This afternoon I drove up the road to my neighbor’s house to talk to him about when he might be available to help us out with his 80 hp tractor. Just before thanksgiving, we bought an old chisel plow, but don’t have the horsepower to pull it. The ground is too wet right now, but I thought I’d see if my neighbor had time early next week, if conditions are right. When I drove up, he was supervising some siding being put on an old barn. He agreed the ground was too wet, but said that he’d stop by sometime in the next week. But he invited me in, and said, I want to show you something.
He took a book down off the shelf, a coffee-table book of photographs that his daughter had put together about a few years ago. It was professionally printed and looked very nice. It appeared to be a one-off, self-published book that she had printed as a Christmas or birthday gift. Inside were portraits of family ancestors, snapshots of my neighbor as a boy, sometimes alongside snapshots of his grandchildren doing the same things: playing in the spring-fed horse trough, or posing with a rifle next to a freshly killed buck. There was also a page on Hurricane Camille, a 1969 storm that unleashed devastating rains on parts of Virginia. According to the Washington Post, parts of Nelson County experienced the heaviest rains, with over 25 inches falling in just eight hours, causing flash floods and mudslides that killed at least 150 people in Nelson County alone.
When I got home, I wanted to show Heather the photo of a Camille mudslide I had seen in my neighbor’s book. A Google image search of “Hurricane Camille Nelson County” turned up the photo in the first page of results:
(for a hi-res version, see here)
My neighbor’s house is at the top of the photo. The road is Shaeffer’s Hollow Lane, and the East Branch of Hat Creek flows along the bottom of the photo. The house in the group of trees in the center of the photo is where we live now! My neighbor said that the big trees around the house caught the logs at the head of the mudslide and created a little dam around the house, which is why the mudslide parted around the house. Today, our fields are to the left of the driveway, and our greenhouses are to the right of the driveway. Had they existed in 1969, both fields and greenhouses would have been devastated by the mudslide.