First stop out of DC was a little campground named Ft. Chiswell, on the freeway just outside of Wytheville, VA. Halloween. The campground is situated next to a dairy farm, so you can imagine the odoriferousness of the place. But the camp was clean, and the gas was cheap(er): $2.25 a gallon, which we hadn’t seen for months (and haven’t seen since, anywhere).
Wytheville (pronounced With-ville) was gorgeous, with antebellum architecture, and wide, quiet streets. Jeanie and I decided to celebrate close of escrow on the house on Bainbridge Island with a steak dinner. Turns out there were quite a lot of excellent restaurants to choose from, and we finally settled on one that had, before the Civil War, been a large wood house owned by a prominent slave-owner, which in turn was owned by one of his slaves who had decided after the Emancipation Proclamation to work for her former master as a paid employee. Great food, one of the best steaks we’d had in a long time. I’d recommend the place (it’s called The Log House 1776 Restaurant), but I won’t. Here’s why: After our outstanding dinner and dessert, Jeanie and I ambled out behind the restaurant where they had a quaint little gift shop, filled to the rafters with antique memorabilia from various periods in American history, along with knick-knacks, home-made candy, and the like. We were tempted to buy something as a souvenir of the place, when I happened on a wood table that had displayed on it a book, written by a supposedly popular southern writer, entitled “The Truth About Slavery.” I was curious, so I picked up a copy of the book and started browsing through it. What I read there made me ill: reports on the abhorent conditions suffered by enslaved African-Americans had been “greatly exaggerated” by the Abolitionist media; white people had a divine right, as written in the Bible, to enslave people of color; most Black people even realized a significant improvement in their lives after having become enslaved in America; that sort of thing.
“Time to go,” I said to Jeanie. I glanced at the store clerk, a middle aged woman who smiled at me sweetly. I was suddenly reminded of a scene from the movie “Talk Radio,” where a woman smiles in exactly that way at the main character (played, I think, by Eric Begosian)–just before she spits her soda all over him and calls him something horrible (always with that weird smile on her face) because he’s had the gall to speak out against the Nazi/White Supremacist organization of which this woman is a proud member.