Generations of Memories
Heart of the Blue Ridge
By Bonnie Moore © 1999
Online: January, 1999
Finding them was worth the effort, but who would believe they were only fifteen miles away? And who would believe fifteen miles could make such a difference?
The house was how I found them. The house was perfect! That in itself was the first miracle when you realize how many things were needed to reach "perfect" status.
First, I had only one income. That's the definition of single parent-"Sorry, Charlie. One income." I looked it up in life's little dictionary and right there above "smashed hopes" and below "senility-fast onset" that was what was printed. The house I was looking for had to have a price low enough to let me get in, with payments low enough to let us, my son and I, continue to eat.
Then, the second thing was it had to be different. I had talked to an endless stream of realtors in the preceding months as I followed up on first one lead then another. I remember telling each one, "If the description says 'rancher' don't bother to show it to me." And, as you might expect, one by one the realtors fell by the wayside. Certainly I understood why for there was no need for them to work for my pitiful little amount when much bigger dollars were virtually anywhere else.
I remember the picture in the weekly real estate guide was so poor you couldn't make anything out; a black ink smear had landed and was duplicated thousands of times right there on my house. The price wasn't too far above my limit though, so, with only a small amount of trepidation, I called another new realtor to find out where it was. Fifteen miles! That's not much, practically nothing. It was a Friday morning when I called. I was going out of town on Sunday, and then, there was my friends' wedding on Saturday afternoon so I asked if he could show me the house early on Saturday morning.
"Absolutely no problem?" Was he serious? He gave a few more details, told me how to get there, and agreed to meet in the morning- early. 15 miles- that wasn't much, and I had the directions. 25 minutes later my mouth actually fell open! I was looking at a well kept, immaculate, adorable, incredible round house in the woods. It was love at first sight!
The "warm fuzzies" kind of love (where you are happy from your toes up!). I practically danced to the meeting the next morning. The realtor was friendly and pleasant. And I found myself praying all the way out there " Please, just don't let the house be trashed inside!"
What was going on? It wasn't! Except for one odd colored carpet in the kitchen all the rest was BEAUTIFUL! No, make that absolutely PERFECT!
Within an hour of setting foot inside the door, I was ready to make an offer. Would they take less? How much less should I offer? What if they said "No?" Could I come up with more? No.
I tried to feel out this realtor with small talk: "Do you enjoy selling houses?"
Earl, the realtor, smiled. "I don't sell houses. I help people find homes."
Curses! A perfect answer. "Some of those windows may need to be replaced," I said. "There were breaks in their seals." I should know I gazed out each picture window for a lifetime. Imagine! Two picture windows in a bedroom! I sighed again.
"I'm a single parent, remember?" I reminded him in case he forgot. He must have remembered that though, because I didn't see dollar signs when I looked at Earl. His eyes didn't reflect them as he looked at me.
We were riding back now toward his office, and it hit me: "Where are the mailboxes, Earl? I didn't see any at the house, nor at the end of the first road." We were passing modest, well kept houses: my nearest neighbors, a half-mile away.
"Well, I ..." Earl paused.. "Well, I don't know," he began again. " I hadn't noticed that before, but I haven't seen a one." Earl really did look perplexed so we began watching. Five miles later we saw our first mailbox. No mailboxes was the biggest clue to what I was about to discover. But I didn't know it yet.
No amount of hinting got Earl to put words in my mouth. If I made an offer I had to come up with the figure. Did he think they would take less? He didn't know. How much would he offer? He didn't want a different home.
The house was $79,995. I had $300 in my checking account. I had no business finding the perfect house right now, I reasoned. I "hmmmmed", and fidgeted. I held my breath. I offered $72,000. Almost 10% less, but could I come up with $72,000???
On Monday, while I was in total denial, I called the post office of the little town of Gerton, North Carolina. The one room rural post office about a mile and a half from where the perfect but, of course, unattainable house sat. I used my professional voice to introduce myself and ask for information. I explained I had looked at a sweet, perfect, wonderful house the weekend before and gave the address. Then I explained we, the realtor, Earl and I, had not noticed any mailboxes and wondered about mail delivery.
I'll never forget it: the postmistress laughed out loud, then as you could still hear the smile on her face she explained "Well, yes. If you live over a quarter mile or more away from the post office the federal government is, of course, required to deliver mail, but round these parts most people come to the post office to visit."
Fifteen miles and back 50 years I thought.
But the most amazing thing happened. MORE amazing than the owners accepting my offer, with a little encouragement from Earl, I found out later. And even more amazing than finding a bank willing to see me as more than a single parent, but a professional, with work ethics and more than a little passion about this perfect round house. Neighbors happened!
The community of Gerton, North Carolina of which I have become a part, gets together the 3rd Tuesday of each month for a pot luck dinner, and program. They really DO go to the post office to visit Sybil or Joan (the post mistresses) and check in, and let them know who is sick and who is doing better. Sybil and husband Donnie are on the EMT team of the volunteer fire department so if a call comes in that post office may be closed. One building down- you can't say block, because a field of mowed grass and grape vines isn't a block- is the Bearwallow Baptist Church. Probably the church is at the geographic center of Gerton. It is the center in other ways. Picture in your mind "the little church in the wildwood". That's the Bearwallow Baptist Church. It holds maybe 80 people if they're all real friendly. And they are. Pass by at night and you'll see a light shining in the church window. A warm welcome? A light in the darkness? It's all of those.
Joan, from the post office, is the minister's wife. She makes everyone feel loved and special and warm- just in her smile. Then Tom, the minister, demonstrates what he preaches every day, by loving his family, showing pride in his children, helping neighbors who need help, or just being there to talk, if you need to talk.
Buster Zeigler, a summer neighbor, asked Tom in Church one Sunday to pray for rain. His crops and the crops of his sons in the low country were drying up in the heat. The next Sunday Tom asked Buster if we could stop praying now because his son Joel wasn't speaking to him. Joel's first ball game that past Tuesday night had been canceled due to rain.
Another non-block down from the church, is Nita's Grocery- at the other side of town. Between her (there really is a Nita, who do you think mowed the field?) and the Baptist church is a field of day lilies and azaleas by a running stream. Nita's Grocery rents part of the community club building to use as a store. She carries everything from cat food to motor oil. And if you have a sick child at night she'll open up the store and more likely than not bring you the children's Tylenol. Who ever heard of THAT??? Margie, Nita's mother runs the store most of the time while Nita is out mowing. Margie is Gerton's national treasure.
The first winter I was in my house it snowed. A pretty deep snow. And while I had all wheel drive I was nervous about the road. Another neighbor I first met at church, Grayson Bradley, rounded up his son, and they rode their tractor to my house and plowed the road. "We knew you were up here," Grayson said.
Not only did they not ask for money, they refused it- point blank. So I honed up my cookie baking skills. Another time, during the winter a second neighbor stopped by to see how I was doing. I laughed and tried to reassure him I wasn't a "nervous Nellie" type. But as he was leaving he said, "If you ever do get afraid, crack your door, and fire a couple shots up in the air. Somebody'll be along to check on you."
A couple of shots? Well, he obviously assumes I own a gun, and know how to use one. And while I do, I'm quite sure I didn't tell anyone. Maybe I give off "I own a gun" signals, I thought. Actually, I thought about that two or three days before deciding that was too much to think about. This was just another way of communicating in the country.
Aileen Sinclair is a neighbor. Her house is easy to find when you're giving directions. She lives across from the "rock" farm. Her husband Mac was a mason and passed on the trade to her son Jeff before he died.
Virginia McGuffey, one of four sisters, who all have brought their families back to live in Gerton, Publishes the "ECHO" a community newspaper where you can read about someone's grandchild, or tips on drawing hummingbirds.
Ruth Ann Nappi, mom and talented lady, organized and produced Gerton's first play last year. "Harvey" done to rave reviews. The minister played the lead. Nine and a half months pregnant the week the play was done. Ruth Ann looked forward to having her baby so she could rest.
The Perrys, the Tanners, The Sinclairs, the Simpsons, The Davises. Life is different here. Better and richer, because of each one of them.
A tree fell across a roadway at dark. Neighbor men popped out of their houses and chopped it up while the ladies visited and showed me a new way home. Aileen, in her seventies, led the way, "just drive across this yard, and your car can ford the stream there." As she pointed. " You'll be home in a minute."
Fifteen miles ago I knew one neighbor, I waved at one other. Fifteen miles from here, people shoot others in fits of rage over one man's dog in another man's yard
In Gerton, if you slide off in a ditch on an icy road, a neighbor will be along in a minute with a chain and just "pop" you out before continuing on down the road.
I came home this week to find the local volunteer fire truck in a neighbor's yard spraying their garden with the fire hose. I ran to get my camera. Nobody believes I have neighbors who help neighbors.
And by the way, If I had known then, what I know now. I would have offered $89,995 for my perfect, wonderful, incredible round house in the woods of Gerton, North Carolina, nestled here among my friends who have all become family.