As the caravan of pickups and cars tunnel into the clouds atop Skyline Drive, the reminders drift past: the mountain gap named for the Beahm family and the trail to the old Hull School, where Lillie Dwyer Pullen went to school.
Near the muddy road where Beulah Bolen clambers out to unlock a chain gate lie the 900 acres her daddy once owned. Where a wall of mature trees meets the road in gray-misted Gid Brown Hollow are the very fields he once farmed. "There," says Beulah's brother, Marion. "We had wheat and corn right there."
Then the lane levels and they are home.
A half-century ago, when the 300-square-mile Shenandoah National Park was carved from the heart of the Blue Ridge with the blessing of Gov. Harry F. Byrd Sr., the Dwyers and Beahms were among the 500 or so mountain families evicted. Even though many of the families have prospered, their memories of homesteads lost and mountain communities destroyed remain.
To the Dwyers and Bolens, the annual visit to the hollow, during which they tend the family graveyard, provides them an opportunity to share old memories, like how, when they were stirring apples to make apple butter, they got a kiss if their spoon touched the side of the kettle. And how the walks to Wednesday night prayer meetings gave the young a chance to court.
Always near the surface is their bitterness. It emerges in the tales of men who refused to leave and were dragged from their homes, and of the government burning down old homes built of hand-hewn chestnut.
"They came in and burnt the houses," Alice Beahm, 53, remembers. "We could see the smoke from my dad's place. I was told the way they burned 'em was by taking gasoline all through the house and then stepping back and putting in a match."
When talk turns to parents and grandparents, Lillie Pullen, 63, will swear that, "if the park people let the old people alone, let 'em live there, some of 'em would be alive today."
Mary Bolen Burner, 61, fumes at the "books they wrote about the mountain people being ignorant and all. Nothing but lies. They just trying to make all these people up here look like they didn't have any sense so they could take our land."
The mental wounds such memories caused may never heal, says Charles L. Perdue Jr., a University of Virginia anthropology professor studying the long-term impact of the park's creation on the evicted mountain families.
"There's one man we know who still has nightmares about being moved," Perdue says. "He said he'd go back tomorrow. But he can't. You can't: the structure, the network, is gone. You can't undo what's done. But perhaps you can be more sensitive in the future."
Sensitivity to such matters is a recent development in government, says Perdue. So it is not surprising that park officials decided against preserving the Shenandoah mountain culture. "They justified it by saying it the park would bring in new jobs and industry," Perdue says.
Today, the park is indeed a major tourist attraction, says Robert R. Jacobsen, park director. It draws about 2 million visitors a year. To handle the load, the Park Service employs about 250 persons, including summer help, while 250 to 300 others work in the various privately run park concessions.
"There was a very deliberate decision made to remove the mountain culture from the Shenandoahs," Jacobsen says. He says park officials did try to preserve the mountain culture elsewhere, in the Great Smokies National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina, which also was then being created.
"Here, the effort was made to erase the evidence of their occupation, so buildings were torn down or burned."
In the eyes of former residents like Lillie Pullen, who has a mother, baby sister and two grandparents buried in the cemetery high in Gid Brown Hollow, park officials were far too successful in their eradication efforts.
"You get back to the park now, and where you used to know every foot, you can't hardly move 'round anymore," she says. "Lord, I can remember when every bit of that was cleared land."
Lillie was born in the park in 1919, youngest of three children who survived into adulthood. Her mother, like many mountain women, died young -- in her case after exhausting herself with worry over whether a 1928 mountain fire would claim the family homestead.
"I was lying right next to her on the bed," Lillie recalls. "Mamma was real pale. She told me, 'Lillie, turn your back to me.' I turned over but I was watching out of the corner of my eye, y'know. She rolled her eyes back in her head and the blood just flew out of her nose and mouth. Them's the last words she ever said."
Lillie married when she was 15, and her first child was born in the park. A few months later, she believes it was in 1936, her father, Thomas Booten Dwyer, was told he would have to leave.
"They just went through there and told you what you was gonna get and that's what you got," she says. Her father was paid about $3,000 for his 200 or so acres, which the government had determined was a fair price during the Depression.
She says her father was one of the lucky ones, because he was allowed to tear down a new house he'd just built and move it outside the park. The Bolens weren't so fortunate.
"Daddy just built a barn and he wanted to tear it down," says Beulah Bolen. "But they wouldn't let him. They burned it down."
The Bolens say their father was paid $12,994 for his farm. That was enough for him to buy a 256-acre farm in Page County for $6,000 with money to spare. They remember driving a herd of 30 cattle all the way to the new farm near Luray, but leaving about 15 goats behind.
Now they return to tend the Bolen family graveyard at the foot of the Jinney Gray Fire Road, a track that was known in their time as Covers Road.
"See, our mother's buried here. Sister, too," says Mary Bolen Burner, sister of Beulah and Marion. "We had all this over there for us," she says, waving at one corner of the stone-fenced graveyard. Will she be buried here, too? "Nah. Got me a lot in Luray."
If those born on parklands refuse to forget their past, their children and grandchildren, born and raised in the lowlands, sometimes see it differently.
"They'd spent all their lives there," says Wayne Baldwin, 29, Lillie Pullen's grandson. "But since I . . . moved to Culpeper, I can see where it was good for them to get out of the hollows."
Baldwin says his objection was that young people born and raised in the hollows "lived way back in the hills. Those who went to school were fortunate. I think we're much better off now."
The Park Service also is beginning to see its relationship to the land in a different light. Jacobsen says that a Park Service specialist recently completed a survey of those few remaining old hollow structures "to see if there are any worth preserving."
Alice Beahm and others find small comfort in that. "I can remember when this man, George Baker, learned the park was going to take his place," said Alice Beahm, whose father's place just missed being condemned. "It was right next to ours. He and my dad stood right at the garden fence and cried like babies the day he had to leave.
"People was like family, then, y'know. But all that's gone now, and isn't it a shame."