I moved to the Appalachian Mountains six years ago. Best six years of my life and I'm 58. Aaron Copeland wrote Appalachian Spring because here is the most beautiful place I've witnessed spring. Bar none. Summer is lush, green. You can grow anything here, and my garden now is filled with corn, green beans, brocolli, squash, tomatoes, mint, sage, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, salad greens, potatoes. I have thrilled at watching the summer pass, yielding wonderful quantities of beautiful crops, right in my own backyard. Walnut trees and apple trees abound, and even though we had a late frost and thought the apples wouldn't come in, they did, rich and nearly ripe and luscious.
The song is in the air. I take deep, deep, lungfuls and languish in the sweet, clear air. Birds of all kinds sing all day, and I have learned to talk to them. The cardinals say, "pretty girl," which is nice to hear at my age. The indigo buntings are breathtaking, and seem to know just sitting on the branch that they are there to amaze.
In August, autumn begins to entertain with a slow dance that facinates. Branches begin to pull back. The raspberries are all in and the blackberries are nearly done. The foliage begins to draw back in anticipation of cooler days, and perhaps to get behind the scenes to allow the new colors that will soon burst through to be hyped to their best advantage. Seems that way.
We have a pumpkin fest in our little town of Mountain City, TN, which is just between Boone, NC, and Damascus, VA. If you know Damascus, it's probably because you met friends and family there while hiking the Appalachian trail, or because your loved ones came to see you on Trail Days as you emerged from your journey to give everyone a healthy and happy heads up.
If you know Boone, you know Appalachian State University, which is vibrant with learning, art, theatre, students, staff and faculty bustling about to make magic happen. It always does.
We in Mountain City are a happy community. Because we don't have a lot going on around town, we make up great stuff to do. We have Kentucky Derby, Belmont, and Preakness parties. We have dinner parties at each others houses. We love and share and go to church to pray, cry, laugh, and help. When I first moved here, Mr. Nelson's wife died from cancer. Just the other day, Mr. Kondras wife Vickie died suddenly in the night. Our preacher's wife is taking kidney dialysis three times a week and is in and out of a coma, but she's alive, she's alive. We pray and commiserate and lift each other's spirits. We live. And we all think we live in God's county, in paradise.
This pumpkin fest is going to be our second attempt. We hope for amazingly beautiful weather, because that's usually how it is here in the middle of October. Startlingly clear, blue skies and gold lining the streets. Really. Down Church Street, where I live, I marvel at the gold-lined streets all the way to the church. I guess people had the foresight to line up all those gold maples just to show that the streets of paradise really are paved with gold.
The church has a bazaar every October. That's the First Methodist church on well, where else, Church Street. A beautiful little church. My ashes will be installed in the columbarium there. That is a comfort. The bazaar has all kinds of cool stuff and great grilled chicken dinners. That's October 23-24.
The pumpkin fest is the week of October 12-15. Main Street is lined with scarecrows of all different types. They are built by the various community organizations and are a sight to behold. The whole community gets in on the act, and you've never seen such color, fun, and creativity. We all try to beat each other. Music club, community theatre, rotary, our dear Heritage Hall where we have great entertainment from some of the best Appalachian musicians I've ever heard, and a whole host of other community organizers. Last year our music club decided to do a Phantom of the Opera scarecrow. The town hall workers put it in front of the First Baptist Church at the beginning of Main Street. The Baptists insisted it be removed, so it was, to the end of Main Street, where someone came along eventually and knocked off it's head. The Baptists thought it looked like Dracula. Hmmm. We thought we'd done a darn good job of making him look just like the Phantom.
Anyway, people are bringing in their crops, selling them at the new farmers market down the road, and anticipation of fall is in the air. My dear friend, Ed Cook, is growing a pumpkin the size of which I'm not supposed to tell. He wants to win the largest pumpkin contest and my money's on his pumpkin. Good Lord, do you have any idea what goes into growing a pumpkin that size? I'm talking maybe 1,000 pounds, maybe more. Maybe a lot more. One huge pumpkin in the middle of a raised bed that gives nary another little pumpkin a chance at life. Long hoses throughout the bed to water it at appropriate times.
There's a pumpkin chunking contest. And this year we're having a "Taste of the Mountains." Restaurants from Boone, NC, Mountain City and Johnson City, TN, will be bringing samplings and dishes of everything. My mouth waters.
Of course the people of this county will be out with their wares: beautiful quilts; apple and pumpkin butter; relishes and canned foods. I drool. Crafts and paintings and music, music, music. Good, down-home Appalachian music.
I love the storytelling. Some guy or gal gets up on stage and commences to tell stories that'll stay with you for a lifetime. Stories of the old days in these mountains, and their parents, friends, hangings, weddings, fights, frights, and love stories, always tearful love stories. And funny stories that will split your sides and make you wish you could catch your breath a little better.
There's a little train that carries the kids around the park. And horses, ponies, pets. People can park in back of the First Baptist Church or down in the park. You can walk Main Street, check out the courthouse, go to the coffeshop where they have great double lattes and lunches. Eat lunch at Suba's (our version of a "high end" restaurant) or The Tributary, which is a close second for "high end:" The prices are better and the atmosphere is really feel-good.
Downtown Mountain City is a close call to Mayberry. The first houses lining North Church Street are stately and friendly, seeming to call out to passersby. The Prospect Hill Bed and Breakfast is a great place to stay. Beautiful mansion on a hill, with all the good stuff and luxuries in the rooms that you want.
There's an Iron Hill Bed and Breakfast somewhat nearby, just not in town. Same with the Silverhills Bed and Breakfast. .com. You know the drill.
The park has a big pond with a fountain. We're planning on a bonfire with ghost stories from the storytellers. Chills and thrills. I love it. With a melody of smells, sights, and sensations that will sooth your soul. How's that for alliteration?
I'll be there with my new beau. Yes, at 58, I'm in love. We have quite a story. I think it's gonna grow and grow and then one day maybe we'll tell it ourselves at the pumpkin fest. Two old people in love, holding hands, confessing love, the good, the sad, the glory, and the glorious.
Everyone's invited. We advertise and make the rounds, you know. But the world has a dearth of what we have here and if you want to enjoy it, come. We're friendly and love to welcome people home.
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