The first page of John Steinbeck’s book, Cannery Row, describes its characters this way: Its inhabitants are tramps and pimps and sons of bitches, which is to say EVERYBODY. And if you were to peer through another peephole, you might see saints and angels and martyrs and holy men…and he would have meant the same thing.
A whole lot has happened in Old Fort in a small amount of time. More stuff in two weeks than two years in my “old life”. I can’t do justice to it all, but I can give you an overview. You know that scenic picture you see of the Blue Ridge Mountains? Highways twisting through amazing mountain ridges in the autumn? We live right there, but it’s not without its excitement. The “Snake” is a seven-mile stretch of steep, winding superhighway, with three emergency sand run-outs when a truck loses its brakes. This happens often. Last week, a semi loaded with approx. 21 tons of sauerkraut went through the guardrails and over the mountain. The guy is okay, but all that sauerkraut gave up the ghost. I think the bears around here were most pleased with it all. Speaking of which….
Bears: The are rules down here. The people know them…as do the bears. You leave food out, you get bears. The workers, who are redoing the house, threw sandwiches in the dumpster. Four hours later, our pups had cornered a 500 lb. black bear…not a wise thing to do. The 9 mm Glock I keep in my den served more as a noisemaker and not a very good one. What’s better? One of those compressed air boat horns…with a slug-gun as a back-up. These are things I never grappled with in PA. It’s...interesting. Strangely, it’s not a turn-off having to think of these things. It’s the opposite. You begin to feel really capable really quickly.
Weather: We’ve lived all over, different states, different countries, but I’ve never seen weather anything like what we watch every night from our second-floor deck. We are in a strange place because of the placement of the mountains. In any given moment, you might see, not one but three thunderheads heading toward you, one from the west, one from the south and the last one from, God knows where. In the space of two minutes you can go from crystal-bright sunshine to…a windy swirling fog, with the heaviest rain you’ve ever seen. Sometimes we are actually inside the thunderhead. Yesterday we had a wild one. Bold Creek, which defines on property line, went from tranquil to EXCITING in five minutes. How exciting? The two heavy wrought -iron chairs at the edge of the creek, washed away, two hundred yards and went over both of our pretty huge sets of falls. One survived. The other looked like it had been in a tornado.
The next day? A sky full of helicopters...least it sounded like it. Someone has apparently been growing grade-A fancy pot about a mile from us…and their luck ran out. Go a half mile farther and they just had a rodeo…not a pretend one, but a real one.
And it goes on and on and on. Had to shoot a snapping turtle in our pond (mud turtle down here) because it was big enough to take out one of my pups. He didn’t suffer, but when we measured him, he was 42-inches-long. Hold out your hands to what you think is a yard, then go another half a foot. Big.
Having said all that, far and away the most fascinating thing down here are the people. Without reservation, I can say that everyone I’ve met is a wild-and-wooly character of some flavor. Hicks? No. Funny? That seems to be the raison d’etre down here. If you can tell a good story, spin a yarn that ends with a laugh, you’re always welcome. I’ve never spent so much time in a hardware store, but when I leave, tears are rolling down my cheeks from laughing….and it feels GREAT!!!
Loyalty: It’s huge down here. It’s everything. Yeah, the first line of this blog says it all. These are all potential characters in a book, they’re that way. Steinbeck could just as easily have written about Old Fort, Black Mountain, and the Asheville Area. Going on two months down here and every single day is different. Every single day is a learning experience.
Once again, this suggestion is for you, not for me. Gamble a minute and go to Romantic Asheville.com. You can’t get the full hit from a website. It’s like trying to describe what an orgasm is like, or maybe the best hot fudge sundae you ever had. You can’t describe it. You have to experience it. Today, I’ve given you the gritty side. I could just as easily have told you about Bruce’s Fabulous Foods in Marion where they make over 130 different custom flavored cheesecakes. Or the amazing and ubiquitous waterfalls. We have two huge ones and a quarter mile away a 350 foot tall set of falls.
P.S.When my friend and realtor helped me with the paperwork on the house, he smiled and said, “They’re gonna love you two down here.” I wasn’t so sure of that. I know this, however. Pam and I love these folks and we LOVE it here! Guest house is about finished…another week or so and we’ll be making invites.
P.P.S. We named our pond today. It came to Pam while we were watching the “critters.” We’re calling our pond, “Snapper Soup”.