Sunday, June 27, 2021

A Reluctant Guest

To those who knew nothing about High Acres, it was hard to describe - where did one start. Friends and family who had visited often had tall tails of their adventures on the farm. And it was all true - you couldn't make this up. From the weekends Daddy entertained business colleagues, to those vacations when visitors came and went (and many just stayed) there was always something going on. But, there were the quiet times when we had no company, when I spent hours riding with Daddy - both on horses and in the jeep. I think I learned more from him during theses times than any other times with him.  

There was a memorable time with a young man I first started dating during the Christmas holidays. I told him about the farm and that we always spent New Years up there. I could tell he was not impressed. New Years Eve - on a farm - in the mountains of North Carolina? Whatever. In other words - not for him. And, I understood, the last thing he could imagine being a "good time" was a holiday weekend stuck in the boondocks of the North Carolina mountains with this girl you just started dating and her parents. But, I invited him up any way. And, he came, reluctantly but made it clear he could only stay for a couple of days.

Now New Years on the farm was unlike any other occasion or any other day. It was an "official" reason to have a good time with family and friends, as if we needed one. Usually, we had a house full of guests, but for some reason, that weekend, it was just my new beau and my immediate family.

When we arrived and he first saw the house, I think it confirmed his worse suspicions. We went through the gate, up the hill, over the cattle guard,  through the apple orchard and there sitting in front of him was this large square house with barn red rough cut siding. We unloaded the cars and I showed him around the house complete with its half finished rooms, ornate doorways, rustic stairway (albeit with impressive balusters), carved arches, and huge windows. Then we went out on the back deck and he saw the view. It was a clear afternoon and you could see over the hills and into the valley below. To the East, the view extended all the way into South Carolina. OK, maybe this wasn't quite what he was expecting.

That night Daddy grilled steaks on the deck. We watched a fabulous sunset from the kitchen and settled in for an evening of games and TV. What a conundrum. We put him in a bedroom where 1 of the 4 walls was still missing paneling, so you could see the insulation between the studs. His other choice was a room upstairs with a beautiful view, no insulation, and the whistle of the wind coming around the window sills. The next morning, we were out early with Dad to ride horses and show him the farm.

Daddy told him,"We are going to spend New Years Eve with some folks we know who live up here. You'll love them. They're very down to earth.

My beau looked at me, "What does he mean 'down to earth'?" I assured him he would enjoy it. 

Then Daddy continued, "He and his wife built their own house and their daughter and son-in-law live with them." Once again, I got an evil look from my beau. Daddy just could not stop. "They grow their own food, make their own soap -it's just amazing." At this time my beau had yet to see that twinkle in my father's mischievous eye.

We were going to the home of a retired US Naval Commander who lived at the bottom of the mountain about 100 yards as the crow flies or a good 3 or 4 miles by road. Obviously, no mountain hick, he and his wife, Gloria, had lived all over the world and were most interesting. They had retired to the mountains and enjoyed doing everything themselves. They had this incredible home they had built with their son and his wife. It had become a tradition over the years for us to spend New Years Eve with them. And, I knew from experience, it would be a  fabulous festive evening with good friends and great food.

On our way back up the mountain, in the wee hours of the morning after a many tall tales, adults beverages, and much fun, my father turned to my beau, "So, what did you think about the Commander?"

"Oh, he is great." 

Then Daddy added, "Well it's been great having you up. Sorry you have to leave tomorrow." 

By the time we reached the house, my beau suddenly found his calendar was clear after all and he could stay for the rest of the week.

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