Russell County, down around the Virginia-Kentucky border, is home to an extraordinary culinary artist, Linda Skeens. In June, at the Virginia-Kentucky District Fair, she received 25 of the fair’s 80 various house-cooking contest categories. That news went viral on social media.
Skeens took top rated honors for cakes, pies, brownies, spaghetti sauce, canned corn, sauerkraut and much more. She won ideal jelly and best jam and finest apple butter, way too. Some categories she swept completely, winning blue, crimson and white ribbons for her cookies, savory breads and candies.
That Linda Skeens is a wife, mom and grandmother in her 60s who doesn’t use social media or have a cellphone. But this column is not about her.
This is about the Linda Skeens in Blacksburg, a laughter-loving former dental assistant who hates to prepare dinner and who didn’t understand to generate till she was 20.
She’ll fortunately notify any individual that “the very best issue that ever happened to me” was the working day her ex-wife or husband left her.
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To put it mildly, she’s a character.
In contrast to the other Linda Skeens, Blacksburg Linda has a Fb site. And she’s absolutely grooving on all the notice she’s been given, from people all-around the globe, who’ve mistaken her for the kitchen-magician in Russell County.
“I’ve been touched by so quite a few persons,” Blacksburg Linda told me Thursday. “It just tends to make me so delighted. It’s just been the time of my everyday living.”
She’s still fielding phone calls from radio deejays and reporters on the lookout for the other Linda. She pinned a disclaimer-article to the leading of her Fb page, notifying visitors she’s not the stove-and-oven wizard.
She’s replied to just about every message and social media comment dealt with to her. Individuals selection in the hundreds.
“I AM NOT THE LINDA SKEENS BAKING PHENOM WHO Received ALL OF THE RIBBONS AT THE KENTUCKY VIRGINIA DISTRICT Reasonable,” the pinned article reads. “I absolutely sure wish I was, mainly because I have been contacted by people today from Pennsylvania inviting me to Thanksgiving meal and providing to shell out my way to get there, I’ve heard from a pleasant guy from Indonesia, and all forms of Excellent people today Convinced it is me!! But, alas, I am not the a single.”
In some of the social media feedback, people today wrote issues these as, “That’s Alright, I believe I like you far better.”
A person male proposed relationship in a Facebook remark. For kicks, Blacksburg Linda replied, “Yes I will. Your shift.” The man in Pennsylvania who invited her for Thanksgiving available $200 in vacation bills.
She’s now Fb pals with the other Linda’s granddaughter, Franki Skeens. And she’s heard from still a further Linda Skeens, in Morehead, Kentucky, who’s significantly much less amused at the mistaken-identity hullabaloo.
“I’m acquiring so durn fatigued of having all these cell phone phone calls from radio stations, I’m just going to hold up on the next a person,” Morehead Linda told her.
“She’s not finding the joke,” Blacksburg Linda explained.
Linda Skeens is 68, joyously single because 1985, retired from an administrative task at the veterinary teaching medical center at Virginia Tech. She lives in a bungalow on 30 acres with 5 cats she owns and other people she once in a while fosters. She rents the area from a landlord who life in Montana.
In the previous 18 months she’s lost 90 lbs ., through a diet that will involve what appears like self-hypnosis. Now, she’s down to a trim 125 and she’s emotion much better than she has in 30 a long time, she reported. She’s wanting ahead to her 50th superior-university reunion in August.
Blacksburg Linda grew up in Dublin. As a boy or girl, she walked to Dublin Elementary, which she began in to start with grade simply because, “back then only the prosperous youngsters acquired to go to kindergarten and I was not a prosperous child.”
She walked to Dublin High University, and New River Community Faculty, far too. Her late father, a supervisor at a textile factory in Newbern, forbade her from at any time acquiring behind the wheel of his beloved Ramblers. Which is why she did not understand to push until eventually she was 20.
At age 19, she robbed the cradle and married a higher-school senior. “It was a scandal,” she reported gleefully. He was a valedictorian from Christiansburg Large. Even though she worked in dental places of work in Virginia and Alabama to assist them, he gained a doctorate in veterinary medicine, she claimed.
Inevitably they moved again to Blacksburg, wherever he bought a task at Virginia Tech, and they divorced. Later on, she ended up functioning at the veterinary educating hospital, she explained. She served initiate a fund there, for men and women who could not find the money for therapy for their unwell pets, she claimed.
She was the only girl in a family members of 4 young children. One of her brothers, Randy, died tragically at age 38. Randy was developmentally disabled. He was hit by a car in a crosswalk, and lingered in a vegetative point out for two decades, she mentioned. That year, Dublin named its Xmas parade in his honor.
As a youthful lady, she helped elevate one more brother who was 10 many years more youthful. That practical experience typically taught her she by no means preferred to have kids, she explained to me.
She has her mother’s title, Billie Jean, tattooed on her still left forearm. On her appropriate, she has “Wildwood Flower,” the title of her late father’s preferred song. Exterior the textile mill, Dale Skeens could “could enjoy the guitar like a qualified,” she reported. “And he sang.” He favored outdated-timey country-roots new music.
The tattoos are terrific discussion-starters, she told me. When people check with about them, it gives an opening for her to talk about her beloved mom and dad. Billie Jean is even now with us, at 89.
“I come from a loooong line of storytellers,” who were being lifted in the hills of significantly northwestern North Carolina. That’s her mom’s aspect of the relatives, she additional.
Her late father was from Russell County. Some armchair genealogists she appreciates are making an attempt to determine out if she and the other Linda are somehow relevant.
“Daddy experienced nine siblings,” she explained. “I had all these aunts. They could choose a filth clog and cook dinner it and make you think you were feeding on a baked potato.”
Blacksburg Linda is not fully worthless in the kitchen. She can boil drinking water, and sautee squash, onions and curry with a tab of butter in a frying pan. That recipe she learned for the duration of her latest weight-decline odyssey, which she lined on her Facebook site, and for which she’s gained fantastic encouragement.
But “baking bread, or baking a cake? Are you kidding me? I have under no circumstances performed everything like that in my lifetime,” Blacksburg Linda informed me. “I’ve obtained a lot of competencies, but cooking is not a single of them.”
She can sew like a demon, she claimed. She acquired as a kid. Escalating up, “I designed all of my own clothing,” she explained to me.
“I could sew you a pair of trousers,” she stated. “I could sew you a sport coat.”
I consider she would, if I requested.
Blacksburg Linda is also an award-successful artist. She paints landscapes and bouquets and animals, and draws portraits, and helps make sunflower-dotted pro-Ukraine polymer lapel pins. She’s mailed hundreds of all those, free of charge, to any individual who requests one — extra than 300 in all, she estimated. The other working day, she transported just one to a little woman in Norway.
In that deal, she also involved a cicada lapel pin she painted some info about the insect a cat-impressed lapel pin a Dublin, Virginia, T-shirt and a individual letter from Dublin Mayor Benny Skeens. He’s Blacksburg Linda’s cousin.
The postage for that package deal was $64, she said.
We have been on the telephone Thursday for at the very least 90 minutes. What you’ve study so much covers fewer than 25% of that dialogue. Suffice it to say, Blacksburg Linda is the happiest-sounding person I have spoken to in ages. If she could bottle and promote that joie de vivre, she’d make a mint.
“The reliable Linda Skeens deserves each individual ribbon she’s gained. She justifies all the credit,” Blacksburg Linda explained
“But I’ve experienced the most fantastic time, and fulfilled the most outstanding people today,” she added. “Their comments are HILARIOUS, and they are so sweet.”
Call metro columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter:.