This story “ain’t” never gonna be finished, nor could it be…
If you ever wondered why the, “Smokies,” are so called, it becomes obvious standing on the side of a holler at the break of day. As the sun kisses the morning and chases away the shadows cast by the angles of the range of rock that thrusts from the plain, the purple mist rolls up the side of the mountain and dissipates into the mid morning sunlight. The cadence of the rolling fog proceeds the new day with a flourish, like a gentleman throwing his overcoat across a puddle so a lady can use it instead of step in the muck. Or something like that. Perhaps I am just getting a little carried away, (I often imagine the forks are marrying the knives when I have to roll the silver…. ).
There are some crazy folk up there. One person I knew had more scars on her than anyone I ever met. She had literally broken every bone in her body, (or so she said), some more than once. But that was in the days before Tennessee had the law requiring automobile insurance. Those were scars from auto accidents. But things are different now. Sometimes folks wear seat belts. AWW! I don’t believe it! That seatbelt tale is just some old guy pulling your leg!
I remember being in the cabin at the top of Rich Mountain. Water pressure so poor, it barely came out of the spigot, (that is SPICKIT), up there. But a hundred yards down the drive back towards Townsend, sat the original house lived in by former owners of the piece of land. It was a tiny house, (perhaps 450 square feet), but cavernous compared to its neighbors. It was wood frame construction painted white in the Victorian style, but with only one story. Tongue in groove bead board on every surface, and on the inside ceiling of the porch, houses of that day were often painted blue, like the sky. It is impossible for me to see this house in my mind’s eye without the color of robin’s egg blue.
The little house opened out into an ‘L” shape. Inside the house was a wing to your right, and a wing to the left, and one room on the corner where you just came into the house. Each, “wing” consisted of one room, so basically this house was a three room house. Each room measured between, I’d say, 8×10, (the one to the left), 10×12, (the one in the center), and maybe another 10×12 or 15, for the one to the right, but I don’t know for sure.
These houses always confused me. With no indoor plumbing and barely any kitchen, the rooms don’t make any sense. Is this the den, or the bedroom? We slept in an old feather mattress on a big bed sitting in the room in the part of the L that went off to the right. A huge picture window on the inside of the L looked out into the green verdancy of the back yard. The picture window further confused the occupant, and made every room seem like the living room.
But this little house was special. Not because of the confusing configuration, nor the over abundance of living rooms, and apparent lack of true bedrooms, and not even because of the lack of adequate plumbing, but this house was constantly at accompanied by music. Oh it was not loud, mind you, and you really did not notice it at first, but there, right at the threshold of human perception, was the constant tinkle of the water that flowed into the chartuese halo of the neon green back yard. Because as you awakened in the morning, smothered down in the cloud of feathers, now sticking you a little when you rolled over that way, and you look upwards and see the repetitive pine planks of the ceiling, you hear it. At first, it is a little bit like a wind chime, the tinkling bell of the back yard sings a little song and calls for you. For you see right smack dab in the middle of the backyard, framed by the picture window, was the “spickit.” with sun shining all around and behind it like a halo. About two feet high, next to a teeny tiny wooden pump house, it trickled pure water from the heart of the earth.
And when you finally convinced yourself to extract from the feather cloud and go outside to wash your face, you discovered it was ice cold. It tasted divine as it sang its song, and woke you up with the coldest “bird bath” you ever had.
One summer it rained every day for several hours and then for days in a row. The clothes of our friends who lived in another teeny old wood home, at the end of a long, bumpy ravine of a driveway over in Maryville, rotted on the line in that wet summer. We sat on the front porch and stared into the blur of greyish green rain as it came down in sheets and muddled into the apparition of green that grew greener with each out burst of summer rain.
But that is not what this story is about.
Because THIS house was the one that sat in the FIRST big curve as you came down the mountainside from the newly constructed one at the top of Rich Mountain. The hairpin turn a couple of yards further down the impossibly mountainous driveway, carried a tinier house in the crux of its arm.
I have never been inside the tiny house in the hairpin turn. Oh its true that no one lived in it, nor had anyone lived there for many years. The house was not more than 8×12 feet or so. Some of the floorboards were still in place after many years of rain and, “gully-washers” as they say in Texas, had tried to unmoor the wooden structure from its grip on the side of the rock. Like a tiny struggle against the adversary trying to rip it off the side of the mountain it clung on for dear life. A tree had been built right into the back porch of the entire structure that hung out over running water that gushed out from the rock below and down the hill. This water ran full time. The house was built over it like a swinging bridge, and the job of holding on the sides of the hairpin curve was one it had been doing from the first day of its construction. Now unsafe for humans, with its scars and broken bones, it hung there like trophy of the struggle it had won over the years. Now intertwined with wild cherry and mountain laurel, worn proudly on its brow.
Miles further down the mountain, and dozens of twisted sudden curves below, the cozy Cade’s Cove paradise hosted people camping, completely unaware of the drama miles above them on the other side of the mountain.
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