The long-awaited trip to
Virginia with Cousin Karl Ray has come and gone! Just last Wednesday
we finally got it on. I wanted to take my Blazer, having some
knowledge of Karl's choices in transportation, I actually put my
foot down and declared, "Dammit, if I go I'm driving! Well the day
before the trip he called me and said he had a serious condition
that was badly exacerbated, (his word, not mine), by sitting on
leather seats, and that if I would go in his van he would provide
the gas and buy me a "good lunch", (as opposed to a pack of Nabs and
a Honey-bun). Out of concern for his health, I agreed. A bad
mistake, on my part.
The next day I seated myself on what appeared to be a bathroom mat
and a chair cushion and Karl was therapeutically seated on what
appeared to have once been a basement rug. Aside from the noise, (he
still had his studded snow tires on), I was comfortable when
After I got somewhat used to the noise from the tires and the creaks
and groans from the van and after I got over my surprise at his
observation that that the right front wheel had the disconcerting
habit of falling off at speeds of 60 and beyond, I began to realize
that the exhaust gases coming up from the floor would probably kill
me anyway, so what the hell! After we got beyond the range of my
fearing that anyone who knew me would see me, (around White Sulphur
Springs), and before we got into the Rockbridge County and Lexington
area where a few people knew me still, he explained that he had
packed our lunch! Lunch was to be a bologna sandwich or a peanut
butter sandwich, I could have whichever one I wanted! When I
explained that I was on a lo-carb diet, I'm afraid I completely
ruined his day. He realized he was actually going to have to spend
money and buy me lunch!
Approaching the Lucy Selena exit beyond Clifton Forge, I made the
comment that, our uncle James and his wife Leona had once taken me
over that mountainous dirt road on the way to Kerr's Creek, nothing
would do Karl, but that we must also go that way today!
Fortunately the road had been much improved in the years since I had
traveled it, except for it being a 25 mile and 2 hour detour to
travel just ten miles further along to get back on I-64, and despite
the hidden concern I did not share with Karl, that I might not
remember as much about that route as I thought I did, it was an
We went on US Route 60 to Buena Vista, I had a salad at the Burger
King, and we proceeded to go to Coffeytown. In the event anyone
should want to retrace our journey, at the top of the second
mountain past Buena Vista on Route 60, there is a small sign that
says, "Orinoca," turn left there.
My mother used to visit, several times a year, "Cousin Sally". I
don't know if she was a Coffey or a Fitzgerald or had married into
the family or if she was someone from outside the family! She, at
the time, lived in a small trailer below the road, (her son had
bought it and insisted that she either live in it or come into
Amherst and live with him and his wife). She opted for what she
thought was the lesser of the two evils! Just beyond her trailer was
her home, a log cabin with rooms added, the front of the cabin
elevated about four feet on the hillside, the picket fence in the
front had a canning jar stuck on every picket, she could hardly wait
for spring so she could return to it! I asked her how long she had
lived there and she said, " Pon my soul, ever since Jim took me from
my mommy"! Further inquiry from me revealed she had married Jim when
she was 14 years old, she was 88 years old at the time of our visit.
She would not drink the water pumped into her house, each day she
carried a pail from a spring nearly a half mile from her home!
I looked for her trailer this trip but was unable to see anything
that might be it, perhaps it was on another road, it had been a long
time! We stopped at a well-tended cemetery along the road, full of
Coffey's and several Fitzgerald's headstones. Driving on we came to
a large, six foot high or so boulder in a field on which some proud
individual had painted "Coffeytown", it was as I remembered it. I
recalled it as having been on the other side of the road, but
perhaps we had come onto it from another direction. We stopped and
talked to a fellow from Michigan who lived in one of the original
Coffey houses, he insisted on telling us more history than we wanted
to know just then. According to him, the house he lived in was one
of the four original Coffey houses on that particular part of the
Blue Ridge Mountains.
He told us the original Coffey, who lived at "Fiddler's Green," had
four sons, all of whom joined the Confederate Army. All four saw
battle, none got sick, none were wounded and none were killed! When
they returned to the mountain after the war, their father gave each
several hundred acres of arable land, with the provison that each
must build a home in which a family could be raised. All did so, and
with the exception of one, all were owned and lived in by
descendents of that family of Coffeys. I understand that now that
one house has been purchased by a Coffey and is once again back in
We made a loop and came back onto Route 60. We drove by the
spectacular Staton Creek Falls, the water would fall about 15 feet
into a pool then fall another 15 or so feet and keep doing that
until it finally reached the Pedlar River about 300 feet below.
Coming back toward Lexington and US Route 11, we drive into Timber
Ridge and looked for the McCormack family home where our grandmother
was born and raised. We stopped and asked for directions and the man
we asked actually lived in Granddads' old house! Driving there we
met his mom and then to our surprise a Lexington Police officer
showed up. My first thought was that something had fallen off Karl's
van and killed some innocent by-stander, but he was the ladies
son-in-law and also, of all things, a Coffey! He invited us to the
Coffey Reunion in July at the Marantha Church and "Fiddler's Green"
at Coffeytown. We promised to attend. But thatís a story for another
We visited my sister and then hit the road for West Virginia. In the
ten hours we had been gone, I had eaten a salad: Karl Ray, on the
other hand had eaten, and I'm not lying; 1 bologna sandwich, 1
peanut butter sandwich, 1 hamburger and large fries at Burger King,
3 large honey buns, 2 packages of Nabs and had drank 4 large diet
colas! The boy is a bottomless pit!
We got back to Alderson, nearly 11 hours after we had left.
Considering the noise, the exhaust fumes that came up through the
holes in the floor, worry about the wheels coming off and my hunger
pangs, I was in better shape than I should have been, In fact, I had
enjoyed the hell out of the day. Next time we'll take my car.
Exacerbate a condition, my hind end!