By Bob Heafner © 1986
Issue: January, 1986
Most of you already know how The Mountain Laurel was started. It was a dream on a shoestring, brought to reality by your support, to preserve the rapidly vanishing memories of bygone Blue Ridge days. Now, we want to share some wonderful news with you.
The Mountain Laurel has acquired a piece of land that will someday become our home. A place to build our office and dreams on. And, as always, we want to share it and our happiness with you.
A more perfect setting just couldn't have been found. It consists of almost 10 acres and there are gently flowing streams, rhododendrons so large that you can walk under the shelter of their entwined branches, and carpets of running cedar. There are tall trees with squirrel nest tucked in the forks of high limbs. There is an old roadway and a most prominent path that winds along a stream. It once was the path that led to Green Cockram's house where the old Meadows of Dan switchboard was located. It was the path that led to Preacher Will Banks' house where young folks like John Boyd and Annie Mae Marshall once walked on their way to get married.
The history of this piece of land is woven into the fabric The Mountain Laurel is a part of. It was once owned by Mr. John Henry ("Dump" to those who knew him) Yeatts. He was the postmaster at Mayberry in the 1920's when he learned the Mayberry Post Office was being moved to Meadows of Dan. He bought this place, thinking he would move here rather than ride the extra six miles a day on horseback. As it turned out, he was permitted by the Post Office Department to take the mail to his house in Mayberry each evening rather than ride the extra distance each morning or move his family from Mayberry.
The property was passed down in his family to his daughter, Mrs. Eunice McAlexander of Meadows of Dan, and we would especially like to thank her and her husband, Mr. E.A. McAlexander, for deciding to sell it to The Mountain Laurel.
The son of "Dump" Yeatts was a most special person, Mr. Coy Oliver Yeatts. It saddens us that Mr. Coy passed away in July of 1984, at 84 years old. We wish we could have shared this with him. He revered all nature and living things. He said that if you closed your eyes and imagined, you could walk through a virgin chestnut forest; you could see in your mind how wondrous it was.
When we walk this piece of land, Mr. Coy is there, over our shoulders, walking with us. By knowing him, we can imagine it through his eyes - eyes that once saw unspoiled nature at its best. And that's how we would like for this place to remain - an unspoiled haven for Blue Ridge memories to come to rest. A piece of land like this is an awesome responsibility. It would be easy to fell trees and turn a blind eye to all the small details of nature that live, complementing each other, on the forest floor and in the limbs reaching for the sky. We know what it has meant to past generations, and we dare to dream of what it could be to generations yet to come. We will be going slowly, for we want to build in a way that will be the least destructive and the most compatible with the way the place is now. From the knoll at the back corner where the deed calls for a "black gum stump", you can gaze across rolling meadows dotted with old time apple trees, and see the old Hubbard place and Green Cockram's now vacant home, and the Blue Ridge Parkway as it winds its way to Ed Mabry's Mill. In the years to come, if our dreams survive, there will be a place in the center of the Blue Ridge where tall trees and the spirit of mountain folk will always live. A place where company can feel at home if there is Blue Ridge in their blood or heart.
We look forward to the day we can invite you all to "come see us" at our new home. You'll always be as welcome here as a cool mountain breeze on a hot summer day. We hope to preserve the old paths and walkways that twist through the woods, and to provide a place where company can stroll through a beautiful forest as well as Blue Ridge time.
Mountain music and musicians will always be welcomed. And the sound of their music will be celebrated and their music as well as their memory will live here forever.
We dream of a museum of sorts. Not a place for "old things" but for memories - tape recordings and films of mountain folks telling their own stories in their own words. We want to provide rocking chairs and porch swings and a place for the kind of peace of mind you only get by sitting and listening to the rippling of a creek or the rustling of leaves.
We dream of this place becoming a monument to the old fashion mountain people whose stories have been told and are yet to be told in The Mountain Laurel. A museum of mountain people, not of artifacts; a museum of old time people whose faith and ideas helped build a nation; a place to capture and preserve the stories of the Blue Ridge in the words of the people whose lives of honor and distinction amid hardship and toil are themselves a national treasure and inspiration. To our way of thinking, it is a goal worthy of devoting our time and our lives to, even if at this point it seems to be an impossible dream. But, if we keep our health to work and we're lucky, it will become a reality.
In late spring, there are going to be "laurels" blooming by the thousands on our new homeplace. We hope for our dreams to blossom with them; the dream of laurels blooming here for eternity amid the gentle sounds of Tuggles Creek always gurgling and rippling without the confines of a concrete culvert ditch; a place where native trout will always be lazily drifting beneath a moss lined creek bank. We believe that if old man Coy could stand here himself and look at these towering trees and beautiful laurels that he would be proud of what's going to come of his dad's old place. If we are lucky, and our dreams come to pass, then folks should know that they were inspired by an old mountain man's love of trees and nature. And, because of his faith in imagining, there might someday be a haven where laurels blossom and memories live and Blue Ridge time stands still forever.
Thank you dear readers, for making so many dreams come true. And thanks to Mr. Coy and the countless thousands like him who have passed this way and touched not only the Heart Of The Blue Ridge, but hearts all across America as well. For they found a wilderness and imagined a farm; rocks and logs and dreamed of homes. The Mountain Laurel is dedicated to them...