This past Saturday, Russ and I started the day early, arriving to our local polling place for early voting around 8:15 a.m. There was already a line and the doors were to open at 9:00 a.m. It had rained earlier, and the sun peeked out from behind the clouds in glorious fashion. I enjoyed the time talking with Russ, as we rarely get to see one another in daylight hours. By 8:40, the parking lot was full of cars and the line of early voters stretched way out into the parking lot. Luck was on our side: the election officials opened the doors early. Aside from the absence of masks, something I refuse to try to understand, something that angers me to no end for so many reasons, I was impressed with the behavior of those waiting. No nasty retorts about waiting; no arguments about either party – except for a brief few comments about UT vs. Bama in football. I daresay I was one of the few, maybe the only person voting for Biden-Harris in the maze that stretched before and behind us, and that is what it is. But I’m not here to talk about politics. Not even the politics of football. (UT lost. Again. I still bleed orange, regardless!)
Later that afternoon, we went to Tazewell, VA, to my hometown. I left Tazewell in 1995 to move to Roanoke. We briefly owned property there after Mom died in 2018. But Tazewell will always be home to me. Back in August (which feels like so much longer than two months ago), I had seen a post on Facebook announcing that Tazewell Today was accepting applications for “service banners” again this year. This project began last year, and I was so impressed by it, so proud of my hometown for recognizing its military veterans in a special way like this. For $50, you could have a service member’s military photo placed a banner, which would then be hung in the Town of Tazewell. I missed the opportunity last year, so I was eager to have Papaw Little included when they expanded the project this year. I immediately sent in my information. Well, you know how technology sometimes fails me… Last week, I saw posts where people were photographing their loved ones’ banners and I still hadn’t heard anything back about where to send my money. I contacted Amanda Hoops, who heads up the project, and she had never received my initial email in August. But she said that they could still work Papaw in! By the end of the week, I had received an email telling me that his banner had been placed somewhere on Main Street, so I knew that I needed to go up and get pictures to share with my cousins and other family members who no longer live in the area.
We started out at Maplewood Cemetery. (Whenever I’m in Tazewell, I try hard to get up there to place flowers on the graves – Mom’s, Mamaw & Papaw Littles’, and Granny & Granddaddy Vances’. )This time, Sarah, my sister, met us up there to pick up some things. She didn’t know where Granny & Granddaddy are buried, so I showed her. And I showed her where Uncle Jay, Mamaw’s older brother, is buried, beside them. And told her about how his granddaughter contacted me about a year ago, and what a nice surprise that was, because we didn’t know that Jay had any children. (His granddaughter identified me through Ancestry’s DNA project.)
Then she, Russ, and I went to Main Street, looking for Papaw’s banner. We started on the end of town where the Methodist Church and Library are. When we got to the end of Main Street, we turned around just past The Painted Peak Brewery, to go back and look again because we thought that we had missed him. And there he was. The first one on the right from the other end of town, directly across from The Painted Peak. We joked about how Mamaw would die if she weren’t already dead, Papaw being across from a beer joint. But I’m glad he’s there; he’ll never be lonely.
After spending a few minutes taking pictures and talking to people as they passed on the street – I love going home to Tazewell where people still know me after all this time – we had a magnificent dinner together at #ThePaintedPeak. Last year, when helping to plan my 30th high school class reunion, we had most of our planning committee meetings at The Painted Peak, so I was familiar with their amazing standards. But Saturday night was a real treat, folks! If you’re ever there when the special is chicken and spaghetti with a white wine and portobella mushroom sauce, you must try it! It is phenomenal!
I wanted to give props to Amanda Hoops and #TazewellToday for this wonderful project, so I emailed and asked her some questions, seeking permission to talk about them in my blog. She welcomed the possibility to spread the word.
The following is quoted from our email exchange. “Tazewell Today is a 501c3 non profit formed in 2015. We do community revitalization work for the Town of Tazewell with special focus on Main Street. The veteran banners are a program I implemented last fall- we were able to add more veterans on display this year through purchasing additional hardware for the light poles. We hung last year’s banners as well as this year’s new ones. There are 206 soldiers on display throughout town. They will go up each October for as long as they are in good condition. I hope to be able to add more next year as well. The town’s public works crew has gotten started at 5 a.m. hanging them for the past 3 weeks, as they have to be hung when there are no cars parked or little to no traffic. We have a wonderful crew of dedicated public works employees who take great pride in what they do. In addition, we coordinate all of the events and parades in the town of Tazewell, as well as revitalization projects both large and small. I do all of the marketing and social media management for the town and try to showcase all that we have to bring people here. We operate on grant funding, and fundraisers. I’m happy to hear you had a nice visit and a great meal! We have come a very long way from having no restaurants on Main Street to now having five!”