Getting’ Away From it All


I once heard Jerry Clower, “The Mouth of Mississippi”, a Southern comedic philosopher of sorts, described visiting kinfolk who lived back in the ‘sticks.’  He was a city boy from Liberty, Mississippi, population seven hundred or so.  He described a trek down a ‘holler’ split by a creek into a heavily wooded area on a narrow footpath.  Miles and miles he went,  hopping over stumps and climbing up banks with only animal calls, bird twitters, and the babble of the creek to accompany him before finally arriving at a rustic, moss-covered cabin.  As he stepped onto the low front porch, he saw a piece of paper thumbtacked to the front door.  It was a single, scrawled sentence, “Gone to get away from it all, be back soon.”

Old house 3

Abandoned Home on Chinquapin Road at Langford Circle

Once upon a time country folk had already gotten away from it all and didn’t need to trek far.  They might go hunting in the woods, picking blackberries or fishing on a riverbank.  The weekly trip to the general store was a big deal.  They were in the middle of their getaway…or the middle of nowhere.  I guess those times have changed for some folk.


One of the small waterfalls around our ‘little piece of heaven’

When my bride and I moved to 3300 Highway 11, the scenic Cherokee-Foothills Highway, we were in the sticks.  On land that was described as gently rolling, I learned real estate agents lie.  Thirty years or so later, you’d still think we lived in the sticks if it just wasn’t for the traffic and the golf courses.  Like Daniel Boone, I feel civilization squeezing in.

The land around us is covered in hemlocks, black walnuts, and a mostly hardwood forest.  Mountain laurel and rhododendron, wild iris, blueberries, and wild azaleas are abundant. Tall hillsides form the basin our hundred and twenty-year-old farmhouse sits in. Cut by ravines, ‘hollers’, and seven year-round streams “my little piece of heaven” is the perfect place to “get away from it all.”


Mountain Laurel will soon be joined by Rhododendron

The peaceful, scenic former Cherokee trading path, Highway 11,  winds past lakes, deep green mixed forests, peach farms budding pink, nearby small mountains, and hollers with names like Hogback, Glassy, Table Rock, Rocky Bottom or Mush Creek.

Spring @ Table Rock -- Hike 2 to the Rock - Tue, Nov 3 2020

Table Rock from across the lake

And golf courses…I forgot…golf courses.  The path has become too well-traveled.  Transfer trucks, Harley Davidsons, and big tricked out pick-up trucks with glass packs pulling bass boats have been joined by BMWs and Mercedes with golf bags nestled in the trunk or bike racks on the deck lid.  It makes me want to get “further away from it all.”

The self-quarantine due to the Corona-19 has not stopped the traffic noise but it certainly has made me ponder the wildlife preserve my wife and I have created.   You might want to read in “too lazy to cut anything other than pathways between the wild strawberries, honeysuckle, and blooming clover”…and the ferns…the ferns that are taking over.  The problem is my bride.  She doesn’t want anything cut that “might” put off a brief flush of color no matter how small the bloom or how fast it disappears.  Still, it is one of the reasons I try not to venture out where people are…that, and I don’t want to die on a ventilator.



One of the overgrown pathways and the fern that ate my yard

Retirement has made being stuck at the homeplace easier, or is it just being lazy? We’ve spent hours watching playful chipmunks, newly born, playing under the bird feeders.  They mingle with the mourning doves, robins, and sparrows on the ground while purple and goldfinches, cardinals, grosbeaks, nuthatches, tanagers, and woodpeckers jockey for position to eat black sunflower seeds or suet from the feeders.  There has been a squirrel or two dozen also.  I don’t bother to shoo them away anymore; I just buy more feed…the money I ordinarily would be spending on walk-in dining or “boat drinks” now goes toward bird feed.


My first rose chested grosbeak

I caught a flash of brown sprinting across one of the flat areas behind the house.  Fox? Coyote?  I only caught a flash.  It would make sense if either.  Deer and turkeys returned to the flat behind the house that is cut by a rocky stream leading out of my own holler.  They were visible in the early spring through my kitchen window and I’ve seen tracks in my garden.  The deer and turkeys are absent right now, but they’ll be back as soon as their newborns are older, hopefully staying out of the garden.  A red-tail hawk is teaching her little one how to hunt, perched on a stick up in my yard waste pile.

As darkness descends the night shift takes over as hootie owls call to each other from the hillsides around us.  No lightnin’ bugs yet or whipporwills but soon….  Two mornings in a row I’ve found my suet feeder torn down and holes dug in the pathway leading to back gate   Make that four days in a row and it is Rocky Raccoon, too smart to get nabbed in my gum.  It appears he enjoyed the meal I left.  He was in no hurry to leave.

Raccoon STANDS stock still like a human when it is caught sneaking ...

Not my picture but it could have been.  He didn’t seem the least bit scared.

With all the wildflowers, or weeds, obscuring my path, I’ve had to be vigilant.  Mr. No Shoulders has made an appearance in the protein-rich environment.  I’ve had to move the black rat snake away from nests and almost stepped on him once.  From years past I realize, he is persistent.  He is also hardheaded, there are plenty of field mice to feed on…maybe house mice too.  I guess baby birds are easier.


Wild ?

My bride and I have rediscovered a joy that had been missing…our morning walks…strolls…saunters.  I do my fitness walk and then she joins me for a slower, mental fitness walkabout ramble.  “Ooh look! A butterfly.”

Sometimes we hike our hilly property, but more likely we walk around the nearby lake.  The normally busy non-denominational “Look-up” Christian camp it sits in is deserted and wildlife and wildflowers are abundant…without the sounds associated with people…except from the distant highway.


Lake Chinquapin


An interesting tree on a steep hillside

We have taken to counting the turtles we see sunbathing on the docks and downed trees at the camp.  We do have “a little piece of heaven”  to get away from it all.  Yesterday there were twenty-six turtles and my bride took pictures of them all.  Next week I’m sure she will have them named.

Turtles (2)

Turtles sunning on a downed tree

All images were taken with my Android phone except for Rocky Raccoon, which explains the less than perfect presentation.

Rocky Raccoon courtesy of The Daily Mail

Linda in white dres

The prettiest flower of them all, my bride, Linda Porter-Miller

The feature image is of the honeysuckle choked bell in front of our home.  The picture was used for the cover of the book “Through the Front Gate”.  The book and others may be found at



“Don’t throw stones at your neighbors if your own windows are glass”-Ben Franklin

After thirty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, we still haven’t met a lot of the local folk.  We aren’t anti-social…oh…maybe we are.  Since retiring, we have gotten better at meeting our neighbors but the people around here, the “my family has lived here for one hundred and fifty years” people, are a little slow to “warm up” and will look at “foreigners” with a “jaundiced eye” until you’ve been in the area for a while.  After nearly thirty years, our church family still refers to us as the “new couple” that moved in across from the Runyon’s old place…and the Runyon’s haven’t lived here in a decade or more.

Our “original” across the road neighbors, Farrell and Libby Runyon, were “interesting” in every GOOD way you could use the word.  Retired Baptist missionaries to Africa, our Methodist friends characterized them as “good Baptist brethren.”  With over forty years spent in the southern and western areas of Africa, the Runyons were a fount of information, some that could be applied to the “Dark Corner” where we lived.

During a conversation taking place in the middle of Dr. Runyon’s pasture, he periodically would raise his hands above his head.  After the fourth or fifth time, I could not control my curiosity.  “Dr. Runyon, what are you doing?”  “Keeping the gnats out of my face.”  To emphasize, he raised his arms and sure enough, the gnats not only left his face but mine too…and hovered around his armpits.  I was impressed…and concerned over Dr. Runyon’s personal hygiene…and my own as I apply this “jewel” of knowledge during the hot, humid and gnat filled days of summer.

Dr. Runyon also had the ability to make me feel like a fool…an easy task?  A beekeeper, one of his little minions took offense to me bush hogging too close to their hive and nailed me right on my upper lip.  During the ensuing conversation, as my lip swelled out past my nose, I asked the good doctor how they dealt with the “African” killer bees we had heard was invading the southern United States.  His comment?  “You know Don, all bees in Africa are ‘African’.”  Really?  Silly me.

One morning, after an explosive, expletive-laced argument with Linda Gail the evening before, she met Dr. Runyon at our mailboxes.  Gently and with great tact he informed her that “You know, sound really travels well in this little valley.”  A somewhat puzzled Linda walked to the house contemplating the significance of his comment when the consequences of arguing in our backyard fell on her, and later me, with the weight of the proverbial “ton of bricks.”  Oh my, he heard everything we said.

As good as the Runyons were, so was “Dodger,” but with “Dodger,” the ravages of an ill-lived life might have caught up with him.  He moved into a converted barn type building straight from Home Depot that was sitting in a clump of kudzu a quarter of a mile down Airline Road.  “Dodger” later moved his new girlfriend in and they cleared kudzu, planted flowers and attempted to build their little piece of the American Dream.  With no running water except what ran down the stream in front of their little mansion, they showered at the nearby park and used their outhouse for “other” needs.  Just like our mixed breed, Sassy Marie, Linda Gail adopted them but stopped short of inviting them into the yard to stay.

“Dodger” could be a fount of useful information…usually as it related to “folk” remedies and sometimes even better information if it was early in the day.  He taught us what to look for to treat poison ivy, jewelweed, a plant that grows almost as abundantly as poison ivy around our home.  He even brought Linda Gail a “tea” made from Yarrow to treat gastric issues.  We still use the jewelweed remedy but Linda Gail was a bit reluctant to try the Yarrow tea…as I was to sample his homebrew…smooooooooth.

“Dodger” had run out of luck and “gubment assistance” by the time we met and despite his best attempts, could not quite get his life together.  It wasn’t because he was lazy, the man worked harder than people who were being paid money…except when he was in his “cups.”  A former heavy equipment operator, his issues might have been the alcohol he made or begged off of his girlfriend and consumed at any time during the day or night.

I would say it was alcohol that betrayed his efforts.  “Dodger” had refined his inebriation to an art form, never “stumbling” drunk but not quite sober either.  When “not quite sober” he could talk the “horns off of a billy goat” and remember, I said he was always “not quite sober.”  I also don’t believe “Dodger” liked being told what to do even though he did do “handyman” projects for Linda Gail.  Seems she picks her part-time helpers according to who is the most interesting and needy.  I’m not sure what that says about me.

Hesiod, the Greek poet, once wrote, “A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a blessing.”  We honestly don’t know about bad neighbors.

This piece was re-written from the book by Don Miller, “Through the Front Gate.” It and others may be purchased or downloaded at

If you are interested in an erotic, romantic adventure, you might be interested Don Miller writing as Lena Christianson.  Her site may be accessed at