Stop for a story

Boones Mill from above, with U.S. 220 slicing through the middle and carrying most visitors right by the town. Photo by Stephanie Klein-Davis, The Roanoke Times

There’s a billboard facing traffic leaving Roanoke on U.S. 220. It’s just over the line into Franklin County, first thing you see coming out of a turn between thick walls of forest.

“Bojangles” is coming up.

And it must have been there forever, or at least for a while, because it became the entirety of “Boones Mill” for me, and also the signifier of having entered Franklin County.

Now, I began covering the county for the paper here about a month ago, so those impressions have changed. The town of Boones Mill, especially, has become much more.

I heard from a few people that there was something going on in the town, a change.

And as it turned out, many people associate Boones Mill with many things, but very few of them went much deeper than my recollection of that fading Bojangles billboard — which, by the way, advertises a chicken restaurant that is not even in Boones Mill since the town is a whopping mile-and-a-half long.

Even the newspaper’s archives return monotone impressions of the little town. And those snapshots just show a consistently dysfunctional government. It turns out that is what is changing, and that’s what got me off U.S. 220.

I went into the town, which you reach not by the stoplight next to the convenience store but at the quick left hand turn just after it, and met the mayor and town council members who expelled a source of strife and are doing virtually everything for the town themselves.

Their long-term goals include the renovation of a historic train depot and an overall more present community that allows for more life and less commuting to larger nearby towns.

But the story was in the people who have, no doubt, watched thousands upon thousands of cars zip through without ever taking stock of the town they care so much about. The story I wrote, I hope, shows what can be found in the blur outside the car window.

Read: Little town rolls up its sleeves