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Monday, April 28, 2014

A Day in Buchanan

For years we've passed the "Visit Buchanan" sign when we drive home along I-81. For some reason, probably the beautiful weather and the urge to get the heck out of Roanoke, we decided Saturday was the day we would "visit Buchanan."

We drove along I-81 until exit 162 when we saw the sign for the city. We figured it would be like most of the cities down here, have a Main Street, and we would have no trouble finding it. It was a nice jaunt with beautiful mountain and valley scenery, cow pastures being the main view, and as I suspected, we soon found ourselves driving down Main Street.

It just so happened that the city was having some sort of Civil War day as evident by the folks lining the sidewalks dressed in Confederate and old-timey clothing.

I thought it was strange that Main Street was not closed to traffic, as most other cities I've been to during their Civil War type days always close the artery where the "events" are taking place. Since that wasn't the case here, we found a spot easily.

The first thing I noticed was there seemed to be more re-enactors than viewers, and I even joked to my husband, "Maybe nothing is going on here and this is just how the people dress."

When I saw this sign in one of the stores, I seriously began to wonder.

Well, it turns out it was some sort of Civil War re-enactment weekend, but nobody could tell us exactly what was happening, and when I asked a shopkeeper if there was a map or something, they said no but directed us towards the Civil War encampment down near the river.

Most of the tents were closed and I guess that was because the re-enactors were traipsing all around the town. The horses had no choice but to stay where they were, but they jumped every time a loud gunshot exploded.

Now, I've been to other Civil War themed city days and have found them interesting enough. Those events seemed more organized. and showed how the folks lived during that period, gave pertinent history, etc., and had tables where you could buy local goods, and not just confederate flag crap. That's primarily what they were selling here. Not interested in that one bit.

So I thought it would be nice to visit all the antique stores that Buchanan is "noted" for. Unfortunately, most of them were closed. Huh? You're having a Civil War type thing that I'm sure the town is holding to attract visitors, and you would think shops would want to welcome browsers and sell their wares. Even the couple of places that were open closed at noon. We walked into three different stores, and even the library that was having a book sale, and were told, "Sorry, we're closing." Crazy!

What was even crazier was what seemed to be the "theme" of this Civil War event...kill the Yankees.

As we were walking along the main drag the costumed folks were firing their guns shouting, "I got me a Yankee!" and then even paraded said dead Yankee in a coffin.

Another Yankee was accused of robbing a ham and all the women in town shouted to "Hang him!" They were dragging him to the bridge and I almost expected to see a lynching, but the fellow broke loose. When he escaped, they shot him in the back instead, and the crowd whooped and hollered. Maybe someone should have told the thief he was wearing a Confederate hat!

After we had enough of the Rebel Yells we took a walk to the swinging bridge that was also one of their landmarks.

 I took a couple of steps on it, but I guess the folks couldn't read the sign that said only 3 people at a time were allowed on it as they marched across it and it began to shake violently, so I took a page out the Confederate army's playbook and quickly retreated. I got a couple of nice shots at least.

We sought out a place to have lunch and passed up the BBQ joint after seeing the bare chested "cook" with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth work the outdoor bbq. Not a fan of ash-flavored pig. There was a joint next to it, and as we pondered if we should give it a shot or not, two Confederate ladies stepped in front of us and went in. We followed, and it was like the scene from that PeeWee Herman movie when he steps into that biker bar and everyone stops what they're doing and turns to look at him. Same thing, but this was a divier bar and the place was filled with cigarette smoke to boot. I thought it was illegal to smoke indoors in "restaurants" in Virginia. Since I had no intention of jumping on the bar and dancing to Tequila, I did an about-face just as the owner? was coming through the door. When I said it was too smoky in there she said we could eat outdoors. Umm, yeah, no, but thanks anyway.

I couldn't wait to get the heck out of this town. Pretty scenery, don't get me wrong, but it was creepy, and not creepy in a haunted way like I've found Fincastle to be. This was creepy in like a you're not from here, not welcome here, and make sure you don't stay until dark kind of way. I did find some humor in the bikers that took it upon themselves to disrupt this ridiculous "celebration" by riding up and down Main Street every once in a while, 30 strong. These were older fellows with Marines on their cuts and American flags flying proudly on their bikes. They were the only American flags (besides the one Union one near the horse's ass) I saw that day. When we got back to the car we found a flat tire. If I didn't know any better I'd say the town itself did it to fuck with the Yankees. My husband paid $1 for air and filled the tire and off we drove until we hit a restaurant along Route 11, well out of city bounds. When we finished a decent lunch we found the air had come out again so we put the donut tire on and drove home.

When I told my daughter about our day she said, "You should have told me before you went. I've been to Buchanan once, and will never go again." I told her about the slave sign I saw in the window and how I thought it was in poor taste, how offended I would be if I was a black person visiting their town, and remarked that come to think of it, I didn't see one black person there. She said, "I'm not surprised." You know what? Neither am I.

Y'all damn Yankees might have won the war, but we'll just keep re-enacting it the way we think it should have gone, and one day y'all see the south is gonna rise again.


  1. Nice post! I definitely will not be visiting Buchanan or as they pronounce it "Buck annin"
    Hard to believe there are segments of the population with this frame of mind. Love your pictures Elena.

  2. Laughed my head off! Great review of the town and the people. They are still a mite clannish in those parts. New Castle gives me the same vibe. And I was born and raised in Virginia.