The antennae farm at the Remington, Va. annex of the Warrenton Training Center or “The government place”, as we called it.
One of my childhood dreams was to live on “The Ridge”. In my mind, all the cool kids lived there. Officially, Piney Ridge was the land located at a point South of the Remington railroad tracks, east of the Rappahannock River to a point west along Lucky Hill road, but northwest of the area known as “the government place” (a.k.a the Warrenton Training Center – Remington Division). “The government place” was rumored to be a remnant of the “Cold War” of the 50s and 60s. Rumor has it that those large antennae dotting the fenced in landscape were used to spy on and intercept communications from the foreign embassies headquartered in Washington, D.C. Over the years the scope of the ridge community had been narrowed to only the area known as “The Hill”, the street now named Davis Rd or Davis Lane and the houses that lined the unnamed “Ridge Road”. So from that point of view only about five to ten homes actually were part of “The Ridge” neighborhood and I’d always wanted our house to be counted in those numbers. As far as I was concerned, everything of importance happened on the ridge. During summer months, once school let out, Raymond and I would walk over the hills, through the paths, dodging “cows pies” to spend all day playing with the kids who lived there. “Be home before dark” was basically the only stipulation we were held to, that along with… “Behave yourselves” and “mind your manners”.
When I learned that before my father built our house where it is located now, he had considered purchasing land on the lot between Mr. Charles Newton Davis’ house and his father’s, Mr. Newton R. Davis’ house further down the hill; I was disappointed that his plans didn’t pan out. In my mind, that would have been an ideal place to grow up and I’d have had a much shorter walk to school. But since we didn’t live on the ridge, I was destined to walk over almost every day to play with my friends. Except those days when Eugene and Johnny Ballenger came to our house. Now, Eugene and Johnny were my very best friends in the world and I expected to see them every day, simply because our house was between their house and Mrs. Haught’s Store. They went to the store every day to buy bubble gum. They would come down the dirt road we lived on and since I’d usually be outside playing anyway, I’d just join them as they headed for Mrs. Haught’s. My mother usually had a long list of items that she needed me to bring back, so there wasn’t normally any reason why I couldn’t go. Once inside the store, we just pointed out what candies we wanted and Mrs. Haught would use her hand as a measuring cup to determine how much she thought we’d asked for, and she always erred to our favor. We would run back across the road, sit on the church stoop to see which of us had ended up getting the most pieces. Speaking of money, it was not always available, so most times when we went to the store we had a wagon full of soda bottles in tow, Ne-hi, Coca Cola, Royal Crown and Orange Crush. We could get from 2 cents to a nickel for each bottle we brought back. This was a pretty good deal since sodas only cost between 6 cents and a dime, depending on whether it was a 6 ounce or 12 ounce bottle.
Photo/Courtesy of the Brown Family Collection
Buster and Charlene stop by on their way from the ridge to Mrs. Haught’s store.
From time-to-time, some of the ridge kids would walk through to Mrs. Haught’s store and always stopped in to visit with my mother. My Mom was probably ten years younger than the average housewife in our community and therefore seemed to be well liked by the older kids in the neighborhood and closer to their age. Most of the teenage girls stopped in to chat or gossip with my mom as the went on their way. When parents called looking for their children, my mother would tell them that the child had already left, even though they may be sitting right in our living room. I benefited quite a bit from these visits, in that, these older girls considered me quite cute at the time and as they laughed and talked with Mom, they would run their fingers through my hair, which back then were long curls. So, as Tiny, Caroline or Shirley chatted away, I’d plant myself strategically in a chair within arm’s reach, “Oh look at the pretty baby hair he has” and the next thing I knew, they were running their fingers through my hair while they gossiped with my mother. At some point I guess I grew out of that “cute baby hair” thing, because the hair rubs stopped about the time I got past seven or eight years old.
As we got older my brother Raymond began riding his bike to the ridge every day during Summer. I wasn’t yet old enough to ride my bike that far, but my mother had promised that as soon as I turned nine years old, I’d be allowed to ride my bike along with him. I had waited for this day for what seemed a life-time and finally the day came. Now Raymond normally would grab his hat right after lunch and yell, “Mama, I going over on the ridge” and jump on his bike and I’d watch as he headed over Grandma’s hill and out of sight. Then later Eugene and Johnny would come down the hill and we played basketball or fight or whatever for the rest of the day. My mother had always taught us that we had to entertain our company, at all costs. So if someone stopped by to play, we had to stop whatever it was we were doing (except daily chores) and keep them company, whether we wanted to or not. That was a hard and fast rule, never leave your company standing in the yard. So the only stipulation to my going over to the ridge with my brother was that I not already have any company when he left. So this being the first day I was allowed to ride my bike over, I was anxious to get going before anybody showed up to play with me. Playing with Eugene and Johnny was great, but it wasn’t like being on the ridge there were so many more kids there and always something happening, so I did have a preference even though they were my best friends in the world. I mean, that’s where “Uncle” Al’s house was and we could spend hours riding our bikes around the deserted building. That house ended up mysteriously burning to the ground and I’ve always been suspicious of who the guilty party was, but that’s another story. Today it seemed that Raymond was taking a particularly long time to get going, he seemed to be stalling before heading out today, but I stuck with him everywhere he went because I knew that he did not exactly see me tagging along with him as a good thing.
Finally, the time came and Raymond grabbed his cap and yelled out, “Mom I’m gone” and I yelled out, “Mom, I’m gone, too”. My mother was not at all comfortable with my riding all that way on the long unpaved road that led to the ridge, even though this was a well-traveled road, it would be years before the county saw fit to pave it. We jumped on our bikes and headed up the hill toward our grandmother’s house, Raymond was in front and I tagged along behind trying to keep up. Man, I felt great, I took in the scenery as though it were the first time seeing it from this new vantage point. We got to the top of the hill and just before we went over the crest we looked back and waved goodbye to our mother. I waved, turned and just as I got to the point of the hill where I could begin to coast downhill, I heard my mother yelling out to me, “Stanley!, Eugene and Johnny are coming, you’ve got company, you’ve got to come back!” I stopped turned back around and sure enough, there was Eugene and Johnny walking down the dirt road toward our house, just like clockwork. I got off my bike and stood there in my grandparent’s field and began sobbing uncontrollably. I turned back to Raymond and saw that he hadn’t missed a stroke, he was already peddling down my grandparent’s lane.
Photo/Courtesy of the Brown Family Collection
BayRay continued peddling his bike down our grandparent’s lane while I turned back to go play with my friends.
I turned my bike around and started back down the hill to the house. I rode up to my friends, who were now standing in my yard and I stopped in front of them still crying like a baby. They just stood there staring at me wondering what could possibly be the matter. They never knew of my plans to ride over to the ridge, they weren’t told that they had just derailed my best laid plans. No, I just got off my bike, pulled myself together and played with my best friends for the rest of the day. Later that week, I finally was able to accomplish my goal and ride my bike to the ridge, a trip I repeated for years to come. Ironically, the road that I grew up on was renamed Piney Ridge Road when the county’s 9-1-1 service began. All those years of wishing I’d grown up on the ridge and all the time I was already there. It’s kind of like Dorothy in “the Wizard of Oz” wasting all that time trying to get back to Kansas and then finding out that she was right there all the time…
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Revised: October 18, 2009