It’s mid-March and it’s cold. I know, I know, I know. You Yankee types pull out lounge chairs and sunblock whenever the temperature gets above thirty. According to my new Dollar Store thermometer, it’s twenty-nine this morning so don’t you bring out the bikinis yet…well, the thermometer only cost a dollar. It could be off just a bit.
March cold in the foothills of the Blue Ridge is a different kind of cold from the rest of the winter. The cold is driven by the March winds coming in like a lion and the moisture it collects. It’s not a dry cold just like in the summer it’s not a dry heat. The wind is heavy with moisture this morning. Why we’ve been known to get late March snowstorms that totally shut down the area with its half-inch deposit. The dairy and bakery businesses revel in their collusion with Mother Nature’s late-season lessons in capitalism. (If you don’t know what that means message me, I’ll explain.)
Today was clear, no late season snow, and I felt good…really, really good after a winter of arthritic pains, Afib, and seasonal affective disorder. Good enough to walk the old logging road that connects my home on the Scenic Highway with the more scenic sounding Chicora Road a mile and a quarter to the north. I walk it when I feel good and when it’s not hunting season. I walk it when I feel good because I need the strength. The road begins with a third of a mile thigh and hamstring hammering trek up the side of a small mountain…or steep hill.
I don’t walk it during hunting season for obvious reasons. One of those crazy AR-15 toting hunters might mistake me for a Buck or a Tom and turn me into a sieve. My name is Don anyway. Today I had no excuse. I felt good and it’s not hunting season.
The old road meanders through a mixed forest. I was almost immediately greeted by a Pileated woodpecker working the top of a hollowed-out hardwood. He must have thought I was funny huffin’ and puffin’ as I was. He laughed and laughed as he flew away. They are beautiful birds and I do love their distinctive call.
I’ve walked this old road for thirty years now…when I’ve felt good. It’s changed little. I’ve got a few more downed trees I need to remove so I can get the tractor or the jeep through. One of these days…maybe…they’re easy to step over.
What has changed is the ownership of the road. I don’t own the whole road, there are three of us whose land it runs through. On the Chicora end, old Vessy has leased his seventy some odd acres out to hunters. They have turned ole Vessy’s cabin into “a hunting lodge” complete with a new burning pit. It’s right nice for a hunting lodge…but I wouldn’t like to live there. There must be a slew of them because the road is now marked with deer stands reminding me of watchtowers. I actually thought of Jimi Hendrix singing “All Along the Watchtower.” Understand now why I don’t walk here during hunting season?
Seems they might be doing something else during their offseason. I smelled the tangy fragrance from a quarter mile away. Snatches of the sour aroma of fermented corn being carried by the March wind. I should have turned around then but curiosity got the best of the old geezer.
I saw the smoke wafting above the chimney and they saw me before I saw them. Three ‘good ole boys’ of ample girth, in camouflage and baseball caps…all carrying hunting rifles. I should have been afraid…and I was. Chills chased each other up and down my spine.
Maybe I can disarm them with my smile and winning personality. Cheerfully I greeted them with a “Morning! How y’all this fine March morning?”
“We’s good. You’re trespassin’.” Not a “How are you?” or so much a “La-di-da.” I decided not to ask any more questions myself and realized my smile and personality meant nothing to them.
“I’m Don. I live at the other end of the old logging road. I’ve been walkin’ it for thirty years and always check on Vessy’s cabin when I come by.”
“Well, we check on it now and with us huntin’, it might be safer if you stay on your land.” The speaker jutted his chin out and nodded. His two friends followed suit and jutted out their chins and we all became a cluster of bobbleheads.
Continuing to nod, I decided not to point out, “I ain’t huntin’ season.” They weren’t very neighborly at all.
The leader of the pack continued, “Yeah, iffin I wuz you I’d probably just stay on your land,” and without so much as a “by your leave” or an offer to taste their homebrew, turned and headed toward the cabin with his two companions in pursuit.
“Well bless your heart.”
Addendum-two days later
It’s not as cool in the foothills of the Blue Ridge this morning. A bit of warmin’…and pre-April showers on the way. I feel good but I’m not walking the old logging road today. Seems like we had a bit of a commotion on the upper end of Chicora yesterday. Zane, from across the road called me to let me know, telling me a story that brought a smile to my face.
“Revenuers breakin’ up a still you say?” Yes, I know we don’t call ‘um revenuers anymore.
Hum. Believe I’ll call ole Vessy and see if it’s safe to walk tomorrow. Wonder how they found out ‘bout that still? Maybe those ole boys learned a lesson ‘bout bein’ neighborly.
Names and location were changed to protect the innocent.
Image from http://www.hotel-r.net/us/moonshine-cabin
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