You know it is the first week of June when suddenly the aroma of honey suckle is almost overwhelming. It is not as visible on the roadside as giant phlox or wild blackberry (photo 4), which are concurrent bloomers. Honey suckle is clearly June’s roadside perfume. But you folks in air conditioned cages probably won’t notice. “Air Conditioned Cage” is a term we motorcyclists call cars (when we feel like being snobs). We think ACCs are an inferior mode of travel on many levels, the lack of olfactory stimulation being but one.
I was on my way to Union, WV, riding on a narrow two-lane road running up a limestone valley adjacent to Peter’s Creek Mountain. The aroma of honey suckle included a couple of puffs of skunk and an admixture of cow manure being spread by a farmer in an adjacent field (see what you are missing?). Several of my motorcycle buddies were meeting at the Kalico Kitchen for breakfast. Union is a little farming village (about 600 people) 60 miles northwest of Blacksburg. The village and surrounds is the classic bucolic rural environment with farm folks of different heritage, including Amish and Mennonites. It is isolated by distance and mountain ridges so folks are tight knit and the best of neighbors. The town has a nice museum and beautiful examples of rustic 18 and 19th century homes (photo 3).
Union was settled in 1774 by James Alexander who served in the Revolutionary Army (photo 1). Besides Alexander, this community of a few hundred people produced a number of famous soldiers over the years including Andrew Summers Rowan who was immortalized in Elberts Hubbard’s A Message To Garcia. Rowan was an American Army officer who served as the liaison between the United States and Cuban rebels led by General Garcia during the Spanish American War. But the greatest and disproportionate contribution was made to the Confederate Army during the Civil War; General John Echols was Union’s highest ranking soldier. Union is known for its Civil War Monument, still standing in an open field for over 100 years. It was dedicated in 1901 by a crowd of 10,000 supporters. The 20-foot monument depicts a typical Confederate soldier standing 6 feet proud (photo 2).
Most of my buddies left the Kalico Kitchen after breakfast, but the first Saturday of June is Union’s annual Farmers Day Parade (photo 6, 7, & 8). A parade honoring farming had to include a few antique tractors so I hung around. Normally a quiet little village of less than 600 people, the town was abuzz with several thousand people and all kinds of activities. There were people of all ages, able bodied and infirm. But it seemed that kids outnumbered adults 3 to 1. Kids were on the floats, playing in the marching band, driving the tractors, riding the horses, running in the street after candy, and waving most of the hundreds of American flags, seen on this “farmer’s day”, in this old Confederate town, called Union.