...and we're off at 4:30 am on a huge bus filled with kids and staff on the narrow overgrown mountain roads of southwestern Virginia ....
...to Saltville, Virginia (The Salt Capitol of the Confederacy). Check out those Appalachian Mountains -through the mist you can see the higher peaks behind them. This is more or less my family's old stomping grounds. Down here the accents are thicker and more mountain-ish, rather than those lowland accents, just like my grandparents.The obligatory cannon - found in most small Southern towns -just like the Confederate statue found in front of most most Southern courthouses (our town just replaced ours on account of some guy lost control and ran into it with his pickup truck. Funny how years of civil rights and societal pressure couldn't do it, but a Chevy S10 could.)
Eventually the lakes were drained, and the first of the commercial salt wells were dug. There is no such thing as a salt mine in Saltville. Instead, water is injected through pipes to dissolve the salt. the water is pumped back up, and when it evaporates, it leaves the salt. Most table salt is produced this way. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee no matter who you are, you've consumed some salt from Saltville Virginia within the last week. Semi-loads leave almost on the hour, everyhour, twenty-four hours a day, full of salt destined for every major food producer in the U.S.
Saltville seems to be one of the ones that really prospered under the system. Short version: big company provides 90% of jobs in a community, and the other 10% are peripheral to the success of that company (storeowners for example).
At least until 1982, when it was declared a Superfund site, because the Mathieson Company had spent years discharging -by it's own estimate- up to 100 pounds a day of methyl mercury into the soil and North fork of the Holston River. (Appalachian corporate history could well serve as the dictionary definition of the word rape. It continues today, rampant and unashamed, just one long gangbang of what was a breathtaking mountainrange. And that's definitely another blog.)
We were told unofficially that the day before these experts had found *something big* in this dig site, and they had called in outside even-bigger experts to help identify the big something, so we can only assume they were guarding the site and killing time when we walked by.
The result of the finding-of-the-big-something is that our kids (originally meant to be digging in that watery dark grey clay pit) were re-directed to a substitute site.