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When we were growing up, part of the summer drill was two weeks at Sibmasse, my grandparent’s huge Victorian barn of a house in Saluda, NC. There was a joggling board, a dumb waiter, and a radio that got two stations. Oh, and a swing that had been hung by a mountain man named Brincus who climbed a massive chestnut oak to the lowest branch – probably twenty-five feet off the ground. Back in those days it was often cold in the morning, and Daddy would start a fire in the trash burner.
So what did we do to pass the hours? Often the year-round residents across the street had a litter of puppies we would cuddle. We walked to the post office to find the box usually empty but it was fun to work the dial. On warm days Daddy would take us swimming at Ogden’s pond. And we worked puzzles.
Those 800 pieces of multi-colored foliage were the hardest. Mountains covered with the glory of deciduous trees were and remain a favorite theme for puzzle workers. Where is the satisfaction of finishing a puzzle that is based on an everything in the refrigerator pizza? But those glorious mountain scenes, usually with a lake reflecting the colors and making the challenge that much greater -- when the last piece went in you felt like you had conquered Mt. Mitchell.
I haven’t been to the mountains this year but there is tremendous beauty in my part of the world. Hickories are my favorites. We have a hickory right outside our bedroom that drops nuts on the metal roof. It’s a great percussive sound that emphatically announces that summer isover. The fall color of hickories reminds me of almost browned butter. The turkey and blackjack oaks that dominate the sandy ridges in this part of the world have rich and somewhat shiny colors that make up for their stunted size. Sparkleberries add a delicate texture and deep purple to the palate. And for all the grief people give them,there is nothing like a multi-hued, Jacob’s coat-like sweetgum.
Do people still take a drive on Sunday afternoons? Probably not politically correct in these days when we are more energy-conservation minded, but we need to nourish the soul as well as the body. Pack a snack and gather some friends for a drive to the country one day soon and enjoy the beauty that Mother Nature has bestowed on our woodlands.