Fillmore resident Brenda Blakey Croan is proud to have published three books about her upbringing in a Virginia salt mining town built on land once owned by Patrick Henry.
"I think of myself as a cross between Laura Ingalls and Loretta Lynn," claims the feisty author, who lives with her husband Charlie on their farm east of Greencastle.
Croan's book "Salt Mountain Girl "was published in 2001 by Vantage Press. While the book is interesting, it's the author who is a testament to what can be achieved with a 10th-grade education. She will emphatically tell you her two-room schoolhouse education from first to fourth grade had a big impact on her life.
In fact, when Croan learned she was to be honored by her hometown in 2006, she wrote to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine asking for her grade school teachers Lorene Wilson and Olivine Saunders to also be honored The governor complied and sent "Outstanding Teacher" awards to each of the women. It was also at this same event in Saltville that the town mayor bestowed the title of "Salt Mountain Girl" on Croan.
"Teachers back then cared about kids, took time with them, and even though we were really bad sometimes, they were dedicated," Croan said.
One of 14 children, she had five brothers who served in the U.S. military. Strong in her love of family and community, she says she was inspired by her recollection of humble begins to write her story in "Salt Mountain Girl."
Her second book "Return to Salt Mountain" captures her decision to return to her roots leaving everything in Indiana behind. Her third book pays homage to her birthplace of Buckeye Hollow. It is tittled "Buckey Hollow Home Sweet Home."
In 1981 Croan moved to Indiana from Virginia. In 2000 she decided to go to school in Brownsburg and finish her high school education. She didn't get her G.E.D. even after three tries, but she was inspired to write about her life. Her father-in-law made the suggestion, and she decided to try. She considers her accomplishment of writing three books more than equal to getting her GED.
Just how did this 50-something woman go from a salt mining town to the big city life of Indianapolis back to living in the holler and finally ending up in tiny Fillmore?
"My life took me in different directions. After I came back to Indianapolis the last time, I just decided to give up everything and start all over. So I moved to Greencastle to live with my first mother-in-law."
After awhile she answered a personal ad and found her fifth husband Charlie. And, that's how she ended up in Fillmore.
She has had stories about her life written in many local publications and has been interviewed on television in both Indiana and Virginia. Asked if she planned to write any more books, she says she doesn't think so. She has met celebrities like race car driver Aurie Luyendyke and singer Brenda Lee. Most importantly, she has helped increase tourism to her beloved Salt Mountain area.
In an odd twist of chance, Croan is not the only local celebrity from Saltville. Country music singer Clay Davidson ("Unconditional") and CBS Survivor star Big Tom Buchanan (CBS Survivor-Africa and Survivor All Stars) are also from the tiny town.