-The following first appeared in the fall issue of About HER and the October 29th issue of The Floyd Press
Phyllis Beall lives in Paradise. When Floyd County went from using rural farm road numbers to street name addresses, residents were given the
opportunity to name their roads. Beall named hers Paradise. “And everyone
agrees,” she said.
The spirited 80-year-old has been homesteading 40 acres in Floyd for decades, and on her own since her husband, Dick, passed away 12 years ago.
Beall, who grew up on a farm in Giles County, takes care of goats (which she calls redneck weed whackers), chickens, ducks, rabbits, fish and two Boston Terriers. With four knee replacement surgeries, it isn’t always easy, but she likes to stay active. She enjoys good friendships, helping others and the simple pleasures of a country lifestyle.
“I don’t move as fast as I used to, but I still get a lot done,” she said while feeding fish in one of her eight ponds. The carps keep the ponds clean and can get up to about 30 pounds, she explained. The catfish are “good eating.” There is a trout pond on the property, and another pond is home to goldfish and koi fish.
Beall, who raised two sons and has two grandchildren, lived in Maryland before relocating back to the Southwest Virginia in 1971, following her husband’s retirement as a Maryland fireman. By the time her family settled in Floyd, she had already battled thyroid cancer and was navigating health care options for her son who had a heart condition. Soon after settling in Floyd, she began driving a school bus for the county school system, and did that for about 14 years.
Bealle happily showed off her Early Girl tomatoes, bell peppers and beets that were growing in pots and raised beds around her home. She had just come from a community lunch at PLENTY, a Floyd food bank and farm that promotes neighbors growing and sharing food together. The well-attended meals at PLENTY are social, but she also participates because she believes in the value of fresh food and eating what we grow locally and without additives. The neighborly sharing of healthy food has been a theme in Beall’s life.
As a longtime avid hunter, Beall has donated substantial amounts of venison to Hunters for the Hungry, a non-profit organization that provides venison to people in need. The group accepts thousands of pounds of deer annually, but, because financial donations only cover a portion of processing costs, they’re unable to accept thousands more, their website reads.
Beall and her friends found a way to donate more directly. Beall recalled taking ten dressed deer to a cannery in Franklin County, where she and friends processed and canned the meat (and “had a real good time”) in preparation for donation. “We put them in tins so we can mail them without breaking,” she said, adding that supporting disabled vets is especially close to her heart. She has a good sausage recipe and plans to make mince meat this year, she said.
Beall’s interest in hunting started with her brothers. They let her tag along with them at about the age of seven. “You didn’t run to the store everyday,” she said, describing how her family raised hogs, picked seasonal fruit, caught rabbits in traps, used a local mill to make grain and sometimes dressed a few of their hens to trade for sugar and kerosene and other items they couldn’t produce themselves.
“There were ten of us,” Beall said. She remembered how a neighbor had helped her family with farm chores, feeding the animals and with rides to church on the back of a pick-up. Today, she traces her interest in helping others to that caring neighbor and to those formative experiences.
Sometimes people find Beall by word of mouth. She recalled providing deer meat to a mother with four young children and how “tickled” the woman was when she came to the house to pick it up. Beall spoke with pride about teaching a neighbor’s young daughter to hunt and with sadness over the recent passing of a longtime friend who had helped her build a root cellar door, which she pointed out. Young friends that remember Beall from her days driving the school bus still come around and visit, she said.
About six years ago Beall and friends built an 8 x 8 foot hunting stand with an 18 foot wheel chair ramp on her property so that people with handicaps and the elderly could hunt. The seed for that project began when a paraplegic man who fishes on
her property expressed a desire to hunt. “It’s used every year and some
come back every year,” Beall said. Materials for the shelter – which is up on stilts and has three large windows that open on to fields and woods – were donated by Will’s Ridge Supply store and individuals. “I hope it will give other people the idea that they can do this too.”
A believer in giving back to the community, Beall believes “if you see something’s wrong, you can work on it and do something about it.” She and her husband were members of the volunteer Floyd Rescue Squad for years. “I was blessed to have a helping hand in bringing the rescue squad and nursing home to Floyd,” she said.
After her retirement, Beall became active in Senior Olympics. Today she has a collection of 100 or more badges and ribbons for wins. She has volunteered at Angels in the Attic, a thrift shop ministry in Floyd that donates profits from sales back to the community. Every Friday at the local Methodist Church Beall eats with friends. Donations for those meals go to support children in the community.
Beall, who noted that she doesn’t go on the internet because she doesn’t have the time, enjoys playing cards at another local church with friends from the Agency on Aging. “We don’t just play cards, we help each other,” she said. She spoke about her interest in going to estate sales and finding re-cycled treasure deals for herself and others. Proudly pointing out a floral living room set in her home that she got for $5, she said, “I used to call this the $5 room. Then I called it the preacher’s room,” because it was the best room for entertaining guests.
After adding a commissioned painting of her family home, which hangs prominently on a wall and a purchased bear hide rug that a friend helped her find, she could no longer call it her $5 room. Currently, the room is filled with wildlife photos and frames that she got at estate sales and put together – some with fabric and some as collage. “Now I just call it my room,” Beall said.
“I love wildlife,” Beall added. Pointing out favorite photographs from her framed collection and telling the stories behind them, she explained how she likes to let the kids who come to see the animals and ponds pick out a picture before they leave. “Thank God I can still enjoy life and help others,” she said. – Colleen Redman
Our World Tuesday