By Susan M. Thigpen © 1984-2012
Issue: March, 1984
“This can’t be it, Caleb. You must have took a wrong turn somewhere. This is further back in the sticks than where we live.”
“I followed the instructions they gave me back at the Exxon station at Meadows of Dan, Henry. You read every turn and road number for me. If this ain’t it, you need new glasses!”
“We been subscribing to that little paper, The Mountain Laurel for months and drove all this way. If this ain’t the place, danged if I’m not going to go ask anyway.”
Caleb and Henry sat in the driveway in front of a two story farm house. There was a huge German Shepherd barking to high heavens. About a half a dozen gray cats were peaking out of a box on the front porch to see why the dog was raising such a commotion. There were game chickens scattered around the yard and one rooster was perched on the porch rail.
“I don’t know if we ought to get out with that dog, Caleb.”
“Aw, come on, Henry. Don’t look like a biter to me. Look, he’s wagging his tail.”
“I don’t know, Caleb. I’ve heard shepherds are mean.” By this time Caleb was already out of the pickup truck and scratching the shepherd behind the ears. “Look, Henry, this dogs got cataracts. He’s probably older than you are. He probably don’t have no more teeth left than you do either.”
Henry opened his door and got out too. The dog barked even more and limped circles around the old men as they walked up to the porch. “See I told you they’s friendly.”
“Caleb, this just can’t be the place. This ain’t an office. It’s a house, a farm house, not much different from yours or mine.”
“Well, we’ll just find out, won’t we?”
Meanwhile the old shepherd had laid down and stretched out in a sunny spot. Two or three cats climbed up on his back and curled up under his paws and all of them were settling in for a nap.
Caleb knocked on the front door. When it opened, he said, “We’re looking for The Mountain Laurel.”
Having been assured they were in the right place, they were both invited into the living room. Caleb and Henry found the three people who run The Mountain Laurel to be easy to talk to, even if they were a bit younger than they expected. Henry thought to himself, “Not a one of ‘em can be over 40. How do they know enough about the old times to write and collect all those stories?” Pretty soon he found out. It didn’t take long before all were talking about old times, sitting around the wood stove in the living room.
When they left, Caleb and Henry felt like they had new found friends. “Caleb, I didn’t think anyone but people our age would want to hear those old stories but they was real interested. I could tell. Maybe you don’t have to be as old as we are to enjoy the same things. I expected to find a ‘high-faluting’ office, sterile as a hospital and what we found was a home.”
“Did you hear ‘em say they put that little paper together right there on the kitchen table every month?”
“Yea, did you see that phone cord, must have been 20 foot, going from the bedroom into the kitchen?”
“See it, I durn near tripped over it.”
“Henry, they said they’re trying to get an office made out of that garage there. Said the paper has done took over the house and I can believe that. Still, I don’t see how they do it, even if it is a full two story house. I guess that it keeps them hoppin’ with that much work to divide between them. If they weren’t at home, they’d probably miss out on right many meals! Nope, weren’t what I expected at all.”
“Caleb, you know that little paper is different. It’s like talking to a neighbor or news from home. That paper has a ring of the mountains to it. Those people are just plain country folks just like we are.”
“It’s a mountain paper about mountain people and places. Come to think of it, what would be a better office for it than a farmhouse on a dirt backroad with a creek running through the yard and laurel thickets around it? They got wood heat and a tin roof too.”
“Caleb, we read that paper. Why did we expect the people or the office to be citified in the first place? Nope, it fits. It makes you feel ‘t home.”
“Could have done without the dog, though. First time I was ever offered a free cat or chicken with a years subscription to anything!”
Many of our readers have come to look us up over the past year and, by the looks on their faces, we know they didn’t expect what they found, an old farmhouse on a winding BACKROAD. We wrote Caleb and Henry through the eyes of what those readers must have thought.
We are such a soft touch for animals. We have 5 cats, 1 dog, and we don’t know how many chickens. (No one’s seem them standing still in one group long enough to count them.) How we came to get the chickens started years ago when Bob’s mother moved out of her house into an apartment and gave him one lone rooster. He felt sorry for it because it was all alone and got one hen, for a companion. As I said, that was several years ago and explains where all the other chickens came from.
We’re no more “citified” nor pretentious than our paper is. All we want to do is share the wonderful stories of the people and places of the Blue Ridge with those who love it as much as we do.
We couldn’t sit in an office in a city and make a paper like The Mountain Laurel. We live it. It comes from the heart - the Heart of the Blue Ridge.