84 Piney Mountain Road, Leicester, NC, USA
February 2002 – January 2003
The advertisement in the paper said “Traditional log cabin in the mountains”. I had visions of a log cabin with a productive vegetable garden and a cow. All I need do was ride on a horse to town every six months to get spices for pickle-making. It wasn’t quite like that.
The house, well most of it, was logs. It was on the corner of a not very busy road in a hilly area. It had a terrific-sized veranda and spacious grounds. It was next to a creek, and apart from a couple of houses within view it was set in forest and farmland.
So much was new to me coming from little New Zealand! Snakes and turtles and groundhogs and salamanders and skunks and racoons and squirrels and woodpeckers and bats and hummingbirds and… New Zealand didn’t have any of that. We had sheep and cows with a few native birds nearing extinction. I revelled in it! At least I did until the family of groundhogs I had encouraged decimated my vegetable garden overnight. I was busy purchasing anti-groundhog things from the garden centre when an old man told me he’d dealt with groundhogs in his garden for seventy years, and this is what you do. I did it, and the groundhogs moved house!
Eric made a nesting box for the bluebirds, and I fed the hummingbirds.
We had apple trees that produced apples by the thousands. I made apple sauce and apple pies and quite frankly anything with apples. A bale of turtles set up their living quarters under the apple trees for the duration of the season. A large snake (I don’t know what sort but it was fat and long) would bask in the sun on the ledge of the garden shed. A woodpecker that we called Charlie was profoundly attracted to our tin chimney and would wake us early each morning. Rata-tat-tat-tat. Rata-tat-tat-tat. The only drawback was a family of Harley-Davidsons living nearby. I don’t know why Harley-Davidson has never heard of mufflers. The creek next to the house had whistling frogs and you knew when they began their evening whistling that it was time perhaps for a pre-dinner glass of wine.
Just up the road a family from Florida was building a two-story log house. Janice and Ted had three children, and young Jed was wheel-chair bound and had been so all his fourteen years. He had a wish: to mow a lawn (what fourteen-year old doesn’t?) A lawn-mower manufacturing company donated a specially designed mower that he could pull behind his wheel-chair. It arrived! Dad Ted set it up. Down Jed came to mow our lawn! We were the first clients for “Jed’s Earth-Friendly Lawn Care”. We gave him a cap with his logo embroidered on the front. And we gave him an envelope with his first pay. I don’t want to shock you as we were shocked, but there’s no way around it; the next day Jed died. It was profoundly sad.
Janice and Ted remained our good friends for a few years, but over time distance can cause people to drift away.
I had never liked dogs much. Growing up on a farm with sheep dogs we were encouraged not to view them as pets. I had never had a pet dog and regarded those who had them as a bit silly. At the log cabin we had a visitor; a large long-haired dark brown-black dog that looked like a cross between a collie and a chow-chow. It learnt to take the lids off our trash cans at night and would scatter rubbish over our lawn in search of food. The mailman told me where the dog lived. He said the owners tied it up and would beat it. Nonetheless, I took the dog back to its owners. I didn’t see the dog for three weeks.
Then one day it was pouring with rain. I was on the veranda. Coming up the road was the dog. He was drenched. He saw me and began to run. He dashed up the veranda steps and all seventy pounds of saturated canine leapt into my arms. He was covered in welts and flea nests and gorged blood-sucking ticks. He never left again, and since we did not know his name we called him Doggie. I started to love my first pet dog! He was the most intelligent dog in the world! And the best looking!
Once again we had the opportunity to own our own home. Our log cabin adventure was to end. It was a time filled with happy and sad memories. But our new place was to be not far away. You know you haven’t moved far away when you still buy groceries from the same store!