What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (Prologue)

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I know! I haven’t blogged in too long. Hope I didn’t lose to many subscribers. I seem to either go full speed ahead or not at all when it comes to blogging. I’m going to try (mind you, not promising anything) to post more regularly. If it works out the way I hope, there will be at least one post a week. If I were smart (again, not saying…), I’d write bunches of blogs at a time. Then I could get ahead and have some ready for when I either get tied up with work or have the occasional brain cramp.

Jim and I actually took a summer vacation again this year (GASP!!!)

As this was a “landmark” birthday for me this year, I wanted to vacation someplace that is special to me. It was really a no-brainer deciding that I wanted to spend our week mostly in North Carolina.

As a bit of background, I spent most of my summers in North Carolina when I was growing up. My aunt and uncle lived in Elkin, North Carolina for the early years. I actually remember a few tidbits from my second birthday. The party was held in Elkin. I know, it’s hard to believe I could have memories that go that far back, but everything about that birthday was unusual. My mother and I had actually flown to North Carolina for that summer. These days, that wouldn’t be at all unusual. In the early 1950s? Quite a different story.

My aunt grew up in Waynesville, North Carolina. I had listened to her talk about her home town for so many years, I felt like I knew it, too. Years later, my parents were offered the opportunity to purchase land on Eagle’s Nest Mountain in Waynesville. A neighbor was involved in a partnership to development a portion of the mountain and offered my parents the chance to get in on the ground-floor at the pre-development prices. They jumped at the chance. I’ll never forget driving up Eagle’s Nest for the first time to choose our lots. I immediately fell in love with the mountain and knew I’d come “home.”

Waynesville has, ever since, been a magical place for me. Even after our home on Eagle’s Nest burned to the ground in late 1980, Waynesville has held a very special place in my heart. Memories of spending happy times with family (immediate and extended) are part of the reason for this; however, there is just something about the town and the people who live there that makes me feel warm and welcome.

Our vacation would be partially in Waynesville, partially in Asheville, and end up in Georgetown, Kentucky at Old Friends Equine – A Retirement Home for Thoroughbred Racehorses.

Up Next: The Drive to Asheville

 

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A True(ly) Scary Story

I thought it appropriate to re-share a true frightening tale which happened to me on this Halloween!

Colmel's Blog

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

Halloween is coming, so I thought I’d tell you one of my true(ly) scary stories. This one is about something that happened while we were in our house on Eagles’ Nest Mountain in Waynesville, NC.

 

One day, my mother and I decided to go visit friends in Highlands, NC. My sister, Melanie, was quite young at the time and had a very good friend who lived at the bottom of the mountain. Our house was near the very top of the mountain (with glorious views of Maggie…

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Another True(ly) Frightening Experience

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I don’t know if you would call it the “Devil” or just a manifestation of an evil force, but I know it exists.

 

When I was in my early 20s, I had an experience with what I consider the supernatural, and it truly frightened me.

 

We were in our home in on Eagles’ Nest Mountain in Waynesville, North Carolina which was on top of a mountain with a terrific view of the Smokies. Every thing about the house was warm and comfortable – except one night. That night there was no indication that something really evil was about to show itself.

 

We all went to bed as normal. My dad wasn’t home with us, so my little sister was upstairs with my mother in her room, my brother was in his bedroom, and I was in mine. Everything settled down to a noiseless, deep darkness.

 

The next thing I knew, our dog (a German Shepherd/Collie mix) jumped up on the bed and started to walk up onto my chest and stare down at me. It occurred to me that there was very little weight to her (now, this was a 50+ lb dog). I knew something wasn’t right. Then as I looked at her and tried to speak, her eyes started to glow an eerie reddish glow. The whole feel was of some extreme evil. This was absolutely NOT my dog. It was something trying to take on her image to get to me.

 

I somehow jumped out from under the “being” and reached for the light switch. As the light came on, there was nothing in the room. I thought perhaps it was a dream, but I truly did get to the switch, the lights did come on, and I did “feel” the being walk up on me. I truly don’t believe, in my heart, that it was a dream.

 

I ran through the house to make certain that the evil was gone and I wanted to make sure my dog was okay. Sure enough, our dog was in my brother’s room and looked up sleepily when I opened his door. She was fine and not at all the evil thing that had been in my room.

 

Whatever it was, it was something I would not want to repeat. I think the worst was that it used a familiar, much-loved creature as its disguise.

Up Next: Another Smoky Mountains “Ghost” Story

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A True(ly) Scary Story

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

Halloween is coming, so I thought I’d tell you one of my true(ly) scary stories. This one is about something that happened while we were in our house on Eagles’ Nest Mountain in Waynesville, NC.

 

One day, my mother and I decided to go visit friends in Highlands, NC. My sister, Melanie, was quite young at the time and had a very good friend who lived at the bottom of the mountain. Our house was near the very top of the mountain (with glorious views of Maggie Valley). Since there would be very little for Mel to do during our trip, we decided it would be best if she would stay and play with Heidi.

 

My Aunt Jean (Hyatt) Richardson was also visiting with us, and she opted to stay home. She’d grown up just down the mountain, and her kin were all around the area. She was going to spend the day visiting with them, so she stayed with our dog Gretyl.

 

The drive to Highlands was scary enough! The roads we took were twisty and turny, and there were areas with shear drops several hundred feet down the sides of mountains. When I think of the little rock walls on the down-side of the road, I still laugh. Don’t know what, exactly, they were supposed to stop, but it wouldn’t have been any normal-sized vehicle. The other sides of the road were straight up except for the rocks that stuck out from the walls. Surely, there was an easier way to get to our friend’s place, but her directions were very fuzzy. My mother swears that the air in the car was blue from all the curse words uttered. (I may have even made up a few new ones.) If you’ve never been “chased” down a mountain, back-road by a logging truck, consider yourself very lucky. But that wasn’t the end of the fright for the day.

 

After a pleasant visit, we headed back to Waynesville, We had better directions on how to get back, so the ride was much more pleasant. We stopped for dinner along the way and made our leisurely way back to Eagles’ Nest. That’s when the “fun” began.

 

As we were approaching Eagles’ Nest Mountain Road, we saw more police cars with lights flashing than we thought existed in the whole state of North Carolina. They were all getting off the interstate at our road. We only got as far as Mom and Pop Hyatt’s home (at the base of the mountain) when we were stopped and turned back.

 

Apparently, two bad guys had robbed a liquor store near Asheville, stolen a car, shot at police, and headed up our road. They’d ditched the car right at the gate that lead up the road – right next to where Mel was playing at her friend’s home. The authorities had the road blocked and weren’t letting anyone up or down.

 

We joined a large contingent of Hyatts at  Mom and Pop’s place. A quick call to Heidi’s parents reassured us that Mel was safe and that the police had posted sentries outside their home. Aunt Jean was another story, though. Here she was in our home up on the top of the mountain with only our dog keeping her company. We begged the police to let us go up to our home. The state police weren’t having any of it until the local county authorities arrived. Once they learned that Aunt Jean was Jean HYATT, the tune changed. To help you understand a little more, at one time just about everything in Haywood County was “Hyatt” something. The name is still attached to creeks, road, hills, and developments.

 

A rapid convoy was arranged. In the front were two police cars, then us in my car, then two more police cars. Lights were flashing everywhere.

 

Eagles’ Nest Mountain Road is like most of the other roads in the area. There are sharp curves, switchbacks, hairpin turns, and very few straight areas. It’s just wide enough for two cars to pass (in most places). We took the whole road. I never had before (nor after) gone up that road so fast. We’d been warned to keep in tight formation. I’m still not sure how we made it up there without someone rear-ending someone, but we did.

 

We sure were glad to get home, and Aunt Jean was beside herself. We all settled in to stay locked down for the night. That was, all of us except Gretyl. Poor pup had to “go!” She’d been cooped up inside for as long as she could wait. On top of that, there were “strange” people outside our house. The police had left a patrol to make sure we were safe. I hollered out to the officer that my dog absolutely could wait no longer. He grudgingly let us out. So, here I am, in the pitch dark, with a scared dog on a leash, just beggin’ her to go ahead and pee. (Now, Gretyl – being like most dogs – was almost too afraid to pee.) I was so concerned about her, that I didn’t hear the person walking up behind me. Nigh to jumped out of my skin when the biggest man I’d ever seen showed up right behind me! He even startled Gretyl as he’d appeared so quickly and quietly. Phew, another one of the police who was looking for the bad guys. He wasn’t sure who we were and why we were out there, but he was none too happy that we were.

 

Business taken care of, we were hustled back into the house. I know I didn’t sleep a wink. My mother was upstairs with my sister and aunt. My room was on the main level of the house. Gretyl stayed with me. Every so often, she’d give a low, warning growl. She sure wasn’t letting those men outside forget she was on duty.

 

Our house was a cross between a chalet-style and a barn. It was built into the bedrock of the mountain, and had a walk-out basement. The deck from the main portion of the house protruded out probably 20 feet. The views were spectacular. We could see the lights of Maggie Valley, the lighted cross on Mt. Lyn Lowery, and (on clear days) Mt. LeConte (the highest peak in the area and the third highest peak in the Smokies). The basement was only visible from below.

 

After a sleepless night, we were informed that one of the desperados had been caught and the other was presumed to be at least as far away as Maggie Valley. We could go back to our normal routine. The whole area breathed a sigh of relief (all except Gretyl who was still growling – poor dog was traumatized). That was until the next day, when the second guy was caught…walking down Eagles’ Nest Mountain Road.

 

Where’d he been? He told the authorities that he’d spent both nights up on top of the mountain…up next to a concrete basement… under a big deck.

 

Up Next: Another Smoky Mountains “Ghost” Story

 

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The Best Meal – EVER

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I know I keep promising to discuss the Farmers’ Market/Fall Market in Brighton. The weather just has NOT cooperated. I’m still hopeful, though.

 

In the interim, I started thinking about all the wonderful fruit and vegetables that are available at all the farmers’ markets in the area. It brought to mind my MOST favorite meal I’ve ever had. While contemplating it, I realized with shock that that meal had to be more 40 years ago. What wonderful establishment could create such a meal that I would remember it all these years later and still salivate? Must it have been a “Michelin” star winner? Absolutely, not.

 

The best meal I ever ate was in my beloved Waynesviile, North Carolina. My family were going to go up Eagles’ Nest Mountain (yes, that Eagles’ Nest Mountain of Boojum fame) to look at property for sale. One of our neighbors had joined in a group who had purchased a very large portion of the land on the mountain and were selling building lots. As Aunt Jean’s momma and daddy lived at the base of the mountain, we just stopped by to say hello on our way up.

 

We should have known that we couldn’t just stop by to say, “Hey!” Mom Hyatt always had to feed her visitors. Mom kept a huge “truck garden.” She said she was starting to cut back the size of her garden due to the fact that she was getting up in age. So, her garden was only about ¾ acre. She grew the best vegetables! So, in we had to come, set down and eat. What bounty!

 

On my plate were corn on the cob, huge slices of still-warm tomato, pole beans, cucumbers and onion (in vinegar), and a huge slab of hot, fresh cornbread with a mound of sweet butter. She tried to pour me some buttermilk, but I hadn’t gotten my taste for that yet, so sweet milk it was. Throughout the whole time, Mom Hyatt kept apologizing for not having any meat. Those were still days where barter was common in the area and the trades hadn’t taken place yet.

 

In the current vernacular…OMG!!!! Every bite tasted like a hug. There was so much love in the growing and in the cooking, that this meal would stick in my heart forever. It’s not that I’d never had any of these items before; it was that I’d never had them all straight from the garden to the table like this before – nor have I since.

 

Do you have a meal or meals that stick out in your memory? I’d love to hear about it – as would all of us, I’m sure. Please share your story with us in the “Reply” section. This blog is so much more fun when others get involved.

 

Up Next: I’m Still Hoping for “Fall Markets”

 

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Another Appalachian Tale – Boojum: The Mystery on Eagle’s Nest Mountain

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Earlier I told you about my Aunt Jean who was raised in Waynesville, NC. Waynesville is the county seat for Haywood County. I know an awful lot about Waynesville because my family also owned a house there (until it burned to the ground in 1981 – but that’s another story). It was atop Eagle’s Nest Mountain (about 50 feet below 1 mile high). Eagle’s Nest overlooks Maggie Valley and is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.

Eagle’s Nest is so beautiful that it was a destination back in the day (1880s). The more affluent from the Deep South and city folk from of the big northern cities would get on trains during the summers and head for the mountains. Vanderbilt built his mansion in nearby Asheville (not very far as the crow flies). During that time, a large hotel was built on top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain. The population in little Waynesville would soar. There was also an Inn built at the base of Eagle’s Nest that survived until the 1990s.

This is the tale of Boojum (as told to me by my Aunt Jean Hyatt Richardson).

Long before the masses found the beauty of Eagle’s Nest, a particularly strange manimal (half man/half animal) made his home on Eagle’s Nest. He was called Boojum. Boojum was an early “Bigfoot” type character who appeared to be as much bear as man. He was said to be furry and smelly. Boojum had a real fondness for the beautiful gemstones prevalent in the North Carolina mountains. As you may know, many precious and semi-precious stones are found in their raw state in the area. Among these are rubies, sapphires, garnets, aquamarines, smoky and rose quartzes, emeralds, tourmaline, and citrines. So many beautiful gemstones!

Boojum was said to wander all over the mountains to find these stones and bring them back to his home on Eagle’s Nest Mountain. No one knew exactly where he lived, but many tried to find his lair to find his stash of gems. Boojum was a clever creature, though, and hid them well out of sight.

It is also said that Boojum would occasionally frighten the female visitors to the inns by sneaking up on them as they bathed in the streams and bathing areas. It is also said that one young woman felt pity for the lonely creature and went off to join him. There are versions of the Boojum legend that has him “marrying” this girl, but the one I learned didn’t mention any alliance with any human.

To anyone’s knowledge, no one ever found Boojum or his stash of pretty rocks. They might be hidden in buckets or barrels with water in them to hide them. There are many openings, caves, crevasses, and hidden places still on Eagle’s Nest Mountain (even though it has been greatly developed since).

On a very personal note, my aunt told me once that she was told as a girl that she’d better behave or Boojum would get her. I guess he was used rather like the “boogey-man” or “bogey-man” of non-Western-Carolina upbringing. In the near future, I’ll tell y’all a true story of a night on Eagle’s Nest Mountain that I was almost certain Boojum was gonna get me.

The fancy inn on the top burned to the ground (not unlike our home) early in the 20th century. Let me just say this about the road to the top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain, it’s one of the most twisty, turny, difficult roads to travel. The grades are steep and the switchbacks are many. It was virtually impossible to get modern fire trucks to our house when it burned. I can’t imagine what it must have been like trying to get a horse-pulled water truck to the top in the olden days. The Piedmont Inn (the one near the base) has been pretty much razed for a golf community.

For those of you who enjoyed my Appalachian, folk tales, I found a book that includes these two stories and many, many more. The name of the book is “Mountain Ghost Stories – and curious tales of Western North Carolina.” It was compiled by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett. John Blair is the publisher. They seem to have delved deeply into the myths, legends and ghost stories of the area. I will probably share some of these (giving credit, naturally) in later blogs. If you enjoy these tales, though, I highly recommend this little book.

 

Up Next: Farmers’ Markets In the Fall (or maybe something else ;>)

 

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Appalachian Hummingbird Myth

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When I was a small child, we spent most of our summers in North Carolina. My “Aunt” Jean was one of my most favorite people in the whole world. She was from Waynesville, North Carolina. She was married to my mother’s
first cousin, “Uncle” Frank. She told me many stories about the Cherokee and the early fables of her home. Uncle Frank was with the Park Service, so they lived in some of the most beautiful areas of our country. Mostly we visited them in Elkin, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. Later, Waynesville became extremely important to me and I’ll recount that tale a little later.

This is the story that I believe led to my sweet “obsession” with hummingbirds.

Way back in time, the Cherokee believed that they and the animals could communicate. Indeed they believed that the animals and they were kin to each other, just in different forms.

Back then, they believed that tobacco was great medicine. There was only one tobacco plant, so there was great reverence for it. Great care was taken to assure that the plant grew and flourished. That was until the Great White Goose stole it for his own.

The Great White Goose took the tobacco to a land beyond the Hickory Gap. In the Hickory Gap lived evil spirits who hated the Cherokee. They were known to throw stones down on the Cherokee who tried to pass.

With the tobacco gone, many of the Cherokee elders became ill. There was great fear that they would die, so a young brave volunteered to go take the tobacco back from the Great White Goose. Sadly, the evil spirits saw the young brave and threw rocks down on him in the Hickory Gap. The animals stood by helplessly as the young man died, and went back to tell the humans of his loss.

As their friends, the humans, sickened, the animals said they would try to bring the tobacco back. The evil spirits didn’t hate the animals, so most of them got through Hickory Gap. However, the Great White Goose was wise to them. One after the other tried and failed. The Goose even killed the mole who tried to burrow underneath to get to the tobacco.

The humans despaired of ever getting the tobacco back. A revered old woman was on her death-bed and there was great sadness. An old man who had been praying and praying came forward and said that he felt that he knew a way to get the tobacco. He had asked the hummingbird for the secret of his quick flight. The hummingbird told the old magician his secret and a few of his feathers.

The next morning, after much praying, the old man rubbed himself with the feathers and turned himself into a hummingbird. He flew so swiftly and was so small that the evil spirits never noticed him. He flew forward and back, up and down, and darted here and there so that the Great White Goose never saw him. He took as much of the tobacco as he could carry and rushed back to the village.

It was too late for the old woman who had died during his flight. As glad as the villagers were to have some of the tobacco back, they were heartbroken at the death of the dear, old woman. The magician took some of the precious tobacco and smoked it and blew it into the woman’s nose. Miraculously, she came back to life. She begged the magician to use his magic one more time to bring the whole plant back and the body of the brave, young man who had died trying to help his people.

Once again, the old man prayed and sang to the Great Spirit to help him accomplish his mission. This time, he was transformed into a huge hummingbird. His wings were so loud and the wind so intense that the rocks fell in the Gap and frightened the evil spirits far into the caves and creases in the mountains – never to bother the humans again.

The Great White Goose was so startled by the giant hummingbird that he didn’t argue when the magician/ hummingbird took the tobacco plant. On the way home, the old man found the body of the young brave. He
prayed and prayed and blew tobacco into the nose of the lifeless youth. Another miracle occurred. The youth came back to life and helped carry the tobacco and the old man (who had turned back into a man from exhaustion from his hard work and use of magic) back to the village.

The villagers were so happy to see the old man, thrilled to have their tobacco plant back, and grateful for the return of the brave, young man, that they promised to care for the tobacco plant and share it with the animals and spread the seeds throughout the land.

I really enjoyed sharing this story with you. It goes way back in my memory to a wonderful time and a much-loved person in my life. Do you have stories of olden times that were recounted to you? I’d love for you to share them in a reply to this blog.

Up Next: We’ll see how this injury does. (It’s taken me a LONG time to get this down with the splint on.)

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