Live turkeys, dead possums and a very vocal Tea Party

By Caitlin Kelly

Welcome to Virginia!

It’s most definitely not New York.

We’re staying with friends for a few days and exploring the area. Yesterday I drove 90 minutes to Richmond to visit the Tredegar Civil War Museum, on the site of the ironworks that supplied the Confederacy with munitions.

"Ruins in Richmond" Damage to Richmo...
“Ruins in Richmond” Damage to Richmond, Virginia from the American Civil War. Albumen print. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t know that much about the Recent Unpleasantness, as some Southerners still call it, but I learned a lot. I did know, and included in my 2004 book Blown Away: American Women and Guns, that women served in the Civil War as soldiers, being small and slight enough to pass for teenage males. I used a terrific history of this issue, They Fought Like Demons, in my research.

A One Hundred Dollar Confederate States of Ame...
A One Hundred Dollar Confederate States of America banknote dated December 22, 1862. Issued during the American Civil War (1861–1865). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, I did not see a reference to this in the museum, although it might be there — it’s interactive and highly detailed. One of the most compelling sights was the green velvet lined surgeon’s kit, complete with amputation saw, and a battered metal post he would have used to prop up a leg before a soldier was to lose it to surgery.

Another artifact was a black striped silk dress and its wearer, in a daguerrotype, with her husband and baby — four years later she was dead in childbirth. And heavy metal shackles, worn by slaves.

It is one thing to read about this in books, or see it in movies, but to read the words of soldiers and their wives was also sobering.

Made in China, of course!
Made in China, of course!

I ate lunch at a great old diner, Millie’s — a pulled pork sandwich on a cheddar biscuit. I skipped the grits in favor of salad. Each table had its own jukebox.


Then I visited Carytown, the funky part of Richmond, and scored a handful of antique treasures.

Two of my found treasures
Two of my found treasures

It’s an odd place for someone like me. Every church — and there are many, many churches here — is United Methodist or Baptist, with a few Episcopalians. I have yet to see a Catholic church or synagogue.

The highways are lined with very large trucks driven by farmers in caps. We ate dinner at a local restaurant and 14 men, most of them Hispanic farmhands, came in for $4 taco night. The fields are filled with winter wheat, and the new corn crop is just starting to show.

As I drove, I passed two dead possums and many live turkey, in the fields, on the roadside. They’re big!

The Tea Party has many large signs in bright yellow posted just outside of Richmond — past the Battlefield Elementary School — asking “Are you a Patriot?”

In March 2012, the Virginia legislature passed a bill requiring women who want an abortion to have a sonogram:

The legislation has proved ideologically polarizing, with many Democrats decrying the bill as an invasion of privacy aimed at shaming women out of having abortions, and Republicans heralding it as a way to provide women with as much information as possible about their pregnancies prior to having an abortion.

“This law is a victory for women and their unborn children. We thank Gov. McDonnell and Virginia’s pro-life legislators for their work to ensure that women have all the facts and will no longer be kept in the dark about their pregnancies,” said the conservative Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in a statement.

Any woman choosing an abortion is hardly “in the dark” about her pregnancy. She’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be.

I wonder where (if/when) we’ll retire  — and which part of the world we’ll choose.

Our friends have chosen this part of the United States, and it is lovely to look at. But politically and religiously, not my cup of tea.

22 thoughts on “Live turkeys, dead possums and a very vocal Tea Party

  1. Stee

    If you ever get up around Harrisburg I would suggest the National Civil War Museum. Interactive and outside of Gettysburg one of the best Civil War museums. If you re going to retire in Virginia I would suggest you stay up north around DC. They are more inclined to accept “city folk” like you and you’re political persuasion where the government is the answer to everything. The rest of us out here in the uncivilized hinterland still respect each others rights and take responsibility for our actions.

    What’s wrong with wild turkeys and possums. We all live on fresh road kill out here, but it has to be fresh. You should try it. Next trip take along a piece of chalk with you. When you encounter any animals laying along the road, get out and put a circle around it. On the trip back anything without a circle around it is fresh. LOL. steve

    1. Well, I knew this would attract a comment from you!

      It is not only people like you who respect others’ rights and take responsibility for our actions. But we both know that, right?

      1. Steve

        I’m not sure some of you folks on the right do respect my rights. Seems to me every time I turn around some Progressive do-gooder thinks he knows what’s best for me whether I like it or not. From what kind of light bulb I can have, to how much water my toilet uses to my right to protect my own life with a gun and even a babies right to live. Some of us “country hicks” don’t like it. From my observation it seems that most of the city people feel like you about things and most of the rural folks probably agree a little more with me.

      2. Well, I don’t wish to protect my life using a gun and I do want the gummint to stay the hell away from my uterus and all attached parts. It’s a funny thing — the far right HATES government intrusion, but with one very powerful exception, which is creating and enforcing laws that attempt to further demean and control women’s use of their own bodies. Freedom is not a gender-based issue, Steve.

      3. Steve

        Sorry, I meant those of you on the left not right. It’s early and I haven’t fed the chickens or slopped the hogs yet.

      4. Steve

        If you dont want to protect your own life or someone precious to you that is your business. My guess is you have no children of your own or I would venture to say you would feel much differently if some low life tried to do harm to them. I find it offensive that you want to take away MY right to do so. I also find it ironic that your side is all about CHOICE except when the choice is one of my choices, only yours and what is in your womb. In my opinion, and that’s what it is, an opinion, you DO have a choice, don’t get pregnant. You can do that quite easily and for free. Once you are pregnant however, I don’t feel you have a right to murder someone else, even if they reside inside your body. That choice is no longer applicable

  2. Yes…Oh dear yes…not many a northern gals “cup of tea”… we usually do not get in to the politics with my Dad and Step-mom…Dad grew up in the south (NC) till 22 and she’s lived in that same county her whole life. It is a different place, even today. Even with all that has changed…I could write a book. Just sayin’.

  3. It’s a very useful reminder to get the hell out of lefty-liberal NYC-area and remind myself that millions of Americans think very, very differently than I — and vote accordingly. It all feels abstract until you are surrounded by it. We will be out in Arizona for the last 2 weeks of May and I recall being pulled over by patrols looking for illegal immigrants. Same thing.

    1. I’m more of a social liberal than anything else. And living in conservative Catholic South Louisiana, I’ve come to understand politics to be something I either need to really fight for just to have an opinion, or something I keep to myself. In college, I fought for it. Then I got tired of arguing. I never wanted to change anyone’s mind, just make sure that my opinion was at least heard as a whisper among the screaming opposition.

      Something I’ve noticed among my like-minded friends who’ve moved to more liberal sections of the country: They now feel more comfortable being vocal about their opinions, even when they visit home.

      What I’m trying to say is this: Liberal-minded rural people exist, just as conservative-minded city-dwellers exist. (I’m not truly rural, but not near city enough compared to NYC.) I’m coming to find that the minority of opinion, after a while, have trouble finding the worth in actively sharing their opinion among opposition. We’re here you just don’t hear us!


      1. It’s a real shame you feel uncomfortable — and I get why! — expressing your opinion. But it is exhausting to have to defend yourself if people have no genuine interest in opposing or different POVs.

        I worked in a newsroom that was super lefty-liberal (more than I) and it was annoying the peer pressure.

  4. I am always interested in how the rest of the country lives but there are certain parts we would not feel terribly comfortable in – North Dakota is one but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t want to see it. When we used to travel back and forth twice a year from Maine to Arizona and back again, Virginia was very beautiful. Ate in a little diner in a little town – polite but not friendly. There was a silence when we sat down. Maybe just because we were strangers?

    1. The state — like New York and maybe many others — differs considerably from region to region. But I know I would not do well in any state actively trying to limit women’s reproductive rights.

  5. I don’t want to get enmeshed in political discussion but it sounds to those of us who live outside the United States like women are being sidelined in those states that are amongst other things against abortion. From your visit to Virginia, I have to wonder whether that division is along the old Confederate/Union divide. Whether the mentality of the American people is still driven in that way?
    I recently read about some States wanting to secede from the Union and had visions of the partition of India and Pakistan with people piling their belongings to get back to the side they wanted to live in. I hope that’s not on the cards. xx Hugs xx

  6. Even I, who really love Virginia, don’t always feel comfortable across all regions of it. I’ve lived in DC and in Yorktown, in the coastal area, and now my parents live close to Charlottesville which is much further inland. The difference is not small. Tea Party country and no mistake – it sort of freaked me out seeing all the billboards up on their behalf for the first time. I take comfort, though, that my dad (the hyper libertarian) is somewhat locally famous for writing an editorial to the major regional papers decrying Eric Cantor’s goal of undermining the president at all costs and urging people to vote him out of office.

    And in our defense, the landscape really is pretty! Out where my parents live it’s all farmland with houses at least a century old, and all have charming names. I couldn’t live where my parents do, but it’s very nice to visit. I prefer something much more metropolitan (and further East) as a permanent candidate.

    1. It’s interesting how different each region of the same state can be — and often is in many other states as well.

      It is a gorgeous place physically and I love the sense of history, too.

    1. I grew up in Canada and Quebec wants to separate, so when I visited the Civil War museum it had an additional resonance for me. The economic effects of the Separatists resonate today for those who live in Quebec.

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