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About Fred


Image copyright Fred First Since his earliest years in Birmingham, Alabama, Fred First has called several places in the southern Appalachians home. An Auburn graduate with a MS in Zoology and an avid naturalist, he first moved to Virginia in 1975 to teach at Wytheville Community College. In a mid-life career change, he earned a masters degree in Physical Therapy and practiced in that field in North Carolina for six years before moving--permanently, he says--to Floyd County in 1997.


In 2002, his personal focus shifted from what he did for a living to where it was that he lived. He continues to explore the beauties and perplexities of his rural Blue Ridge valley in words and images, including a daily photo-journal called Fragments From Floyd . Much of his writing and pondering turns to sense of place and belonging, especially as it relates to the Appalachian Mountains. Read an extensive interview with Fred in Rebecca Blood's Bloggers on Blogging series from May, 2006.


Fred is active in his Floyd County community, as member of the Floyd Writers Circle and is a board member at the Jacksonville Center, Floyd's Arts Center and arts incubator. Recent speaking engagements include guest lecturer at Virginia Tech (Appalachian Cultures class, Sept 04) and spoken word readings given locally in Floyd, including Floyd Fest 2004. He has participated as a student at the Highlands Summer Conference in Radford and at the JC Campbell Folk School (2003) and presented his "photomemoir" at the Appalachian Studies Conference at Radford University in March, 2005.


Fred is a regular essayist on Roanoke's NPR station (WVTF). His works are published in various places including Blue Ridge Country Magazine, Petlife, Greenprints, Birmingham Arts Journal, Flow (Glassblowers trade magazine) and Nantahala Review (Feb 2005). He writes a regular column, A Road Less Traveled, in the Floyd Press. Fred's photographs have been featured in promotional materials for the New River Valley Land Trust and the Floyd County Chamber of Commerce. Fred teaches biology at Radford University as adjunct faculty while he pursues his interests in writing and nature/rural landscape photography. He has also re-entered clinical work, part-time, as a physical therapist at a privately-run outpatient clinic not far from home. His book, Slow Road Home, was published by Goose Creek Press and available for readers at the end of April, 2006.


About Floyd


Image copyright Fred First Floyd County is our adopted home. We 'discovered' it in 1997, even though we had lived just two counties away for 12 years, long ago.


Floyd is located in Southwest Virginia--that part of the state west of Roanoke that even Virginians frequently don't know exists. You can't get here from there: there is no interstate access (which is both an advantage and disadvantage), and the approaches from the west and south are very steep, requiring a climb Blue Ridge Escarpment from the piedmont. There are no large employers luring workers from adjacent counties to mills or factories here, so you have to come to Floyd on your way to Floyd. Not many folks just pass through on their way to other destinations, except for those who wander into town off the Parkway. Tourism for a wide variety of music, for the scenery and the unique ambience of the little town promises to bring more visitors here in coming years.


Floyd County is bordered on its south boundary by the Blue Ridge Parkway, roughly from milepost 175 near Mabry Mill to milepost 145 toward Roanoke. The county has the highest average elevation of any county in Virginia (about 2700 feet) with the highest elevation in the county being Buffalo Mountain. No water flows into the county from outside; and it is the biggest producer of Christmas trees in the state. The population of the county is about 14,000. There has been considerable recent influx of new residents from both north and south of us. The new and multi-generational residents generally get along rather well. There are many artistic types among us--particular, potters, painters, photographers and organic earthy types. There is more to do here than we have time to participate in--suprising for a county that has but a single traffic light.


The town of Floyd is the county seat, and a wider place in the road than the couple of other county settlements centered around post offices and a gas station. Notable for the county is that there is a single traffic light, in the middle of 'downtown'. Town population is about 400; most folks live in the elevated rolling hills, many keep cattle or horses.


Notable features in Floyd County: Buffalo Mountain; Chatteau Morrisette Winery; Mabry Mill; Schoolhouse Fabrics; Oddfellows Cantina; Blue Ridge Parkway; Rock Castle Gorge; New Mountain Merchantile; Cafe del Sol coffeeshop (with wireless internet!); Harvest Moon Healthfoods; Pine Tavern Restaurant and the Blue Ridge Cafe. The town of Floyd is about 26 miles south of Blacksburg (Virginia Tech) and 35 miles west of Roanoke.


About Goose Creek


Image copyright Fred First In the northeastern end of Floyd County, the south fork of the Roanoke River is formed by the confluence of Bottom Creek and Goose Creek. We live very near the headwaters of Goose Creek, where the creek is too small to lure trout fisherpersons, but large enough to provide a constant rise and fall of burbling wet noise, all day, all night


The road we live on is honestly one of the most beautiful but most treacherous little lanes in the county, state-maintained, and the last state road that ran in a creek bed (until the early '70s). There are more than a dozen blind curves and very few places where two cars can pass one another, with a steep dropoff into the creek on some sections. At the turn of the century, there was a thriving settlement up the valley here, but now only the empty remnants of a church and store. Today there are fewer than a dozen widely spaced occupied dwellings on our 4-mile road.


We first drove down our road after an ice storm in February 1999 to see the property, and I wondered if we would ever be heard from again. Then when we finally came upon the house 'as pictured in the real estate ad', I knew we were NOT interested. My wife cast a strong dissenting vote, and well, here we are. The purchase of the land was a no-brainer; we could have recouped our investment and made a profit in 6 months. But the house: now THAT was a gamble. Long story short: the 130-yr-old structure was worth saving, took way more $$$ than we intended, but now has indoor plumbing and electricity, new windows, new foundation, a paint job. It is a snug and comfortable home with the ambience of age and the utility and life expectancy of a new house. It is the most serene and peaceful place we have ever lived, and we are not moving from here until they move us out in a pine box.

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