created by Mary Warner of Bristol, Tennessee.  It has a story.

Wild dogs 1

Mary Warner is married to a diplomat, and she spends a great deal of time in Africa.  She teaches quilting there–I believe it is in Botswana.   She asked her quilting friends to send their leftover quilt pieces so that the ladies she is teaching will have fabric to work with.   At any rate, this is one of the quilts that they have made.   It’s constructed of fabrics that normally would not be used in the same piece — but these ladies “used what they had” and made this beautiful little quilt.   I’ll probably never meet Mary Warner, but I hope she learns that I have this special little quilt and I’ll make sure it’s treasured and those tiny stitches are respected and loved.

Here’s another picture…Wild Dogs 2


I won’t give this little gift to just anyone.  I’ll wait until the right person needs it.

Thank you for reading RiverCliff Cottage.


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