by Henry Lane Hull
As I noted at the end of last week’s column, to use the term of the late Gilliam Lewis, who worked at the Rappahannock Record for over 60 years, this “item” begins the 36th year of its appearance. Over the course of writing the piece I have changed careers, moved home, committed matrimony, begot two children, whom I denote in this space as the “B.E.s,” and served in public office.
My Good Wife has said that if anyone attempts to research me on the internet, he or she will think the system has crashed because I have performed in a great many venues. Writing the column has been the longest activity I have pursued.
When I began the column, the paper was printed in the back of the Record office on Main Street in Kilmarnock. Shortly thereafter the publisher began sending it away for production. As a result, one of the venerable old printing presses found its way to Washington for display in the Newseum on Constitution Avenue. I have visiting it there on my bucket list of activities yet to accomplish.
Of the 1785, now 1786, columns I have written the most memorable was that of the early morning of the day I was getting married over on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In it I “scooped” the news, describing meeting, courtship, proposal and the impending event that would change my life for the better forever. As a surprise, our friends, Ellen Booker Kirby, the late June Balderson and the late Joan McKenney, reproduced the column in a creative font with a photograph, taken surreptitiously by Ellen, of the ancient Ford pickup truck that was the honeymoon vehicle, which they together had handsomely framed.
Fifteen months later I again scooped with the news that I had entered parenthood. Initially in the column, I referenced the newly arrived offspring, whom I like to say Dr. Matt Vogel “assisted” me in delivering, as a Blessed Event, using the archaic term for a newborn. As I wrote on that day, instead of repeating the words, I shortened them to B.E. and the term has remained. Another 15 months and once again Dr. Vogel reprised his earlier stellar performance. As they grew up, the children would refer to themselves as the B.E.s.
In my bachelor days I traveled considerably, a practice that has continued “en famille.” In my earlier life I taught history, and with the arrival of the two B.E.s my Good Wife, herself an avid traveller, and I have continued that role, taking them to places about which I had taught or with which we thought they needed to be familiar.
As a result today both of them appreciate the past, which is a part of their lives and now they travel on their own to see places of historical interest. When I was a child my favorite television programs were travelogues, and on occasions I have considered the column to be a mini-travelogue.
The column has been a vehicle for my discussing farm life, interacting with domestic animals, understanding their personae, in some cases their psychoses and the enjoyment I receive from communing with nature, especially in the realm of growing fruits and vegetables. I have had a garden every year since childhood and all of them have been, by my standards, organic. Perhaps I am not certifiably organic, but I try to be; I consider gardening to be the hobby of choice and I try to reflect on it in composing some of the items.
I am the fourth generation of my family to live in the Northern Neck and over the course of my life I have listened to many stories from relatives and friends, often about noteworthy individuals who make our land the great place it is, and I have traveled up and down our roads looking to understand how we are unique. These activities have produced columns in which I have endeavored to share some of those experiences.
On a recurring basis I have sought to focus on many of the people who have made a difference in the life of our “Moated Eden” to use the term of the late historian, C. Jackson Simmons. When I write about one who has died, I close the item with R.I.P.
The two most asked questions I have received over the last 35 years are, “What is B.E.?” and “What is “R.I.P?” I have answered the first query above; the second stands for “Requiescat in Pace” which is Latin for Rest in Peace.
Lastly, “Excerpts” could not be written without the input of readers for which I am most grateful and appreciative. To all I say, many thanks!