26 November 2011

Lawrence Reveley Burton. Tales of Old Patrick: Enchanting Tales, Mysteries, Poems and Stories. Stuart, VA: L.R. Burton, 1997.

Lone Ivy, Virginia | Summer 2009
At this time of Thanksgiving, I feel it’s appropriate to highlight a collection of short stories that highlights a time in my life for which I am especially grateful. Four years ago in August, I moved to Patrick County, Virginia, to work in the high school as a college counselor for the UVA College Guide Program (now the Virginia College Advising Corps). I arrived not knowing a soul and left with the best circle of friends that a girl could have ever imagined. The two glorious years that I spent there is just one example of how special Southside Virginia is. If you ever have two years to spare, I will give you the rundown, minute by minute, of how fantastic my time really was.

In August of 2007, though, I didn’t know how the next two years would transpire. I rented a basement apartment from the dearest retired guidance counselor, Ella Sue, shared a closet... er, office with the friendliest supervisor, Susan, who invited me to be part of her incredible family and friends, and had two of the most fun fellow College Guides, Sachi and Parisi, in nearby Martinsville. Still, I wanted to really get to know the people and places of Patrick County, and that let me to - of all places - the library!

I’m sure I left with an armload of books, but the one that was the most exciting was entitled Tales of Old Patrick: Enchanting Tales, Mysteries, Poems and Stories by Lawrence R. Burton. As the submitted warned, I was instantly enchanted by the collection of short stories that was published in 1997. I learned all about the history of Patrick County including anecdotes about local people, places, and events.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that the subject of one of the tales was one of my students, Jared Smart! I couldn’t wait to get to school to ask him about it, and when I did, we had an instant connection. I loved learning about his late grandfather, who in addition to being a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College was the mayor of Stuart, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Patrick County, and longtime lawyer in Southside Virginia. The book that I was reading was a collection of his “Tales of Old Patrick” columns that had been published in the weekly paper (similar to A.C. Snow’s column in the Raleigh News and Observer). Jared told me that there were few copies of the book left, so I knew that what I was reading was a true treasure.

Also of value is the friendship that Jared and I have formed since making that discovery. I think that I always would have liked the boy with the big smile, easy laugh, and love of donkeys, but this discovery solidified it. We have kept up with each other since he started college (with great thanks to Facebook), and I hope that we always do.

In July of this year, Jared and I had a chance to catch up at FloydFest (which is actually in Patrick County ;-) ). He texted me to tell me that he had something to give me, and I had no idea what it was. When he pulled a crisp copy of Tales of Old Patrick to give me, I was very touched. I love having Mr. Burton’s extraordinary description of Patrick County so readily available -- it takes me back to my two golden years in the paradise that is Southside Virginia with wonderful friends, gorgeous views, and sweet memories.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have you read Tales of Old Patrick? Please share your opinion about the book and this summary.

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