Rakes Mill Pond on The Blue Ridge Parkway was one of my favorite hangout spots in high school. Rocky Knob overlook was where kids in my era parked and made out but Rakes Mill Pond was where I went to think, reflect and ponder the future.
One of my early high school crushes and I planned out the rest of our lives while sitting on the log benches at the pond. Like most high school romances, reality got in the way of dreams and we went our separate ways but on one Spring night while sitting near the water we thought we had it all figured out.
I stopped by the pond Monday after returning from a visit to my mother in her new home at an assisted living facility. Traffic whizzed by on the Parkway but few stopped so I had the pond pretty much to myself and I had an hour of solitude to think about the events of the past several weeks.
I also thought back to that Spring night in 1963 when the young lady and I talked about the future with such certainty. We sipped beer purchased illegally at Tuggles Gap and talked about marriage, kids and living in places far away from Floyd County. She wanted to be a doctor, I longed to become a photographer and journalist. She wanted lots of kids. I wasn’t so sure. I wanted to travel. She wanted to settle down after college and talked about returning to Floyd County to raise her children. I vowed to never return after high school.
Not long after that evening we drifted apart and dated others. I went on to pursue a career in journalism. She never made it to college and went on to marry four times, never had children and died young far from Floyd County while suffering from ailments related to drinking and drug use. I faced down the beast of alcoholism 16 years ago. Her family left Floyd County, she never returned and is buried somewhere in the South.
I returned to Floyd County in 2004.