Richard Weirich

Name That Tune

As soon as I give you just a few minor details you will be able to “name that tune.”  It has been around for years, originated in the 1800s, and somehow became a popular tune for ocean going sailors.  A country group from Muscle Shoals took it’s name (If Bubba Can Dance).  For you old timers, Jimmy Stewart starred in a movie by the same name.  Of greater significance, there is a famous river that runs through the Valley of Hope with that same name.  Got it yet?  Of course, you do.

When I was growing up, Shenandoah was all around me.  I lived in the Shenandoah Valley, in Shenandoah County, and the Shenandoah River ran through my home town.  One of the first songs we played in the high school band was Oh, Shenandoah.  What have I done?  That tune will be rambling in my head all day.

As a kid, I fished in that famous river.  My grandmother packed my lunch and off I would go with a friend and we would spend the day catching everything from shoes to strange looking river creatures.

Once, while visiting a friend who lived on a farm by the Shenandoah, we found an old boat and took it for a short run down the river.  Not that we intended for it to be a short trip, it’s just that the boat had a hole in it.  She went down not far from shore.

When I was researching IN THE VALLEY OF HOPE the Shenandoah River was unavoidable.  All the towns in the story are near the river: Edinburg, Woodstock, Mt. Jackson.  The river was essential to the survival and livelihood of the farmers who settled there.

Meems Bottom Bridge
Meems Bottom Bridge

Land close to a river is particularly fertile and is called ‘bottom land.’  Thus the name of the famous landmark near Mt. Jackson, Meems Bottom Covered Bridge.  ‘Meems’ for the man who owned the land and who first built the bridge.  ‘Bottom’ for the type of land by the river.

In an earlier post I mentioned that we have a tendency to take our surroundings for granted.  It took moving away for me to appreciate the beauty and history of the Valley.  I never knew that the Shenandoah was such a winding river or that it was a tributary of the Potomac River or that it runs for 100 miles into West Virginia.

Here’s a nice version of the song and some appropriate scenery to go with it.

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And now, it’s movie time.  Grab your popcorn and enjoy, the 1965 flick, Shenandoah, starring Jimmy Stewart.

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