Bonner Day: Valley people are good people

Bonner Day

Rural counties are known for friendly people, and the Shenandoah Valley is no exception.

It reminds me of my hometown in Arizona – maybe fewer cowboy hats but many more baseball caps.

Whether you are new or not, store clerks are friendly and helpful.  The key, unlike the big city, is that clerks have time to talk to you and even visit.

When you attend a local church, the members are quick to offer a hand and introduce their names.  Reaction to the warm smiles cracks the faces of most sour pusses. But a big smile to an unwary newcomer can be upsetting.  One parishioner frightened my wife when she was greeted by him at a food market and she didn’t recognize him as a fellow church member.

The friendliness of valley residents makes you alter your driving.  When you approach a four-stop intersection, everybody is too polite to go first.  And walking across the street, if you go halfway and wait for the opposing traffic to pass, the drivers themselves usually wait and insist you go first.

I think a pamphlet should be distributed to people leaving the valley, to relearn big city conduct and unlearn country courtesy.

And you are not here long before you realize much of Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties has moved to the valley.  There are so many retired federal employees in the area they could set up another federal government.

Ask a sheriff’s deputy to stop the next 50 cars driving down Route 11.  Then ask the occupants about the country’s problems. Most will have an informed opinion on what is wrong in Washington and all will know who to blame.

Another large group of residents you meet are natives of the valley who have returned from careers around the world.  We have so many military veterans we should have our own Veterans Hospital.  It might not eliminate the waiting lists but it would certainly cut the traveling time.

The retiree population, however, is only a fraction of thevalley. It is the working force and the young going to school who provide the heartbeat.  Their activities in the towns, the farms and the schools make the valley thrive. It’s a feast for old eyes to see young men and women participating in jobs and sports, working, running and exercising in ways that would give us old-timers aches and pains for weeks, if it didn’t kill us.

I glory in the valley muscle. It is based on hard work, on 4H projects and faith in the rewards of manual labor — the heritage of our ancestors.

The famed valley girl is not too big, in my book. If she fills out more than her city sister, there is an outdoor beauty in her health, energy and strength that brings a smile to the eyes and a lilt to the heart.  Spare me the maiden who would faint at the thought of a day of sweaty labor.

The valley is not perfect. There is crime, just as in the city. There are drugs. There are burglaries. And I am convinced there are monsters in the night destroying my bird feeders. But these are just reminders that we are not yet in heaven.

Is anything missing? Maybe you have ideas.

For my part, I miss the community sing of my youth. The high school music director each year organized Handel’s Messiah. She enlisted the school’s top voices for solos and used the rest of her classes for the choruses. The community was invited to join in a couple of practices. In the final performance youth and adults sang together.

My participation prompted my father to pass down one of his suits. The ladies all dressed in evening gowns. I sat only 10 seats and two rows from the school beauty, who sang the most beautiful soprano I ever heard.

I was reminded of those golden days recently when I attended the spring concert of the Shenandoah All County Chorus in Strasbourg. Sixth-graders to high-schoolers, they presented quite a show. The boys were nervous, the sopranos were pretty and the singing was great.

Bonner Day has lived in the Valley for 14 years.  He grows cattle and dandelions with mixed success.