Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nothing Ever Happens, etc.

Because the forecast called for rain, we’d fed and watered the critters earlier than usual Tuesday morning. Before nine we were on the road en route to the library and then to Krogers for “Senior Citizen’s Day.” Before we reached Glade Hill, a police car—lights flashing—sped past us. I’d never seen one go that fast on Route 40.

“Must be an accident up ahead,” John said. I figured, as fast as the cop car was going, it must be a bad one.

We looked for the signs of an accident so we could slow down. Never saw any.

As we approached Rocky Mount Marketplace, another car—this one unmarked—sped past with wailing siren and flashing lights. Two speeding cop cars in one day? What’s with that?

“Maybe something happened at Ferrum,” I said. “Or at the courthouse.” But nothing ever happens at Ferrum.

John dropped me at the library while he ran another errand. I told a friend who works in the library about the two cars. Turns out I was right—something had happened at Ferrum. Some news reports had recently come in about a possible shooting.

I sat at the table by the window, turned on my laptop, and emailed Marion to tell her that her afternoon class probably wouldn’t meet. Then I went to the WDBJ website. About that time, more cars (do they still call them squad cars?) with flashing lights and wailing sirens went past. Then more—a whole convoy from Botetourt County—including a canine unit, then one from Henry County, and finally trucks from Channel 7 and another TV station

From what I could learn online, the Ferrum College Campus was locked down because one of the housekeepers saw a guy carrying a handgun in Bassett Hall. My mind flashed back to Virginia Tech—less than a year ago. Could it happen here?

I taught part-time at Ferrum for seven years. The Ferrum Campus is easy to access. Route 40 runs right past. No one questions you if you drive onto campus. A lot of non-students use campus facilities for meetings or research. Some students even have out-of-town guests who, uh, sleep over (I’ve heard girls discussing how they didn’t get much sleep because their roommate’s boyfriend spent the night in the room). Right after 9-11, my English 101 students worried about attacks. “You’re safe here,” I’d tell them. “Nothing happens at Ferrum.

They agreed: nothing happens at Ferrum. I’d heard students complain about nothing to do on a rural campus, so they party. Some party a lot. I’ve heard stories about wild goings-on in the dorms. And midnight trips to Wal-Mart. When I started teaching at Ferrum, the Ranch was the party spot. When I stopped teaching, it was Trollville.

So, all the action at Ferrum on Tuesday was unusual. Through the day, l watched TV and visited news websites. The lockdown continued. The guy with the gun wasn’t found.
While only Rt. 40 and Ferrum Mountain Roads go past campus, part of the campus is surrounded by woods. A lot of people know the trails. The track team used to run on some of them.

“Lady Waid,” a woman I’d met through the historical society years ago even owned five acres in the woods where she’d had an underground house built. She often visited campus to use the library. One day, she stopped by my office so I could go with her to see her home. I drove as close as I could get (beside the maintenance building) and then followed her along a well-worn trail. I couldn’t see her house until we were standing on top of it.

Inside, the furnishings were sparse—two recliners near where a stream of water ran through a concrete culvert. She had lots of plants hung up to dry and all she needed for basic living. On my way back to campus, the track team ran past me.

A few years ago, I heard she was living in Idaho (or maybe Iowa—I can’t remember which). A guy at a historical society function told me she’d hired him to drive her camper there. Anyhow, I haven’t seen her since then. But her place probably remains—a hideaway in the woods.

Anyhow, it wouldn’t be difficult for someone to vanish into the woods.

For more about the Ferrum lockdown, check Marion’s blog: this entry and this one.

Meanwhile, I guess we can't say that nothing ever happens at Ferrum.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Marion said...

I heard one TV report that the housekeeper was actually threatened by the gunman and was so frightened she locked herself in a closet. If this report is true, no wonder we had such a rapid response.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Amy Tate said...

It's nerve-racking, isn't it? There are all sorts of rumors floating around Hollins about an upcoming drill. I hope they don't go through with it. How are we to know what is real and what is just a drill? It could set off a chain reaction of heart attacks, panic attacks, etc... those of us who live around here already have a case of the nerves.

5:23 PM  

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