Final excerpt from Dave Turner's ebook/audio book Billy Ray's Chevrolet and Other Writings and Photographs from a Southern Applachian Valley.
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7. Nineteen and Twenty-Seven
Our small log cabin overlooks a little meadow in one of the prettiest little coves I ever saw, though I ain’t traveled far from it.
No electricity up here, and we don’t need it. Water comes from a mountain spring. Heat from fire. Food mostly from what you can grow, some from the general store, but not often because the money is tight. I’m a blacksmith by trade but slowin’ down with age. Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve lived into the year Nineteen and Twenty-Seven.
We count many blessings. A warm home, two dogs, two horses and the Ford Model T truck I bought from my younger brother back in ‘21.
All the love my wife and I need, we receive from each other and from the good Lord above.
My family has lived in these mountains since before them Yankees marched on the Confederacy. Around here we didn’t much want to be involved in that bloody war anyway. Things around here were just fine. Me? I always just wanted to live out my life peacefully and be kind to the neighbors and let the Lord sort everything out in the end. Mind you, he’ll do that anyway. The Civil War and the big one that started in 1914 took a lot of folks to judgment. I’m glad I was too young to fight in one, too old for the other.
My wife and me, we never could have children, sad but true. But we’re a family of two, Rachel and me, here on our land, protected on all sides by Appalachian ridges and God Almighty, who gave us these fine mountains beneath generous skies. Plenty of sunshine. Rain when we need it. Never too hot except maybe for a few days in the middle of summer. Cold enough to bring the beauty of winter snow a few times a year.
I’ve been a-worryin’ about what they’re doing in Asheville. Lot of rich folks there now. They opened that fancy rock hotel in 1913, E.W. Grove and his men. Before Grove there was Vanderbilt and his castle. Couple of years ago, ol’ Jackson put up that tall building on Pack Square. It has carved animal heads sticking out near the top that are frightful to look at. I liked Asheville better when the streets were dirt and the fancy ways were left to other places. I know things’ll change but that don’t mean an old man like me’s got to like it. I take comfort that Asheville’s near about 12 miles from us. Far enough away to leave us alone. Close enough to get there when we need to.
We don’t need much from Asheville, or any place else, mind you. We’ve got chickens and a cow and the garden for nourishment. Wood for the fire. Spring water for drinking and washin’. All in a place we love to be, next to our sparkling creek with its grey rocks and soft sounds and crayfish and little black snails.
Only place better, I reckon, is Heaven.
The photographs in this chapter inspired the preceding fictional piece. A family member of Dr. Walter Watts took them during the 1930s around the time construction began on The Blue Ridge Parkway, the famous scenic roadway on the ridges above the cabin.