Posts Tagged ‘Blue Ridge mountains’

Blue Ridge Mountain Home

December 20, 2019

Driving in bright, brisk December sunshine, winding slowly along a Blue Ridge mountain holler road, I arrived yesterday afternoon at the house address that I had earlier noted.

Turning off the car engine silenced radio reportage about the impending impeachment, which is neither here nor there. I am looking for an old fella that I recently read about in a locally written book.

The house is small, light green, near the side of the road, very neat and compact, meticulously maintained.I  This home is the kind of modest dwelling that was being built around these parts in the 1950’s, but it has been recently updated with vinyl siding. My carpenter eye notices the perfectly installed exterior. Nice job.

An attractive, low stone wall just a few steps from the roadway affords a stairway down to a welcoming front porch.  The front door is absolutely white, six-paneled proper in sunshine. It begs knocking, and so I do.

The lady who opens it is thin, with gray hair. She has a classic Scotch-looking mountain face, pleasantly aged with complimentary wrinkles. I forget now what she said, but it was some kind of greeting. I offered her my concise explanation for my visit this afternoon.

“Hi. My name is Carey Rowland. I’ve been doing some historical research—for a novel I am writing— about the Cone estate, and the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway through it back in the 1940’s or ’50’s.  I recently read an interview, published in 1997, with Mr. Paul Moody, who, I understand used to work for Bertha Cone.”

“I’m his wife.” she said

Well, gollee, I’ve come to the right place.

This was a pleasant surprise. I’m still new at this historical research stuff. The last few doors I had recently knocked on were run-down abandoned places with nobody home. A little confused about exactly what my next question should be, I blurted:

“Is he alive?”

“He’s right in here. You wanta talk to him?”

“Yes ma-am!”

“Come on in. I’ll get him.”

And so I did, and she did.  Next thing you know, I’m looking around in this smallish, comfortably lived-in den or living room. A few seconds later, Paul walks in, smiling.

Well gollee.

“Well, what can I do for ye?” he says, pleasantly.

And so I explained a little— that I had been living around here since the early ’80’s, raising a family with my wife, and the first job I had up here was working on the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is, as you know, the missing link, in the middle of a 469-mile parkway that took fifty years to build—

And, as the old shake and bake commercial says. . . “and I helped!”

“Well, sit down,” said Paul.

Not in that chair, I thought, noticing the easy chair. That’s obviously his chair, with visual evidence of Paul’s accustomed comfort, possibly reading comfort, over years of sitting.  No sign of a TV in the room.

So I took my seat on the couch. “Thank you, sir!”

Long story short. Paul began talking about the Moses Cone Estate, on which he had been born in 1933, and thereby born into the hired help. His grandfather had been superintendent of the place back in the day— since before 1908 when Moses had died, and his father had been foreman of the apple orchard.

Paul proceeded to answer just about every question about the place that had been on my mind these last few weeks. This was becoming a very productive day, from a writerly standpoint.

He is a very pleasant fellow, full of history, and willing to talk about it. A historical fiction-writer’s dream informant. After awhile he took me back in the other rooms. He showed me the kitchen cabinets he had built, with frame-and-panel cherry doors on cherry face-frame, then took me back into the expansive laundry room, which was sunshine bright and entirely paneled with whitish, wormy pine, milled from trees that he himself had cut down.

A true mountain man, this Paul. The 16-gauge shotgun mounted over the doorway had been bequeathed to Paul from the Cone estate when Bertha died in 1947.

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Here’s Paul with his life-long wife, Margaret, who also came from a family of the hired help of the Cone estate, now the Moses Cone Memorial Park. They’re standing in front of another piece of his handiwork, filled with a lifetime of precious family mementos.

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After more friendly conversation and explanation, he took me out to his shop, where he had built the cabinets and the furniture and God-knows-what else.

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as far as ole folks from the Old School go, they don’t make ‘em like Paul any more.

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And the rest is history, which you may read about in two or three years when I finish the novel . . .

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The Parkway Cometh

June 22, 2019

In 1937, the following scene probably happened somewhere near where we live in the Blue Ridge, North Carolina:

“What does it say?”

Jake handed the letter to his father. “There’s a lot of gobble-dy-gook there, Pa, but it says the land stopped bein’ ours when they posted it down at the courthouse.”

“Posted what?”

“The map of all the land they need to take.”

Jeremiah turned around slightly. Casting an eye on his nearby rocker, he carefully took aim and seated himself. Looking up again at his boy, “Well they ain’t paid us for it yit.”

“That needs to be decided yet, Pa.” Jake shook his head slowly. “It’s lookin’ like this is gonna drag on fer awhile.”

“We told that inspector fella we’d take forty.”

“It ain’t that simple, Pa. Them lawyers down in Raleigh gonna pay us whatever they say it’s worth.”

“Damn, son! What is this? Damn communists!”

Jake set the letter down on the side-cabinet. He had managed to glance through it and get the gist. “Shit, pa, it ain’t that bad. They’re just tryin’ to build that road real nice and scenic so’s people’ll come drivin’ up here and spend their money.”

“Well I guess that’s all well ‘n good, son. But I ain’t been down to the courthouse to see what they posted. Don’t seem right that we ain’t got payment, and we don’t even know how much we’re gonna git!”

“It’ll all work out, Pa. At least they’re only takin’ one side of our land. Watsons and Purlears got their places split up. And from what I’ve heard from Miller up in Ashe, them that got their land split up won’t be able to even drive from one side t’other. So be thankful for what you got. Ain’t  that what the Book says?” Jake looked his father in the eye. “Be thankful we’ll still be able to drive the tractor from one side all the way across the field to the other side.”

“Yeah, what’s left of it,” Jeremiah mumbled as he commenced to rocking. He looked out the window, through the porch at the front yard. “Hell, I don’t know what this world’s coming to.

Jake was reading another letter, silently. His attention riveted there, he said nothing, just nodded his head, looking down at the script on a letter from his aunt Polly in Foscoe.

“New Deal, I guess,” his father continued while Jake folded Polly’s letter and picked up another piece of mail.

“Yeah, Pa, I reckon it’s the New Deal. Did Sally say what time they’d be back?

“’bout four, I think she said.”

Pa had been pondering. “Son, did you know they posted that map at the courthouse?

Jake sighed. “Yeah, Pa, I knew about it. I went and looked at it on Friday when I was in town. Roby Watson told me about it while I was in Goodnight’s pickin’ up feed.”

“I guess you didn’t wanna tell me, huh?”

“Nah, pa, I just forgot about it.” Jake sat down in his easy chair. Now he was reading something else.

“You forgot about it.”

“Yeah, Pa.” Jake nodded his head slowly, preoccupied with his bank statement.

Jeremiah was rocking steadily now, as if he were relaxed and maybe resigning himself to whatever it was that was about to happen that would change the shape of the 67 acres he had inherited from his father back in 1910. “Seems a little strange to me, boy, you could forget about something as important as losing a quarter of our land.” No judgement in his voice. Just sayin’. Pa had calmed down from his earlier rant.

“I mean,” Jake looked up at his father again, smiling slightly. “I mean, I didn’t forget about it; I just forgot to tell you about it.”

“Uh huh.”

Jake’s expression morphed slowly  from concentration in his letter-reading, to a mild amusement. “Shootfire, Pa, there’s somethin’ else I forgot to tell you.

“Oh yeah?” His father allowed a mild chuckle. Mr. Roosevelt gonna bring us a hog or two as a consolation prize?

“Actually, it is kinda like that . . . maybe a peace offering. Uncle Skip told Roby he’d give me a job running one of them road graders.”

“On the new road?” Jeremiah’s voice acquired an even more amused tone.

“Yep.”

Jake’s father laughed. “Well, ain’t that a cat’s whisker! I seen it all now. The Parkway giveth and the Parkway taketh away,” he declared, playing upon some ancient proverb. Now he set the rocker into a steady pace. “And when’s that gonna start?”

“Coupla weeks, or something like that,” Jake replied. “They gotta finish that little bit of blasting over there near the highway. Then, Skip says, they’ll pretty much be ready to grade from Deep Gap all the way to Aho.”

“Well, I guess that’s good news for Uncle Sam, but it’ll blast the hell out of our peace and quiet around here with all that machinery and whatnot takin’ over this country.”

“Not takin’ over, Pa, just makin’ it easy for folks to come up here and spend money, after they lay the asphalt to it.”

“I reckon it will be easier for them rich folks down the mountain to come up here and ride around in their Cadillacs, like over in Blowin’ Rock.”

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Yep. Coulda happened. . . maybe, maybe not. Long time ago . . . but we haven’t  yet totally obliterated our consciousness of the past with our contemporary obsession in social media and and political side-show antics. Not yet.

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