Friday, October 8, 2010

The Disappearing Views of my Culpeper Childhood by Raymond Mills, Jr.

Martha note: It's WMRA Civic Soapbox Friday ...

View from Stony Man Mountain
 I recently visited Shenandoah National Park to explore the history of the park for a research paper. I found the park’s views and trails to be incredibly beautiful. The view from Stony Man Mountain was the most stunning I have ever seen in Virginia. The park’s beauty even captured the attention of my fourteen year old little cousin who forgot about his cell phone and iPod during his visit to the park. He happily hiked a number of trails with me, eager to explore what was around every bend. I have been to the park many times, but on this occasion something was different. I felt proud to live in a country that protects it most important landscapes.

Culpepper  area farmland
Americans live in society that focuses more and more on wealth and material objects. We are spending much more time on our computers or in front of our flat screen televisions and much less time exploring and experiencing our country. Instead of taking in the United State’s breathtaking landscapes, many of us are choosing to update our Facebook pages or surf the internet. More personally alarming to me, is the continued disappearance of America’s small farms and landscapes.

I grew up a small cattle farm in Culpeper, Virginia. I enjoyed living on this farm throughout my youth, but today things in Culpeper have changed. The county has developed from a small rural community into one of the fasting growing places in the United States. As a child I remember passing wooded areas and pasture land on my way to school. Now the trees have been replaced with row after row of houses and the pastures filled with asphalt.

For many years I thought my small community would avoid development. Surely my neighbors would preserve what I loved. Unfortunately, even the farm next to ours has recently been sold and subsequently subdivided. I watched the bulldozers cleared the landscape that I had enjoyed so much. Soon the cattle that once grazed there will be replaced with homes. I guess I will have to learn to enjoy what modern America has to offer, but some how I do not think that will compare to the sight of cattle in an open pasture on a sunny day.

Recently my family sold most of our cattle operation and in hopes of relocating the farm to a rural community in Southern Virginia. We kept a small number of cattle in hopes of rebuilding our herd. In addition, my family is running a small swine operation. Although we still have some animals my siblings and I miss our cattle herds and look forward to farming in the future. It is likely that my family’s small piece of land in Culpeper will be sold and developed. Hopefully the properties new owners will enjoy the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains that I enjoyed during my childhood. I only hope that development does not destroy these views and that future generations will have the opportunity to appreciate them.

                 --Raymond Mills Jr. is a Senior at Longwood University


  1. My family and I lived in Culpeper for almost twenty years before relocating to Harrisonburg. We watched as the dairy and cattle farms succumbed to the developers. People moved to Culpeper because they couldn't afford decent housing in Northern Virginia. It is my hope that the housing insanity behind the recent recession will slow down this process. I'm pretty sure Mr. Mills would want me to tell you that it is Culpeper with two p's not three.

  2. Martha here: I've lived in Virginia for almost 40 years and never noticed the spelling of Culpeper. What a dunce! Ray, in his essay, spelled his hometown correctly. I, in the headline, did not. Thanks Mr./Ms. Anonymous. I may be old, but I can still learn! All cheer, M