The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Good Neighbors - Gracie and Dorsey Duncan

By Wayne Bradburn © 1983-2012

Issue: August, 1983

Gracie Duncan and her brother Dorsey have lived high on the hill above Deepwater Creek all their lives. Gracie, for 82 years and Dorsey for more than 70 years. Both are used to the rigors of a lifestyle without all the “modern conveniences.” They still cook and heat with wood, draw water from the spring at the foot of the giant hemlocks below the house and grow much of what they eat. They have a telephone, which provides one of their few links to the “outside world.” The other primary link is the footbridge across the Deepwater Creek which must be crossed to get to the gravel road. Dorsey makes the half-mile hike down the hill and across the bridge daily to pick up the mail. The mailbox is also the drop point for the bread, milk, etc. which neighbors Shaffer and Hestel Simpkins regularly pick up for Gracie and Dorsey, since neither drives.

The footbridge had begun to deteriorate to the point that it was becoming unsafe. Shaffer, who grew up in Deepwater and Henry Pierce, who is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and owns a vacation cabin in “Deepwater,” recognized the problem. Dorsey has one arm in a sling from an old injury so Shaffer and Henry knew that replacing the bridge would be difficult, if not impossible for him. Also, knowing the importance of that bridge, Shaffer and Henry decided to take matters into their own hands. Shaffer cut and drug the logs from his farm to the bridge site and got lumber from a local sawmill. Henry came up from North Carolina the night before construction began. Together they built a bridge complete with ramps and handrails.

Neither Shaffer nor Henry would consider their actions extraordinary. For Shaffer it’s almost a daily routine to help friends and neighbors. Henry could have easily ignored the problem, but instead willingly gave up his “leisure” time to help those neighbors he sees only a few times each year. We’re proud to have such good neighbors here in the Heart of Blue Ridge!