Reader pays tribute to an original – Bobby Waid
We all know some boring, humdrum, sanctimonious, achingly dull people, of course, but somehow Botetourt has more than its share of characters – folks whose humanity and personalities can’t be contained by the conventional measurements of the day. Mr. Robert A. Waid was one such human.
Bobby was an original. He was a big-hearted, lifelong prankster with many an escapade to his name. I heard about a few, and I bet you did, too. (Like that once during a beach trip he caught a live ’possum and carried it inside the house by the tail to dangle in his startled friends’ faces. Seems likely.) Bobby didn’t set out to offend per se, but he did expect you to have a sense of humor about yourself, by God.
As a boy, he was a member of the wild and rowdy Fincastle “Skunk Gang,” and as a young man he was, by his own admission, plum full of it. He hunted, fished, rode around, was buck wild, calmed down a hair, worked his people magic through his adventurous on-site job in West Virginia with the power “cumpney,” and laughed whenever he could. Which was often.
He cared fiercely about his family, his town, the natural world, and respectful relations between blacks and whites. He stated his opinion in a bald, bold way that was nonetheless somehow poetic for all its piercing directness.
As anyone who knew him knows, Bobby was loaded both in the possession of stories, and in the telling of them. His weren’t recycled, formulaic, or invented stories; his stories were real – detailed, hilarious, unique, and layered. He was a wealth of stories due to the simple fact that he lived a life worth telling about. He was a lively connection to an all-but-gone time.
It is not a surprise, of course, that a 90-year-old man with a health condition should die, but it is a shock to our small-town system. A fellow townsperson and I observed that we were amazed to not have felt an earthquake or similar seismic or cosmic acknowledgment of Mr. Waid’s moment of passage on July 26, such was Bobby’s seeming permanence and structural significance to this place.
When I was growing up in the Town of Fincastle, I had much more interaction with other members of the Waid family than I did with Bobby himself. It wasn’t until I came back to town as an adult and sat on Town Council that I got to experience Bobby firsthand. I recall a particular meeting in which controversy reigned surrounding a New Idea. You couldn’t breathe for inhaling a ruffled feather. Bobby, who was mayor at the time, leaned up to the microphone and cut through the kerfuffle in his long-syllabled, utterly direct way: “Wull give it a chaince.”
It’s that “chaince-giving” tendency that I most appreciated about Bobby. Seems we have a choice between two roads as we age: (1) hunker down in our opinions and grow old by them (2) open up our perspectives and grow freer by them. The Bobby Waid of my experience chose that second road.
It’s hard to encapsulate a proper testament to him in this format. Bobby’s character fits better into an epic tale than in a letter to the editor. My concern is that in the attempt I’ll accidentally turn out something stale, rote, and without spice. I can imagine the scolding response he’d give to such a flop, “Now, Merr Beth, hunnay, why’d ya waste the ink on ’at ole letter? I thought youse a writer!”
As The Herald readership likely recalls, Bobby wrote many a letter of his own to this newspaper, weighing in on this and that in his frank Bobby Waid way. Years ago he wrote to explain to the townsfolk that my acupuncture practice was not, in fact, a “bunch of hocus-pocus,” as he’d previously thought prior to giving it a “chaince.” That particular letter violated editorial guidelines, and he was obliged to take out an ad instead to express this opinion. Which he did. It was so kind and unexpected – and such a fine example of a good, concise ad – that I cut it out and kept it.
But of all his letters I ever saw, the one that struck me most was his last. He was writing in favor of freeing the Big Spring, and this line rang out like it was written by a man who knew his time was ending – which, of course, it was. He wrote, “Mother Nature must be recognized in all things eventually.”
Any death, as Mother Nature knows, is hardest for the living, and in this case it’s complicated by our public health crisis. Under normal circumstances (remember those?) I’m guessing there would have been a public ceremony or celebration for Bobby – for us, really – a gathering full of fellowship, story swaps, and the comforting consumption of macaroni salad, ham biscuits, and tea so sweet it’s liable to make your teeth fall out on the spot.
As it is, we must somehow integrate the loss of this larger-than-life man who deeply influenced our social web, and we must do it in social isolation. That smarts.
So I propose, as an antidote to that sting, that we make our own acknowledgments, and raise our own glasses, alone together. I’ll start. To the incomparable Bobby Waid: May we recognize Mother Nature, live lives worth telling about, and not waste our ink.
– Mary Beth (Ladenheim) Huwe
Leaders should also follow guidelines given to citizens
I just read the story about Botetourt Board of Supervisors Chairman Billy Martin attending a meeting at the White House on July 16 in the July 29 Fincastle Herald. Additionally, I saw the submitted photo of him and Dr. Amy Johnson at the event.
The first impression I had was that Chairman Martin and Dr. Johnson did not have on a face covering. My second impression was they were not social distanced. As a person that wears a face covering in public, and tries to social distance, this is not acceptable to me. Our leaders, at any level, should always follow the guidelines handed down to all the citizens. They should be the ones that set examples for others to follow and it makes no difference where they are, or what they are attending in an official capacity.
There are many more comments I could make, but the story covered the event, and as they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
My wish is for everyone to wear a face covering and social distance so we can defeat COVID-19 and move forward to better days.
– William Todd
Reader says if one proposal is approved, others will follow
Mountains are nature’s source of water. The southern end of North Mountain is the source of two watersheds of Botetourt County. These are the Sinking Creek watershed on the west side and Mill Creek watershed on the east side, which flows around the southern end of North Mountain. Both creeks flow toward Gala, then empty into the James River.
The proposal passed by the Botetourt Board of Supervisors allows a three-mile massive industrial site consisting of 20 giant wind turbines on the southern end of North Mountain. This proposal would compromise and damage the quality of fresh water of both Mill Creek and Sinking Creek watersheds. This would benefit water merchants of some place else.
Decades ago, the citizens of Northern Botetourt fought against proposals to allow large-scale surface mining in the county. It was pointed out then that Mead Westvaco had sold all the timberland Westvaco had owned after the two corporations had merged. This amounted to 40,000 acres, which were sold in a few large tracts, thus only upper financial speculators could afford a purchase. The point against the proposal was that if one large surface mining operation is allowed, any future proposals for the same operations would not be able to be denied.
A few years ago, a Botetourt Board of Supervisors allowed the destruction of a national historical heritage site at Greenfield. This was allowed so the space could be sold to Roanoke County, so Roanoke County could build a shell building to rent or sell. Whose or what interests are the Botetourt Board of Supervisors looking after?
– Bob Hundley