The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Letter to Our Readers on Our 7th Anniversary

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1990

Issue: March, 1990

My Goodness, with this March Issue, it will have been seven years since The Mountain Laurel began! Those seven years have had their ups and downs, but they were not boring for one minute. We have met so many interesting nice people and heard such wonderful stories.

When we began the paper in March of 1983, several people told us that sure, it was good and interesting, but surely we would run out of stories. In seven years, if we have realized anything, it is that there are more good stories than there are ridges and valleys in these blue hazed mountains. It reminds me of an old story about two elderly mountain people who decided one day, many, many years ago that they had seen everything and done everything that life had to offer. They decided that to live on further would be useless, so they both got in bed and were going to just lie there until they died. They heard a knock on their door and it was a new neighbor. He said that his fire had gone out and asked if he could have some of the hot coals from their fireplace. They told him that sure, he could have the coals, but how was he going to carry them? He had not brought a bucket. The new neighbor took a piece of paper and filled it full of cold ashes. Then he placed the hot coals on top of the cold ashes and went his way. The old man looked at the old woman and the old woman looked at the old man. Then the old man said, "Get up, old woman, we haven't seen everything yet!"

There have been many changes in seven years. Our first papers were typed on a typewriter and now we have a computer system that typesets and lays out the paper. We began in Meadows of Dan and have moved to Wytheville, Virginia. We have tried to keep up with computer technology to be able to produce The Mountain Laurel and keep track of the subscribers in the best way possible. At times this seemed so difficult because we had to teach ourselves. (When we got the first computer, we had to look up where the on-off switch was located in the owner's manual.)

No, it hasn't been easy, but then not many worthwhile things in life are. The Mountain Laurel is something we are very proud of. It has received a lot of attention because it is so different. Our goals have been to preserve not only the heritage, but the flavor as well. The name, Mountain Laurel was chosen before the first issue for its double meaning - First, it is a beautiful blooming shrub that covers the Blue Ridge Mountains. Second, the dictionary also defines laurel to mean, "Honor and Distinction." We pledged from the start to present the Blue Ridge with integrity to its people and places. I once did an interview with an elderly lady and when I had written her story, I carried a copy of it for her to read. She read over it and said, "How did you do it? You didn't take that many notes and this sounds just like me." She didn't realize it, but she had just given me the best compliment I could have received. It meant that I had written her story without interjecting my personality into it. I had written her story in a way she would have presented it herself. This meant that a person reading would feel like they were meeting her and that, if anything, is the flavor of The Mountain Laurel. We want our readers to feel like they are in the Blue Ridge, sitting around a pot bellied stove in a general store, listening to the old timers tell tales. Every storyteller has their own distinct style and personality and that is part of the enjoyment of listening to a storyteller. In this world where everything is almost homogenized to a bland sameness, it is a treasure indeed.

We have enjoyed sharing these "treasures" with each one of you and hope to continue to do so for many more years. We have appreciated your patience and understanding when we have had difficulties and your praise of our efforts has kept us going. We invite you to share your stories as well. We thank you for being a part of our family of readers.