A muted medium clang rings out when you turn the handle on this doorbell. Four generations of our family have had their turn at the bell. A trip to the Mountain House would not be the same without at least two or three visits to the bell with a shout out—company’s coming! Every kid did it until the grownups last nerve was set off and then we would do it one more time.
The Mountain House as we call it, was originally owned by my Great Aunt Nana and Uncle Bim. Nana was born Anna Gertrude and when I was born, I inherited the name. It’s old fashioned and suits me well. It is also meaningful for me that the first woman to set foot on this land was named Anna Maria. Marie is my middle name. It was just meant to be that way because the genealogy of our family is written in my heart.
The bell is kept on the door, which is under the porch overhang, which looks out over the meadow. The meadow was home to a salt lick that my Uncle Bim placed there to attract deer. Watching the wildlife in those mountains was the biggest past-time. In the evening, the deer would be coaxed out of the forest to lick the salt. You always wanted to be the first to sight one. Our Uncle Bim loved that his salt block was an important part of the Mountain House experience. After dark, Uncle Bim would shine his flashlight down toward the salt lick and several mirrored eyes would look back at you.
Perched on top of the first porch post would be a bird’s nest. The Mountain house was vacant for a few days at the time and birds would nest in the perfectly peaceful and protected location. It was part of the experience too and four generations of watchful eyes had witnessed a fresh nest each summer. The momma bird would be angered that we had disturbed the area but she kept on nesting and got use to us.
Who knows what hides under that porch that is the foundation for the door with the bell. I always ran up the steps to make sure what ever was under there never caught me. I didn’t sit with my feet dangling either. Our Nana could always be heard saying–watch for snakes and critters under the porch. I believed her.
Almost always, the whole family gathered around the front porch and the swing. During meals, us kids would pull out the old school chairs with the attached desk. The Mountain House had several of those old wooden desk chairs and we would rush to get one. The whole family usually spilled out on to the lawn. Nothing taste better than a good meal at the Mountain House.
If you were at the Mountain House, then the burn can had to be started and kept going most of time. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times…..don’t throw cans in the trash. Cans won’t burn. Every member of our family has several burn cans. I don’t know if it’s Southern to burn your combustibles….but we made it a holiday. More stories have been shared gathered around the burn can.
It was especially emphasized in the dark of night. The nights can be chilly but the burn can assured a comfy atmosphere. Sometimes, the grown-ups would forget the kids were there. If you stepped just out of the firelight, you could hide in the darkness and not be noticed. I called it the ring of knowledge. I learned a great deal about life hiding in the ring of knowledge which was located in the upper meadow of the home that had the door where the bell rang.
I ran up this road once at break neck speed trying to get home before the storm hit. I didn’t make it and lightening struck the ground in front of me. I have a problem with my right ear to this day due to that strike.
The mountain house is located at the end of a road that leads up the mountain. It’s just not a Mountain House trip if you don’t walk a good distance down the road and inspect the treasures along the way.
Uncle Bim taught me where snakes came from and he said it so convincingly that I was sure it was the truth. He told me to peer in to the depths of a rain puddle to see the baby snakes. I looked and sure enough, there were little flexible rods swimming around as if they were in a big lake. I still remember that moment to this day and I was about 6 at the time. Uncle Bim explained that long ago horses passed that way and over time lost some of their mane along the way. If a horse hair was allowed to soak, it would turn in to a snake. I’m afraid of rain puddles to this day.
So much of what Nana and Uncle Bim taught us kids has stuck. Everyone was blessed by having them in our lives. Nana taught me about the mountains, the people, the ways, the beauty, and how to appreciate it all. I am forever grateful.
There is a crik down there where us kids played and we’ll save that story for another day…but today, you see how big the pines grow. Nana taught me the toast for our state and it goes like this:
The Toast of North Carolina
Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine, The summer’s land where the sun doth shine. Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great. Here’s to down home, the Old North State.
Nana taught me how to weave the long leaf pine needles and make a necklace, or basket, or bird’s nest. She was just about the best person I know.
Upon arriving at the Mountain House, we would place a watermelon upstream in the creek. It would sit in that ice cold water letting the cold permeate every tasty bite.
When Uncle Bim got good and ready, he would bring the watermelon up on this back porch. The watermelon knife was selected and perfect little canoe shapes where equally sliced. There was a table on that back porch and come watermelon cutting time, Nana would lay newspaper out to collect seeds and juices. The years of cutting have worn remembrances in the table and made it sweeter through time.
Quickly, we ate the heart of the melon which was the sweetest of all the parts. Nana would remind us not to eat the white parts. She would explain each time we ate the watermelon that the white would give us a belly ache. She said it cause us kids ate to the rind and would have gone beyond without the fear of a belly ache.
And as the heat of the sun parked over the Mountain House, you would find us napping in house which was the frame for the door which lovingly has cared for the bell all these years.
————-Dedicated to my Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob for their continued care of The Mountain House–