Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mountain Community

Where we live is a very special place in the world. These Appalachian Mountains are millions of years old. They have been making their way across the face of the planet, inching their way east, and weathering for eons. Unlike the younger, bold Rockies in the West these mountains have mellowed with age. The New River which flows nearby is the second oldest river in the world, only predated by the Nile. There is a mystical and spiritual quality to these hills and "hollars".

My ancestors came here along with other Ulster Scot and German pioneers several centuries ago. The MacBeane's moved on further west but many families stayed and have been here ever since. In an area there may be many with the same surname, Delp, Holdaway, Phipps, Roberts, Edwards and I must mention Shelor, just to name a few.

Cemeteries are named for the clan buried there. In the days when travel was difficult the remains of departed loved ones were interred close to home. It's not unusual to find graves next to a home or along side of a back mountain road. Cemeteries aren't large but rather there are many scattered through out the countryside. But for whatever reason people remain youthful and barring accidents live a long time. I think it's the clean air and water along with a healthy natural diet. Also strong immune systems are developed from living so close to the land.

One of the good things about selling insurance is meeting many of the people in the area. Working in a incredably beautiful area called Elk Creek for the past month or so we have become almost a part of the community. One thing about it people in these parts do talk to each other and strangers are a topic of conversation. But I have in return come to know many wonderful people who have lived in Elk Creek, if not all, then most of their lives. The social center of Elk Creek is the "diner". Sooner or later (and it's mostly sooner) you will meet everyone in the area at this general store, gas station, barber and beauty shop, source for hunting and fishing gear, pool hall, and card room. Oh yes, there is the "diner", really a restaurant and general hang out.

Ninety year old Gilbert Roberts has a farm on Serenity Road. Everyone for miles around knows Gilbert. After several attempts at finding him home we were about to leave when after Wanda tooted the car horn and I heard in the distance the whirr of an engine getting closer. Then from over the hill appeared an all terrain vehicle or as they're called up here a "4 wheeler". The man astride who appeared about three score years and who I assumed (wrongly) was Gilbert's son was, in fact, himself. Seems some cattle had gotten loose and had to be rounded up. We spent the better part of an hour with this delightful man as he moved about with the agility of one half his age. He had built his house originally "up yonder" in the 1930's and later moved it to it's present location adding on as space was needed. He told us of the "dry pond" up the mountain. A depression in the rock which seeped water and of "Roberts Cove". Proudly he brought out the family genealogy detailing births, deaths, wills, and purchases since his family moved into the area back in the 1700's. And he showed us the pictures of himself and "Big Jim" of "Survivor " fame when the later visited his farm. Of course, we were invited back and certainly will take him up on that invite.

Often people are quick to invite us in at the first knock on their door. Whether they are interested in the insurance or not we are many times offered dinner or lunch and shown a hospitality unheard of in other more urban places. There remains a strong sense of community in this mountain country. People wave as their cars or pickups or tractors pass. And those of us who were a short time ago strangers become friends.

That mystical and spiritual quality forms a bond among us mountain dwellers. I said in one of my earlier posts, we don't choose these mountains, they choose us. This life isn't for everyone but those of us fortunate enough to be among the chosen find a wealth that overcomes the economic disadvantages.


Anonymous Lifecruiser said...

Wow, you're making me envy you with this post :-) That sounds just terrific. What an athmosphere you've got there. something to be proud of and maintain! Wonderful!

11:31 AM  
Blogger Ally Bean said...

it's amazing that kind of hospitality still exists anywhere. how lovely.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Leslie Shelor said...

Sounds like you're meeting some interesting folks. Love those Grayson County names.

3:41 PM  
Blogger itsboopchile said...

Oh, what a wonderful life you lead. So happy you share it with us.
See you, Betty G

9:20 PM  
Blogger benning said...

Very pleasant post, mac. Pics are great, too. Sounds like you are making an awful lot of friends of thar in the hoots and hollers.

My favorite spot on earth is around Boone, NC. Up there in the Blue Ridge it feels like you're in the middle of forever. Wish I could afford to move there.



5:41 AM  
Blogger Hick said...

Wonderful post and wonderful pictures.

9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You may want to check out

if you get truly interested in the history of the people in the area. They also have a cemetary project which lists all of the headstones in each, often with identifiers of veterans. I'm particularly interested in the CSA designation of the Civil War.

6:32 AM  

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