Thursday, July 11, 2013

Our Few Acres

Mama and Daddy had a short tenure in Hidden Valley - two or three years at most. During that time, Mr. McMillan's pond was never stocked, a fact that never bothered me as much as the nightmares I had of the dam breaking,  flooding the valley, and washing our house off the side of the mountain down the creek. The park was never built. The day we left the valley it was still a dirt lot. And, I'm not sure what happened to the poor little ponies.

All this was not for lack of help. Mr. McMillan did have assistance in running his operation in an old mountaineer he called "Franklin". I don't think Mr. McMillan ever had intentions of finishing these grand plans. Once he sold all of his lots, no one saw much of him. It wasn't like there was a home owner's association or covenants or anything to hold him to his promised attractions.  Looking back on it, I question if the land owners were given clear title. But, then those fools from Florida would buy anything in the mountains of North Carolina.

Since we were the last house on the line, and the road down the hill was often in poor shape, Dad got to know Franklin very well since he often had to find him to pull our car out of the ditch or sometimes just around a curve. Often the wet clay road was in such poor shape, just getting out of the valley was impossible.

One day, Dad told Franklin he and Mama were looking for some  more property up there, maybe  15-20 acres in the area. Dad had always wanted a few head of cattle. Sure enough one weekend while we were up there, Franklin showed up at the house. "Bill, ar think I found yar sumpthin to look at. Ain't much." So off we went.

What he had found was 13 pretty wooded fenced in acres located on a hard packed state road. There were two open pastures, we learned later were called the "Upper Pasture" and the "Lower Pasture". The far end was bordered by a stream - "Big Hungry" creek - yes the very same one. It was exactly what Mama and Daddy were looking for and the price was right. They bought the property and Mama quickly named it "Our Few Acres".

Daddy asked Franklin if he knew someone who could help him look after the cattle he planned to put on the place. Franklin said he would be happy to do that, he had the time. So he was at the farm when the Angus cattle Daddy had bought were delivered.  Daddy was thrilled. Franklin just shook his head, "They're pretty alright, but a bit small don't you think?"  At that time Angus were not a popular breed in that area and their stocky build and short legs did not impress him. Dad wasn't phased. Finally, he had him a herd of cattle (albeit only 15 head). 

During that conversation, he asked Franklin, "You never told me your what your last name is." (Daddy had always paid him in cash.) "Franklin." "Well, then what's your first name?" "Stanbury. Stanbury Franklin." "Well, if it's OK with you, I'm going to call you Stanbury." And, so it was that Stanbury became part of our lives (and Daddy became a cattle farmer!)

Every morning we were up there, Stanbury would drive up in his old blue Chevrolet truck that looked like it was going to fall apart at any moment. When he arrived, I can hear it now, "Morn'n Bill. Della  (Stanbury's wife) sent ya sumpthin." And, with that he would hand Daddy a brown paper bag. That "sumpthin" might have been a mess of fresh squash from her garden, a jar of her apple butter, or a warm Rhubarb pie, you never knew. 

Dad being Dad, he wanted to do something in return. When he learned Della had some health issues, he told her he could save her some money on her medicine. So he got her to start sending him  all her prescriptions from her doctors. And, every time we came up, Dad always had a bag of medicine for her. He never billed her. Needless to say, she thought the world of him, so the sumpthin's for him got more special, although I never developed a love of Rhubarb pie.

It wasn't long before Mama started talking about building a house on the new farm. And, that was fine with us. Getting out of Hidden Valley could come none to soon. I still feared being washed away at any moment due to an inferior damn, falling down the side of the mountain by one misstep off the door stoop, or spending the rest of our lives stuck in red clay.

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