When I was a kid about twelve or so our neighbor took us up to his home place up above Boone NC thru Vilas and on up into the mountains of the Blue Ridge. It was me and mom and dad, he and his wife and their three kids all stuffed into a 37 Ford. The trip from High Point was a good five hours back then but we didnt care. We left after work on Friday and made it ''up the hollar'' about ten at night. By ''up the hollar'' I mean just that. We drove between two mountains on a road that was as wide as the car, up and down for about a mile beside a creek, sometimes 75 feet above the creek and sometimes ''Fording'' the creek in 3 feet of water. We got to the ''home place'' and his mother and dad and his baby brother came out to the car to carry our goods and make us welcome. I dont know if you have ever met real ''mountain folks'' but they are the best and friendlies people you can imagine. We spent the weekend exploring the mountains around the house, eating like pigs, and having a wonderful time with Mom and Dad Bentley. Mom Bentley was a wonderful cook and she did it all on a large wood stove. The refrigerator was a spring house with a large wooden box submerged in the flowing stream and their well was a piece of pipe stuck under a rock and it fed a large box that held water. The water up there was about 50 degrees all the time, summer and winter. Me and Maston became instant friends though he was about four years my senior. The weekend passed much too fast and I asked my mom could I possibly come up and stay a week or maybe two. She said it was up to Mom and Dad Bentley and I should go ask them. It took about a minute for them to say yes and I was a very happy person. We promised to be back in two weeks with my clothes.
Sure enough, two weeks later I was on their door step ready to spend two weeks in the mountains. Me and Maston had a wonderful time. He taught me ''chores'' that he had to do like milking the cow, feeding the hogs, loosing the chickens and the ducks, putting the sheep in the fence in front of the house to keep the lawn looking nice. We did a host of other things like getting in hay and tending the tobacco and moving the beef cows to new pasture when necessary. Life was busy and life was good. At night after supper Mom and Dad Bentley and Maston would sit around the ''hearth rock'' by the fireplace and make music and sing. Dad Bentley had a beautiful baritone voices and he could play the guitar and sing. Mom Bentley played the mandolin and sang and Maston played the Banjo. Many wonderful evenings were spent with me sitting on the ''hearth rock'' and them sitting in kitchen chairs singing songs like ''Amazing Grace'' and ''I'll fly away'' and a mired of songs that lifted your heart. The thing about it was they had no television and the old radio would only pick up a couple stations so we entertained ourselves. Bedtime was about nine because the next day started about five oclock and an hours work was done before breakfast. We would take time to fish in the Wataga River and catch Red Eyes and sometimes a trout and that is a story in its self that shall tell you sometime later.
I visited them every year after that for at least two weeks and sometimes twice a summer while school was out. I grew to love them and they me. I became their ''other son'' and Dad Bentley offered me a hundred acres in the mountains if it was ok with mom and dad. Poppa said he could not pay for the land so he would not let Dad Bentley deed it to me. Dad Bentley said it was no charge as he had a couple thousand acres that he didnt need and he would be proud to have me for a neighbor when I grew up to be a man. Poppa would not hear of it and he told Dad Bentley thanks but he just could not do it.
I went up religiously until I was about sixteen and my fancy turned to girls, cars, Saturday nights, drive in movies and all the things that distract a young man. I joined the Navy at eighteen and went to ''see the world''. When I was about twenty, mom told me that ''Mom Bentley'' had died and that Dad Bentley was going over to live with one of his sons over on some ''flat land'' up in the mountains. Maston inherited the farm up there but he mangled his left hand on some machinery he was working down in the river bottom getting up hay and he quit farming all together. The livestock was sold off and the farm went to nothing with no one there and no one working the place. The farm was eventually sold off for mere pennies an acre and Maston moved away and lived with his brother. He died sometime later of lung cancer and I think a broken heart. Dad Bentley died shortly after the farm was sold from a stroke. I kinda forgot about the place for a lot of years until Linda and I went up to Boone for a weekend and I thought about the old Bentley place. I followed my memory up the mountain and turned by the Wataga River on the old dirt road that was now paved and striped. I drove along looking for the road up the hollar and had to ask an elderly gentelman where the old Bentley place was. He pointed to a wide smooth driveway type road beside the creek and I followed it easily back to the home place.
Lord how it had changed. The house was the same but the barn was gone and most of the outbuildings. The road went past the house and wound its way up the side of the mountains to various ''plots'' and ''lots'' on the mountains. We rambled up the road and looked at some of the ''land for sale''. We met a man coming down the mountain and asked about a particular ''patch'' of land on the mountain and he said it was going for ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS PER ACRE.... Were we interested?
We drove back to the home place and I got out of the car and knocked. A young man answered the door and I introduced myself and told him my story about knowing the Bentleys and my good times in that house and on that farm. He begged me ''come in and talk''. We went inside and a million memories came rushing back to me. The inside of the house was virtually the same. It even had old fashion furniture in the living room and the dining room. I walked into the kitchen and it had all modern appliances but the original table was still there as well as the benches on each side. Mom Bentleys old wood cook stove was still there but not used any more. They had refurbished it and it looked new. Her old ''skillet and kettle'' were still on the stove. I told the young man about the house and the wonderful people that I loved that lived there. I could close my eyes and still see Mom Bentley in that kitchen fixing us breakfast of fresh eggs, country ham, home made biscuits, gravy and grits.
We went back to the living room and I asked if it would be all right if I sat on the hearth rock and just ''remember''? I did just that and with my eyes closed a thousand thousand memories came flooding back to me. I could touch the smooth river stones in the hearth and hear Dad Bentley singing ''Amazing Grace''. The ''memories'' washed over me like a tide and tears filled my eyes as I sat there. It was stone quiet in the living room and the young man seen my tears and whispered ….''I dont know where you are in your mind sir but I would give a lot to be there with you right now''.........
I came back to reality, dried my eyes and thanked the young man profusely for allowing me into his home. He asked that we come back and spend the night sometime and we could sit and talk about the old days, when I was a kid having fun with Maston up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
We left and I never went back. Sometimes I am glad I didnt go back and sometimes I wish I had taken him up on his offer.
For what it is worth, the ''lot'' that was a hundred grand was right in the middle of the ''patch'' Dad Bentley wanted to deed to me when I was a kid. Such is life ….
All from the memory of a man that remembers when he was a ''kid'' spending endless summers in the Blue Ridge Mountains of NC.......
Lets all ask someone to please bring our troops home real soon.......