Buford Wood, Mountain Man
Goodbye, My Friend
by Felecia Shelor
We go way back, Buford and me. I knew him all my life. I stayed with my grandmother. She had sons about Buford’s age, so I remember him around my house when I was a small child. They were a wild bunch, Buford and my uncles, drinking and carousing and fighting. I think we were the last of a unique people, native to these mountains, rough and tough and rugged. We could and did live completely off the land. We grew what we ate and the men prided themselves on killing with a bow or gun the biggest buck, food for the family. Drinking was a way of life as was a pure belief in God and Jesus and heaven and hell. People from the outside thought we were ignorant, uneducated. But all the men from these mountains in my generation and back could build a house, rebuild a motor for a car or tractor, grow all the food for the family, fix any and everything that broke, skin a rabbit, butcher a hog, make moonshine. The list goes on. When “city” people started moving to these mountains they thought we were ignorant, like I said, what they didn’t know is that the people from here thought they were ignorant. None of them had any of the basic survival skills that virtually all the mountain men possessed.
And Buford was top of the pecking order around here.
I have a store in Meadows of Dan that Buford built. He didn’t have plans. He just built it from ideas in his head. Once I was in a dressing room in a store in Mount Airy, a poster on the wall caught my eye of a beautiful cabin in the woods. I brought the poster home and Buford built the cabin for me just from the picture. He built many houses that I sold and I made a lot of money. When my beloved fiancé, Dan, died in 2003 Buford built a memorial building for him at Willville Bikers Campground. He built my barn, my chicken house, my guesthouse. He rebuilt my cabin on the river. He built my life. In many ways, he built me.
He worked for other people too building houses and ponds and roads. Buford could “witch” for water by holding two birch branches in his hands. He could locate the best place to drill by the way the branches would feel in his hands when water was nearby. It really did work.
And he had “the sight”. There were many times I noticed over the years that he had obtained information by means other than the five senses. I owned this old farm where I live now for years before I moved here. This place is special to me as it was to Buford. One night two teenagers broke in here. Buford who lived a mile away, and over the hill the way the crow flies, awoke from a deep sleep, slipped on his boots in the middle of the night, and came over here to the farm and ran those boys off.
This farm where I live was another major point of love and interest that Buford and me had in common. He worked on this place when he was very young, helping the woman who lived here build fences and do other farm work. He was drawn to this old place, as I was. He had experiences here, as many people have had, that defy explanation. He would see a woman about this place. I don’t mean a flesh and blood woman. I can’t say she’s a ghost. I don’t know what she is, maybe an angel. Buford saw her more than once. As I said, he had “the sight”.
Buford didn’t finish 5th grade. He told about being in school one day, the teacher told him to spell a certain word. He tried and tried but when he couldn’t get it right the mean old woman “boxed his ears” is the way he put it, and beat him about the face until he was black and blue. He never went back to school.
Buford Wood was by far the smartest person I ever knew.
Two times a year I hold a big event to celebrate the winter and summer solstices. Buford loved to help with this. Actually it was mostly his doing. He would invite his friends and I would invite mine. Buford would arrive early in the morning to help clean and cook and get everything ready. He would build a big bonfire and cook venison stew over the open fire in an old cast iron pot. At night he would do a hayride for everybody to ride around the farm in the moonlight. I liked to show off the stars that I “bought” when I bought this farm. “See? This is my sky”. I could tell everyone. We were happy. I still try to have these parties but they just aren’t the same without old Buford. Nothing is the same. It never will be.
Buford loved working and he loved life. He loved to be around all of us. But now when “his bride” called him that was that. That’s how he referred to Rita, his wife, “my bride”. If she wanted him to come home he would go home, immediately. He married a beautiful woman and he loved her and was faithful to her all his life. He was proud of his son Marcus when he felt the call to preach. There were tears in his eyes when he told us about it. And when his first grandchild, Hannah, arrived Buford was a changed man.
Monday, June 4th 2007, I saw Buford around my store a couple of times. He had a young man with him who Buford was trying to teach the building trade. I saw them laughing together. That night when his wife came home from church he told her to call their son Marcus to pray for him. She called for help but Buford was gone.
The loss of a true friend.
We were always so connected that Buford, a big burley he man, would joke that we were actually twin sisters. We communicated all the time without words. I always thought that if it were possible to communicate from the dead, me and Buford could pull it off.
A few nights after he died I dreamed (or was it a dream?) that the phone was ringing in the night. When I answered it I heard Buford’s voice. Buford! Where are you? What are you doing? I asked. “I’m on my way to the The New Jerusalem”, he said as his voice trailed off, “I’ll see you when you get there”.
Goodbye, my friend. Until then.
Poor Farmer’s Market
2616 JEB Stuart Highway
Meadows of Dan, Virginia 24120
Located at the Intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Highway 58
Email: Poor Farmer’s Market