My growing up home place was in the Brushy Mountains outside Wilkesboro and N. Wilkesboro, N.C. Keep this city name in mind for there is a treat at the end of this blog.
After high school, I left with my parents to live in Florida. I never expected that I would one day go back to the mountains. Since Fall is my favorite season and unfortunately, in Florida, we only get a few brown leaves in mid-winter, we have to be in the mountains to enjoy that season. Don’t misunderstand for I’m not complaining about the beautiful green, citrus fruit, or warm weather in Florida. It’s still a great place even with the frequent hurricanes.
Riding just a little further up the mountain to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, my husband and I felt it was a wonderful place to enjoy at least for a few months of the year. Winter is a little too cold for us “flat-landers”, as we are sometimes called. The time we stayed on after the Fall to see the first snow, we bundled up like we were in Alaska to take our dog, Gracie, out for her final evening bathroom break. She would stand and stare into the woods, sensing the deer were close by. Their eyes would sometimes shine in the dark…and the wind biting at our noses sent us racing back inside the house.
Nevertheless, I think that the “country girl” was still in me. Coming back to Virginia and North Carolina, it was evident that I had a great affinity for the way of life and the people of these mountains.
Why do I say this? I only know that the people have a warm disposition and a sense of humor that I have not found to such a degree anywhere else around the world. I have been fortunate enough to visit or teach in places like Mongolia, Guatemala, Ukraine, Switzerland, France, and Japan. Still, these hills and the valleys, where a person can look deep into a ravine, keep calling me back. Fourteen cousins and my Uncle John still call the VA-N.C. mountains and foothills their home…so it’s probably a genetic “family thing” as well.
The Blue Ridge has it all…steep mountain cliffs and valleys, rolling hills filled with vegetable crops and orchards of delicious fruit.
The bear, deer, rabbits, and other “critters” also make it their place of residence. The humming- birds fly to the sweet-smelling sugar water put out in the gardens and the rabbits help themselves to whatever… wherever. Speaking of bear, one came up to our front porch to push over and have her fill at our feeder. No longer do we provide such a delicacy.
From my window, I can hear the cows, donkeys and lambs in the fields. At night the stars are clear and brilliant. When the moon is full, the coyotes roam about making their distinctive sound while looking for something to bring back to their little ones in the den.
The Spring along the Blue Ridge Parkway is filled with wild-flowers and the white and pink rhododendron bushes line the road. Small barns, churches, and family graves stand as a testament to those who have lived here in generations past. Some mountain people with roots back to the Civil War, still proudly fly their Confederate flags and dare anyone to tell them that they can’t. They also just as strongly hold to their “guns and their religion.” They are a proud people, that I have found, will come to one’s help at anytime or any hour.
Someone may ask why I am writing about the Fall when it’s Spring and Summer is just around the corner? Perhaps I’m giving an invitation to make your plans now to see this glorious place. Not so long from now, the leaves will flutter about and turn to a deep orange and red. The pumpkins will lay over acres and acres of the hillsides turning the farms into a special hue of gold. The tractors will slowly make their way from the fields to the barns. Sometimes those same tractors take family or friends on flatbeds to enjoy the countryside. Visitors from far and wide stop and take in the breath-taking views of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
It’s also the Fall that brings the people to these mountains.
Maybe my next book will be for all these visitors who come this way … to give them heads up and a little advice to what it’s like to visit or live in the mountains. I’m thinking it will be titled, “What Everyone Needs to Know Before Visiting or Planning to Live in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
This might be a part of this new book.
“Don’t come thinking that you’ll be treated like in New York City…or Paris…or somewhere. You’ll have to slow down, enjoy English laced with a warm, Southern drawl, and be greeted just like you are family. When you go to a small, family-run restaurant, walk right in, greet the people sitting there with “Hey there. How’s everybody? Got anything good to eat in here?” (Not “Hi There”…for it’s N.Y City sounding to their ears..and remember this is “Rebel” territory.)
They’ll know you aren’t from the Blue Ridge, but they’ll be friendly- like and greet you with some jolly response. Don’t worry if someone comes over to your table and asks your name or finds out what brought you to these parts. When you finish eating, look around, wave and tell everyone, “Goodbye…see you next time!” They’ll appreciate it.
When you drive back to where you are staying and a truck rounds the corner giving you a “one finger wave,” (NOT the middle)… just wave back. They aren’t flagging you down…but saying “Hello.”
Want to know more? Be looking for my book title sometime in the near future on the internet. As I close this blog, I think I will let the Kruger Brothers sing what it’s like to be in “Carolina in the Fall”….and I would also add… Virginia. Hope to see “Y’all” up this way someday.
VIDEO (Turn up sound)
More recently I wrote about The Mountain Way of Virginia and North Carolina. The history is fascinating and the people hardy, but the mountains are a marvelous beauty! This week I spent driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway and visiting some of the small towns, like Floyd, VA. The towns vary, but all have the Mom and Pop restaurants with home cooking: grits, country ham, fluffy biscuits with or without a rich, brown gravy.
It seems that “outsiders” have found the mountains, as I have run into a Greek restaurant owner; a Colorado sign maker, and Jacksonville Center for the Arts in Floyd has invited musicians from the Czech Republic and a pianist from Russia. Yes, Blue grass music is widely played, but it is not all that is part of the mountains.
Rich in history; proud of their past…one will see memorials to the Civil War dead and those who fought the elements to live in this beautiful place…like Ed and Lizzie Mabry who built their Mill…now preserved for all to enjoy on the Parkway.
Today, you are going to have a visual experience. As you look, thank God for all He has created and share it with friends and family that may not have a mountain experience.
Those of us in Florida do not always get to see the beauty of the Fall season when leaves turn their golden colors mixed with red. Perhaps one of our most memorable trips was to visit Japan in the Fall when the maples had turned a brilliant red.
The Fall scenes you will see remind me of my birthplace in the mountains of North Carolina and our home in Virginia. This weekend, however, I invite you to listen to piano music and see Japan again with me in the video below. (Enlarge picture for better viewing.)