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”.
I continue to read about your new life with a smile, Henry. I’m truly tickled for both of you.
As an aside – we’ve got some pretty wild wildlife, here, too. Armadillos aerating my lawn, bobcat (had one in my backyard), foxes taking a stroll on the sidewalk, alligators in the 3 ponds across, and down, the street. Can’t tell you how many turtles (including snappers) I’ve picked up off the road before they could become the main ingredient in someone’s turtle soup.
I can honestly say that I haven’t missed the seasons (I’ll never miss winter!) or the northern vegetation, or the variations in topography, until I visit Beth in VA at a particularly lovely time of year. But, I wouldn’t trade living in Sarasota for any place else (at least for now).
Wishing you good health, and sending my warmest regards,
A long time ago we owned a tiny island, called Money Key off of Summerland Key, and saw lots and lots of wildlife down in the area. Every place has it’s pros and cons and it sounds like you’re having a ball down there! That’s how it’s supposed to be. Big hug and keep up the energy and the humor.
You and Wade will have a ball here! You’d be amused and fascinated. I have a new friend who raises miniature horse and breeds them. One of them is worth over 200K and they are truly his “babies” We both have somewhat warped senses of humor and when I go into Gibbs hardware where he works, I come back with cramps in my stomach from laughing so hard.
Hope to see you…
This is Suzie, Mike’s wife.
You need to check out “Zuli” the camel in Sugar Hill. There is a huge sign that says “Zuli has a hump for Trump” in her pasture. Our friend on Stone Mountain, Reid Murphy, is a welder. Zuli’s owner is from Texas and has a friend from Texas coming next week to measure for a saddle for Zuli. They called Reid and asked him to come weld it. Reid thought someone was playing a joke on him, so he came in to see Mike because he “just knew there was no camel around here”.
Talking to Mike today, there just might be a possibility of our having a little dinner over here….which would be GREAT!
Hi Henry ya’ all,
Is your website having some glitches? I know there are comments though it says “no comments”. Though you might want to know.
Good to hear from you!
I’m always candid with you and the only glitches have been the ones in my brain. The days have been complete blurs down here (in a good way) and I just got behind the power curve posting some of the responses. Just screwed up a bit. But all is well and life is suddenly exciting again. Hope to see you and Pat down here some time!
Sounds as if you two made a helluva good move! So very happy that you’re soakin’ it all in with such joy!
(About that ‘mud turtle’ : are you sure you’re not reporting like the fisherman who just caught the “biggest dang fish out thar!”). I mean, seriously!
And, hey, bears get hungry, too!
Life up here is hot, hot, hot! Sure hope you guys are just as lucky!
Hey Mary Lou!
No B.S. this place borders on being magical. To indulge in a little metaphor, even the finest Porsche racing engine won’t last too long without a bit of oil and grease. The humor is the oil down here. I LOVE making people laugh and these folks are primed and ready….and the humor is nuanced and quick as lightning. The loyalty takes longer…as it should, but I’d take a bullet for a large handful of folks down here, and the feeling is mutual and genuine. Pam is the happiest I’ve seen her since we were dating.
And thanks for the good wishes!!!
Asheville’s nickname is the “Paris of the South” I disagree. I think it’s nicer and just as pretty, in its own special way. Are there crap people down here? Sure, but everyone knows who they are.
Yup it’s HOT, maybe a few degrees cooler than Lahaska, but it’s been muggy. Folks here say it’s the worst they’ve seen, but it beats the hell out of the years we lived in Tucson.
Hope you’ll come down and give it a shot. The springs and falls down here are long, winters are short and about the worst they’ll get is one 6-8 inch storm. BFD.
Big hug, Mary Lou!
Henry and Pam
Your new place sounds like heaven. For my entire life I have loved thunderstorms. We have fabulous ones in Oklahoma too, but I have never witnessed 3 thunderheads coming from different directions! As for the bears – you do realize that after eating all of the sauerkraut they will be getting more clever by the day! Luckily you have those brave little dogs to protect you.
It’s so great to read how well you are adapting to new surroundings. Packing a leaving a beautiful place like Crossbow would have been difficult for me. But change is good and it sounds like you did it without missing a beat.
Mike and I have never been to your neck in the words but the local chamber of commerce needs to put you on staff because we’re intrigued now.
I always enjoy reading your posts!
Good to hear from you!
If we weren’t living here for a month and a half, I’d be really skeptical that anything could live up to the last 30 years at CrossBow. We were resigned to the fact that it’d be a bit of a step-down. And we were wrong. The property really kicks ass. Can’t think of anything that’s comparable. Think of a really long wooded golf course with 12 ft falls and you’ll be in the ballpark. Paying one tenth the taxes we were paying isn’t too hard to take either.
Sooo, how have you been, Sam? Hoping you’re continuing to pursue the world of healthful cuisine. If you and Mike are up for trying a different kind of place to vacation, Asheville is really a sleeper. Has it’s own philharmonic and ballet troupe, 31 falls, and ….blah blah blah.. Sorry for the enthusiasm. Still bubbling and haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.
The other plus is that it’s taken away the concentration and insanity of the political world right now. Never seen it so weird or so scary.
It used to be that you had to be careful about talking religion. Now we keep safe by saying we don’t really like much of any of them…which is pretty true.
Keep in touch and LIVE your life. This isn’t a dress rehearsal.
This is the first blog I have ever read, very interesting. I may have to read the rest. Welcome to my bit of heaven. Rick and Deb
Thanks Rick and Deb! We are honored to be here. You chose well, coming here. Great seeing you two and getting a chance to talk.
Henry and Pamela