I don’t get my hair cut in Floyd’s one barber shop. It’s not worth the time or the money to endure to the tirades of some of the regulars who can’t stop bitching and moaning about the "hippies" and "the Mexicans" and "the outsiders" who they say are destroying Floyd’s way of life.
Barbershops and beauty parlors usually provide a barometer for both the level of gossip and the prevailing mood of a community. The tirades I heard at my one visit to that barbershop are sometimes repeated at nearby tables in the Blue Ridge Restaurant or over coffee at one of the local gas stations.
It’s a part of old Floyd County that I hoped had vanished when we moved back here last year. While the intolerance, bigotry and distrust is nowhere near the level that existed in 1965, it’s still here in the hearts and minds of a minority of longtime residents and that’s too bad.
Floyd became a mecca for alternative lifestylers in the 70s because land was cheap. Many of those who came stayed to start families and build businesses that now provide much of the economic backbone for the community. Other "outsiders" came as well, starting businesses and making the county their home. Two of the five largest employers in the county — Chateau Morrissette Winery and Crenshaw Lighting — are owned by folks who moved here from somewhere else.
Unfortunately, a few of the oldtimers still gripe about people who "aren’t from here." Too bad, because it’s the growing diversity of Floyd County that helps make the area so unique.
Colleen Redman, local poet, published author and blogger, is one of those "newcomers" who found life in Floyd County inticing and addictive. She wrote about it recently in an essay called "Life in the Rural Fast Lane." As I read it I realized that much of what she loves about life in Floyd County did not exist here when I packed up my 1957 Ford in 1965 and headed out to discover the world. The Friday Night Jamboree, FloydFest, monthly Contra dances, a Community Action Center: None of these could be found in the Floyd County I left four decades ago.
Which begs the question: Did I move back here to rediscover the Floyd County that I left 40 years ago or the one that exists today?
I sure as hell didn’t come back to listen to some of the crankier oldtimers in the barbershop bitch and moan about hippies, Mexicans and other "outsiders." Thankfully, their attitudes do not seem to be shared by most longtime residents whose ancestry in Floyd County goes back many generations.
It’s an attitude that, hopefully, will one day die out. And, for the time being, I’ll get my hair cut in Christiansburg or Roanoke and listen to the locals complain about life in those areas.