September 23, 2002

Getting to Goose Creek Part 5

In the last installment of this rough sequence that might be called "Getting to Goose Creek" (see below)... I was ghoulishly employed in 'laboratory animal medicine' and research in the Medical Center in Birmingham. Our daughter was born during this time (Sept 1973) and we were pretty certain by now that this city, any city, was not where we were going to find 'home'. We had already left Alabama in our minds, and were soul-citizens of someplace north of there: a place uncrowded, unspoiled, and beckoning to us to put down roots. Where that someplace was, we had no idea how to discover; but we never lost hope that we would find it.

But it would find us.

The following September, my best friend in grad school at Auburn called me. He had moved to Blacksburg, Virginia, a few months earlier, to start a PhD program in freshwater ecology at Virginia Tech. He invited me to come up to canoe the Nude River, he said. I had never heard of it, and laughed when I repeated the name. No, he corrected me. The NEW RIVER. I hadn't heard of that either, but he assured me it was a major body, the second oldest river on Earth, according to the geologists; it flows south to north, which, at the time I thought was unheard of, but it's really not that uncommon. Sure, I told him, I'll come. And we planned a visit for early October.

And so I set out with my Road Atlas and a full tank of gas in our brand new Datsun B210 hatchback, with the theme from Route 66 playing in my head. For someone 26 years old, an 11 hour trip alone seemed like an Apollo launch into a new world that was waiting to be discovered. Fresh out of grad school, I was still very much the plant ecologist and lectured aloud to myself as I drove along through changes in forest types, tree species, soil types, drainage patterns; through Alabama, Tennessee, then into Virginia. Virginia was unlike anyplace I had ever seen before, with gentle rolling pastured hills as far as the eye could see, and cattle that seemed to have been set in just the right places, like props, in a buccolic surrealistically beautiful movie. "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills" we sang in church. I never really appreciated that imagery until that first ride through the long valley of Virginia.

So we had our canoe trip down the mighty New River, putting in, like idiots, in a dense fog just upriver from McCoy Falls. We ran the falls in the fog, and lived. Bless the beast and the children, and idiots in open canoes in the fog. We traveled hiked to the Cascades and visited Mountain Lake. I was smitten by Virginia: the unlittered back county roads; the cleanliness and pride apparent in even the most modest of country farmhouses; the ancient rolling hills and wildflower-shrouded byways. We could live here, but I would have to find a job.

On my way home from Virginia to Alabama, it was my intention to make a few desparate stops to drop off applications to teach. I was hitting it cold, and my chances were next to nil that this attempt to find a teaching position with only a Masters Degree would be any more of a sucess than my mass mailing campaign of the preceding year since graduation. Still, as the lesser-employable member of the duo, I was the limiting factor and felt obliged to do most anything I could towards bringing us closer to finding our place in the country. I had to find a job.

It found me.

While my friend was in class over the course of my stay, I wandered around the biology building, pretending to be a college student all over again, checking out the posters and display cases. Posted, a job listing: Local community college needs faculty immediately to teach in the biology department. It was in a town not far away; I had passed through it on the way to Blacksburg. At the instant I read the listing, I KNEW in a way I have never experienced before or since, the outcome of a future event. I somehow eerily knew that I was going to get this job. I excitedly told my friend this as soon as he got out of class. He snickered, but I insisted it was true!

A few days later, I stopped by the college, unannounced. I don't remember many details other than meeting briefly with some of the faculty, the president was out of town. I learned that someone had unexpectedly resigned from the biology faculty and they needed someone for the Winter term. Great, yes, I had always wanted to teach anatomy, I told them, (gulping) having only taken one course in human anatomy and not the least inclination in this direction as a teaching subject...until that moment. I figured I could fake it. Less than a week later, I got miracle-letter in the mail, asking that I come back up to meet formally with the president and selection committee, and making me a tentative offer to teach.

After literally hundreds of 'Thank you Mr. Frost for your interest in Podunk College... We regret to inform you.... we will keep your application on hand....' rejections, it was wonderful to finally be sought after. We agreed to go back up a week or so later to meet the president and make our final decision.

Our trip up was in the middle of October at the peak of the Fall Colors. If we could have waffled in our appraisal of the beauty of this place at any other time, there could be no question about it this trip. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we were on the verge of tears of happiness as we drove up the leaf-strewn road up over the top of Walker Mountain on that crisp October day. At that moment, we knew that this was our new home. Southwest Virginia had been waiting for us, and finally found us and there was no doubt about that.

Getting to Goose Creek: Parts One ~ Two ~ Three ~ Four

Posted by fred1st at September 23, 2002 02:22 PM

Fred: I'm enjoying this series immensely...please do continue. It's fun to read all these little details I never heard about before, and now you're getting to the part of the story I'm at least somewhat familiar with.


Posted by: Curt at September 24, 2002 07:31 AM

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