Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Comeuppance



If there is one thing my Tony and I have accomplished since living up here in our old log cabin in the foothills of Roan Mountain, Tennessee it's finding where the best food is served up. Ferreting out the 'Mom and Pop' eateries has expanded our geographical boundaries as well as our waistlines. The result of our culinary forays is the discovery there is no better country cooking in this neck of the woods than you will find in Carter County.

One of our favorite eateries is Laurel Fork Restaurant in Hampton, Tennessee. 

It just so happens it was also there I had a once-in-a-lifetime memorable experience.

One day at lunch while sitting in a booth savoring the restaurant's daily special, their to-die-for baked chicken breast, my two chosen sides of homemade mashed potatoes with brown gravy, green beans and a hot hoe cake, the door opened, and an elderly couple shuffled in.

As they made their way to a table near me, they reminded me of my Grandma Minnie and Papa Hunter, in particular, because of the swaddling of excess clothing, overkill for the unseasonably warm day outside. 

I smiled as they passed but there was no response.

When the waitress approached with menus, the old gentleman waved them away as if he had ordered this meal many times before. He wanted iced water for two, one grilled cheese sandwich sliced in half, one house salad, two ranch dressings and an extra plate. 

I was trying my best not to be nosy, but I was struck by the meal they had ordered. The austerity of the couple's clothing was another reason I had thought of my grandparents. Was this all they could afford?

When their meal came, the gentleman took half of the sandwich and placed it on the extra plate, split the salad and dressing and then slid the plate across to the woman I assumed was his wife.

My heart cracked a bit.

Had they eaten breakfast? Would this be their only meal of the day? Would I be out of line to approach and ask if I could have the honor of having a meal prepared for them to take home? 

My better half has always told me I should mind my own business; one day, he has said repeatedly, you will get your comeuppance. Still, I could not help but fret over them.

Then the man began to eat. I noted though the woman just stared down at her plate. I thought she might be saying a silent blessing, yet she continued to either gaze at her plate or look up occasionally at the man. There had not been one word spoken between them since they arrived. Why wasn't she eating? For the next few minutes, I discreetly glanced at them as I tried to swallow my lunch over the lump in my throat.

Finally, I could not endure the situation anymore. Brushing aside my husband's admonitions, I got up and walked over to the couple and kneeled down beside the little lady's chair.

"Are you okay?" I gently asked. "I couldn't help but notice you are not eating your food and it is getting cold. What are you waiting for ma'am"?

Looking me square in the eye and with a sharp tone she replied, "His teeth."

 


Folks, if you are ever over in Carter County, you may want to stop at Laurel Fork Restaurant located at 201 Highway 321, Hampton, Tennessee. 37658 (423-725-2091.) When you feel the hankering for a wonderful home cooked meal, take Hwy. 19E from Elizabethton toward Roan Mountain, TN. When you get to the intersection in Hampton take a left at the light onto Hwy. 321 and Laurel is located up on the left.






Owner Lisa Qualls and her excellent staff will greet you like family, and the service is outstanding. The most surprising detail is the menu prices that are more than reasonable. You can buy a plate lunch at the restaurant for about the same amount as a meal at McDonald's.

Laurel Fork is homey and comfortable. Heck, I have gone there straight from the barn dressed in cut-off jeans, an old tee shirt, and cowboy boots and even once wore my pajama bottoms with a sweatshirt. The restaurant is open seven days a week with a special plate lunch served daily. You can also order from the menu chock full of tasty stuff.



Lisa considers her customers part of her family. Tony and I adore her.

My hubby and I eat breakfast there often, and the homemade biscuits and gravy are described by Tony, who happens to be an expert in this field, declaring between bites, "Awe man, this can't get any better, Linda." When not ordering the B & G, I routinely order an omelet.  Why? Simple. Because the omelets there are the best I have ever eaten anywhere in my lifetime. 

On Sunday's Lisa always serves up her famous Chicken and Dumplings Dinner. I have always wondered if the preachers in the area have time to get through the altar call before the stampede begins toward Laurel Fork Restaurant. If you don't get there early, you may not get a serving of this coveted entrĂ©e.


Yeah, stopping in at Laurel Fork is an experience that takes Tony and me back to the days when life was slower and kinder and when family and friends gathered 'round, enjoyed a home cooked meal, and all was right with the world. 

I hope ya'll get a chance to stop by there when in the area.

Until next time may God bless each and every one of ya.




                                                                          

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

You Surely Reap What You Sew

My neighbor planted a garden along her fence row,
With the utmost of care, she did till and sow,
I too sowed a garden atop my fence, not low,
Where my lovely feathered friends could live and grow.


                     



                                  

I so enjoy providing shelters for my feathery buddies living with me up here in the foothills of Roan Mountain. 

I love watching the tiny hummingbirds, and delight at their shenanigans. On the other hand, the oh-so-small Warbling Vireos who live among us bring out my mother instinct in part because of their mating commitments. Though larger than the hummingbirds, the warblers don’t have the cocky confidence of the hummers. I spend much time in the rocker on the front porch marveling at ‘the least of these.' 

This past spring was spent watching a mommy and daddy Vireo as they worked in harmony building their nest in one of the birdhouses designed primarily for their species. The soon-to-be-mommy would land on the little stoop with a small scrap of moss or tiny twig and wait patiently for her husband to come out of the home’s hole door. As he flew off to gather his next contribution to the impending miracle, she entered to stuff the mattress in her birthing bed as we expectant mommies are prone to do.

After their work was finished and her nest ready, she entered her home and did not come back out for a season. Her husband stayed close. She labored in love, and her eggs were finally laid to rest. She and her husband both then settled down to co-nurture them to birth, a strong trait of the Vireos. Incubation is by both parents, anywhere from 12-14 days, and the male frequently sings from the nest while incubating.

Then one day when it was the mama's turn to sit on the nest, I noted the daddy flew off but he, uncharacteristically, never returned. I felt sad for the abandoned mommy and her future children.

Yet, she remained stoic and lovingly cared for those babies when they hatched. As hungry gaping mouths constantly demanded to be fed, she became a frequent flyer in search of bugs and grubs.

When my grandbabes came up to visit their Nana, I cautioned them not to go near the little cabin and frighten the new mommy. I was pleased to see how very careful my puppies were when they learned the mother bird would abandon her little ones if they pestered her. I believe the word ‘abandon’ frightens children the world ‘round as it has been said that being abandoned is the most destructive emotion we can inflict upon another human being. 

Thankfully, the mother was faithful, and finally, her brood was ready to leave her nest, and they did; all flew safely into the sanctuary of the forest that surrounds us.

Having witnessed the plight of this one pitiful mommy and her little ones who were suddenly abandoned started me thinking though about the four little bird cabins now empty. I knew the coming spring would be bringing forth new families and I realized something needed to be done now to prepare for them.

So I sat down and penned four tiny manuscripts and rolled each into a scroll. I tied a pretty ribbon around each and placed it in each cabin as a welcome gesture. I hope these will be a source of inspiration if needed and the families will find bits ’o wisdom, maybe even a note of levity. Who knows, some of the powerful words may give one of the little birds the courage to soar like an eagle.

In addition to the scrolls, I have also decided to go a step further.  I am going to invite each Vireo family to come join me on the back porch for brunch every morning. I will put out small bowls of savory seeds, bits of fruit, sliced caterpillar-a favorite of the species- and water; I will have my usual poppy seed bagels and cream cheese. Hey! I just had another idea! Those little sweet peas fly up this path to the back porch so after they eat and start back down to their cabins, I  think I will put a birdbath right beside this walkway so they can also take their morning baths! Yes, that is a must do.
                           
                                   

In the meantime I thought I would share with you, my faithful friends and readers, what I wrote in those scrolls to each of my future feathery friends...                                    

“Hello, my graceful beauty and new neighbor. Welcome to Misty Hollow. My name is Auntie Linda, and I live in the old log cabin right in front of you. I want you to know my heart and home are open to you at all times; just fly to my window, and I will drop everything and be at your peck and call. In this scroll are some words of wisdom others have shared with me in times of trouble. I want to pass them on to you, my friend, in the hopes these truths may one day encourage you. 

Always remember, we might not know what the future holds but we sure know Who holds it, don’t we honey? Again, welcome to the hollow and may God bless your stay as you and your husband busy yourselves with nesting and birthin’ your babies. Oh! I almost forgot. We have a huge Easter Egg Roll on the grounds planned in a few weeks, and I hope you and the kids will be able to join us!”

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm. -Abraham Lincoln

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. -Saint Francis de Sales 

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born, I set you apart. –Jeremiah 1:5

A happy family is but an earlier heaven. -George Bernard Shaw


"As you read this scroll you precious little lovely, consider this my hearty welcome to you and your husband; I trust you’ve found your cabin to your liking.  I live in that old log cabin looming right outside your front door. Please know that my door will always be open to you. Just fly over and peck on the window and I'll be there for you, come hell or high water. I hope the pearls of wisdom found in this scroll can be of use to you somehow, someday. 
There is a hodgepodge of soothing and helpful truths I have used as a salve for my past wounds, so I wrote them here for you should you ever need them. May God’s richest blessings rest upon you and your husband as you begin your quest to get pregnant, build your nest, lay and share the sitting on those eggs, and as they crack open. Welcome to Misty Hollow!"

You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them. -Desmond Tutu

My peace I give unto you, let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  -John 14:27

Permanence, perseverance, persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguish the strong soul from the weak. -Thomas Carlyle

There is no such thing as a "broken family."  Family is family and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart. The only time family becomes null is when those ties in the heart are cut. If you cut those ties, those people are not your family. If you make those ties, those people are your family. And if you hate those ties, those people will still be your family because whatever you hate will always be with you. - C. Joy Bell

                                                                  
"Hey there, you adorable tiny tot you. I see you are reading the scroll I put here anticipating this move into your cabin. Let me introduce myself. I hope you will call me Auntie Linda and I live in that log cabin right out your front door and slightly to the right; that's right, the one with the blue shutters. I hope you are getting settled in and are excited about living here with us in Misty Hollow. I know you, and your husband have much work to accomplish before you can finally crack open your babies and start cuddling. I know...I have myself nested four times, and it can wear your skin thin!

This scroll contains a lit'l tidbits of wisdom contained within and has been such a source of comfort to me in my times of need. I wanted you to have it should you ever have a need. May God's richest blessings be upon you in this, your new home, you itsy bitsy baby doll. Oh, by the way...if you ever have a need, come and peck on my window, sweetheart." 

The tongue has no bones, but it is strong enough to break a heart. Please be careful with your words and sticking your tongue out is mean too. –Anonymous

A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep. -Vernon Howard

My peace I give unto you, Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten. -David Ogden Stiers

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. -Kurt Vonnegut

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. -Helen Keller
                      
                                                     
"Hello. I am happy you are reading this scroll I left for you, my dear feathered gal pal. I am also delighted to see you and your husband chose the biggest home on the birdie block! You both must be planning on having a huge family. I love watching all the new chick-a-dees in the neighborhood stretching out their tiny wings for the first time while tumbling ‘round in the yard trying to peck each other. My husband and I had four little ones ourselves. I wanted more, but God wisely chose not. 

I do so hope your family will love living here at Misty Hollow. How far did you have to travel to find our paradise here on earth? I cannot wait to sit down with you and hear your story. Your water wheel is not only a wonderful way to deliver power to your home by using the creek behind you, but the cool breeze generated by the rolling wheel is delightful. 

Now, this scroll contains insightful quotes from various authors that meant a lot to me in troublesome times in my past. I so hope you glean bits of wisdom that speak to you if you ever get to your wit’s end. 

And please make note, be sure and peck on my window should you need for anything, honey. I always keep my larder well stocked; shoot, I even keep a good supply of worms on hand. There’s a carton in my fridge in the laundry room right now. Would you believe I left a container out there once and when I went to get a needed worm, all I found was black dirt! That’s the truth, honey! Well, that’s why the Good Lord says ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ in the Good Book. If anybody doubts that truth, just let ‘em buy a can of worms. Anyways, please call me Auntie Linda, sweet girl. I will be praying for God's wisdom, guidance and a heapin' helpin' of love for your future family."

I will not forget you. I have carved you on the palm of my hand. Isaiah 49:15

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.  -Robert Louis Stevenson

Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed. - Albert Einstein

Lastly, always remember...life can be cruel at times. You may shed tears, but none will see your pain; your wing becomes crippled, and all look away. You are cowering in fear, yet that too goes unnoticed.  But if you accidentally expel a little gas...                        

                                           The Tale End

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Man of Men Roams These Mountains Part 2

 For Part One of This Story Please Continue Scrolling Down

Welcome back to Part Two of the life and times of my friend, Robert Lane Street. I am always honored and blessed when you choose to 'read my voice.' 

Referring back to the earlier note of R. L.'s daily target practice, I came to learn what a sharp shooter my buddy really is. As I have said in this space before, I am acutely aware that every family who lives up here in these hollows has weapons in their homes, fully loaded, Tony and I included.

Honestly, though, R. L. brings owning and firing his firearms to a whole new level. A sizable portion of his back acreage is dedicated to his passion. There is a long range shooting range, a pistol range, and a skeet range.

Long range rifle shooting is my bud's forte. He has eight by eight-inch targets pinned on his office wall (for his eyes only- his competition is against himself) showing shots taken from 150 yards away, and the bull’s eyes have shots in them with double shots right on top of the original shot.

I am always amazed as I watch him in action. He makes me think of those old Western TV shows starring men like James Arness, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood. Those heroes in their TV roles were deadly accurate with their weapons and determination to right wrongs.

A few days ago R. L.’s brother Larry who also lives in his own hollow down the road, my friend Berta and I trekked up to the ridge for some target practice.  R. L. had recently purchased a Browning A-Bolt .280 rifle, and I had been hounding him to let me shoot it.

My buddy balked. I could not figure out why R. L. was uncharacteristically giving me push back. If this was a straw man debate, I intended to win. His new rifle was too heavy he said, it would be too loud for me and the kick, if the butt was not secure on my shoulder, could possibly black my eye. Hogwash.

Well, all of my assumptions for why he didn't want me to shoot his rifle were finally put to rest when he let it be known he simply did not want his friend to get hurt. He is, and I do not find this at all offensive, a gentleman from the old school of thinking in matters such as this.

I finally soft-soaped him into letting me take aim, though, and I was pumped. A target was set up at the 80-yard mark for both of us though Jerry, Berta and I also noted a tiny white dot up at the 150 mark.

Here is a video that was taken of R.L. as he is preparing to fire his rifle. Note his humble comment wondering if he can hit his target.


With that shot that son-of-a-gun hit that white dot 150 yards away! R. L. told us it was a small plastic bottle filled with water. His audience was thrilled to see the result of his talent. R. L., disregarding our compliments, solemnly let us know that is what happens to the body of a human or an animal when hit with a rifle like that. His message? While guns should be enjoyed, they are nothing to fool around with. Period. 

Here is a slow motion video of the two of us firing our pistols on his pistol range...







Now, if anyone is interested, here is the video of this gal, wearing the ‘R.L. required’ shoulder pad and taking aim with ‘The Rifle.'




And here is the target I shot from that distance of 80 yards. I was so thrilled with my accomplishment, I had Berta, Jerry, and my dear ole buddy R. L. all sign and date it on the back. 

Well folks, that pretty much scratches the surface of the life of someone who roams up here in these mountains where we live. There’s so much more I could share wit... “Robert Lane! You nitwit! I am going to choke you!” 

Just as I am putting the wraps on this post, I hear R. L.'s soft, unassuming Southern drawl, “Hey, did I tell you I made the finals playing tennis in the Tennessee Senior Olympics four or five years ago?"

"Yeah, I came within a hair of winnin’ the state championship in my age group. I'd never played my whole life, but I thought it looked like fun, so I started watchin' tennis a lot on TV. Then I got some manuals and started readin' up on it and bought a racquet and went to a tennis court and started hittin' some balls. From there I started playin' with some people and then ended up in the Tennessee Olympics. But I got beat out at the very end by a tennis coach...he deserved to win, he was a great opponent."  

And then my buddy shyly showed me his tennis racquets and medallion.




Someone once said, "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." That, my friends, is what life has been like since I have been blessed to know Robert Lane Street. 

DEDICATION
Lane, my brother in Christ, I told you this story would be about you, but I also told you I would dedicate it to you. I struggled to find the words. A trip to the barn recently gave me my dedication as it hung below Trig's stall. It seemed to embody the essence of you, my friend.




Below is a story R.L. wrote after arriving back from Vietnam. I photographed the paper where he typed it on an old Remington typewriter. The story follows, unedited.
+


YOU DIE ONLY ONCE
November 18, 1965, dawned clear and hot as had every other day during the past three months.  I, along with specialist, Joe Campbell, had been attached
to the 21st artillery, 1st bn. Cavalry Division, South Vietnam.  Our job on this mission was to supply the 21st artillery with Balistic Metrological Data. 
       
     The 21st was bivouacked a few miles south of Ira Durang Valley with orders to standby and support the 1st and 5th battalions which had been sent out into the jungle in search of the Viet Cong.  It must have been approximately 3 or 3;30 P.M. when a Mayday call from the Fifth came in over the radio.  They had made contact with and were pinned down by an overwhelming number of Viet Cong Regulars, and needed help fast.

       My outfit was immediately loaded aboard helicopters and flown into the battle area.  We had landed and were preparing to launch an attach on the Viet Cong, when we were attacked from the rear by a large contingent of enemy soldiers. (Reports later show we were outnumbered by a ratio of three to one.)  Apparently the Viet Cong unit that attacked us had been on their way to re-enforce their comrades when they spotted us. We were soon trapped between these soldiers and elements from the regulars who had by now, overrun the other company.  (Artillery and air strikes from supporting units finaly drove the Viet Cong away after a fierce fifteen hour battle.)

       I don’t remember the exact time when I was hit by shrapnel from an emeney mortar round, but it was dark when I regained consciouness.  Sometime during the night, Joe who also had been slightly wounded reached me and dragged me to the shelter of an aid station that had been set up by the medics.

       By the time I had fully regained control of my thoughts, a nauseating fear began to creep into my guts.  I could only lie there helpless and listen to the whine of machine gun bullets overhead, and hear the “whump’ of enemy mortar rounds exploding close by.  A cold chill ran down my spine as I wondered where the next  round would strike.  It was then that I noticed a medic walking erect among the wounded, undaunted by the bullets screaming past him. I watched him and thought, “My God this man is out of his mind.”  I could see him talking to the wounded soilders, as he stopped here and there to administer first aid to one.  He started walking toward me, and I shouted, “Get down, man, or you will surely get hit”. A little grin wrinkled his war-strained face, as he replied in a calm southern drawl: “What the Hell? You only die once.”  He then turned and walked away, and I saw that he too was wounded.  I must have passed out then because I don’t remember anymore. 

       In the hospital, a few days later, I learned that a medic had been killed while giving first aid to a fallen comrade.  He had been wounded three times, and could have saved himself, He instead had sacrificed his own life for another.  I’ll never know for sure whether or not this was the same medic I had talked with that night.  But I will always believe it was.  I do know that whenever I feel the fangs of fear, I remember that night, and the medic who said; “What the Hell? You only die once”.  
                                   
                                                *************************

Friday, July 15, 2016

A Man of Men Roams These Mountains Part 1

“I guess I'm pretty much of a lone wolf. I don't say I don't like people at all but, to tell you the truth I only like it then if I have a chance to look deep into their hearts and their minds.” 
― Bela Lugosi



How do I write a mere blog post about a man who lives in the shadows among us up here on Roan Mountain whose life is deserving of a book? 

A man knitted with complexity yet with a wisdom cloaked in simplicity; one with demanding loyalty to his reclusive lifestyle yet tightly embracive of those he does let into his world; he who comes across with the fierce call of the wild until he privately picks up his pen when beautiful words flow... 

My friends, I would like to introduce to you my neighbor and dear friend, Robert Lane Street.


I will never forget the day I met R.L. as he is known in these parts. Tony and I had settled up here in Misty Hollow, one of many hollows that branch off of the (often) one lane road winding up into these mountains we folks up here call home.  R.L. and his home and acreage are located off that main artery, and his gravel road leads up into his hollow.

Since moving, I had been busy meeting my new neighbors and had already picked up a few tidbits about R.L.  I knew he was a loner who lived up at the top of the ridge. I knew he had hunting dogs and was an avid hunter. I was told he was shy. I did not have to be told he practiced daily on his shooting techniques as the somehow comforting sounds of his various guns ricocheted throughout the valley.

So realizing R.L. was the only neighbor I had not met, I figured it was time to take the bull by the horns. I jumped in my car one day, drove down the mountain and started the climb to his place.

As I reached my destination and was parking, R.L. came out onto his small front porch and stood warily watching me; he looked nothing like the one man welcoming committee I had hoped for. I stepped from the car, flashed him a huge grin and started up the steps to his porch. The first thing I noted was this...


       
…and then I saw the 357 Magnum lying on the railing.
    
Extending my hand, I blurted out I was Linda, his new neighbor who lived up in Misty Hollow and I thought it was high time we met.
       
Quickly sizing him up, this crusty fellow looked to be in his mid-seventies and he had a lean athletic build with piercing eyes set in a face whose deep etches announced he had witnessed more than his share of trouble, fear, and heartache. His demeanor alerted he'd be damned if he intended to take on any more.
    
A fascinating hour and two cups of coffee later I was leaving with a promise I would be back based on his slightly gruff but kind invitation to visit again. After some gentle probing that day, R. L. had mesmerized me with a little about his incredible life.

With a cock-eyed grin, he later told me I had this peculiar way of pulling stuff out of people that had long been buried. I smiled and said I was honored he felt safe to share with me.   
    
That day, my friends, was the root of a great friendship. Early on I asked my bud if I could call him Lane as I had a son named Lane. He reckoned it was okay; he had a grandson named Lane.
    
With time I have learned in our friendship when I can push. Mostly though I’ve discovered by a slight raising of those eyebrows when I’ve crossed a line. Through the telling of his stories, I’ve also learned of the many and varied branches of life my friend has laid under. The more I was able to draw him out the more I realized his life and ways should be shared, and I was thrilled he shyly agreed to let me do the telling.
    
As a young boy of seven, R. L. said he would go off into the mountains with his grandpa to hunt. Though he was not allowed to shoot, that is when he began to fall in love with the beauty and peace of God’s creation. He shared that spending time with older family members who spent time with him in this way was what he felt kept him out of the typical trouble of most youth.
     
Loving horses from an early age, R. L. at age twelve milked cows early morning and evening, and by selling the milk and butter, he was able to buy his first horse. That sparked a lifetime of owning, riding and breaking horses.
    
At age sixteen his father bought thirty acres out on Gap Creek Road in Elizabethton, TN. That young boy loved the acreage and wanted it so much he approached his dad. R. L.’s father told him if he would work in the family mercantile store from age sixteen to the day he turned twenty-one and not join the armed services, the property would be deeded to him.
                                                                                                            
The boy agreed and did keep up his end of the bargain, and his dad did likewise. Unfortunately, the reality of the draft was the law of the land so the day R. L. celebrated his twenty-first birthday he became both the owner of the thirty acres and the United States Army became the owner of him. Realizing he was preparing to be to be drafted, he did join that birthday of January 22, 1964.

R. L.’s tour of duty in ‘Nam began September 15, 1965, and he found himself in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and worse…in the thick of the first major battle of the war on November 14, 1965, the Battle of la Drang. Serving in the Division Artillery of Headquarters Battery, his assignment was to support his infantry with artillery as well as give visual coordinates as they engaged with the North Vietnamese. His given creed was held close, just a heartbeat away...I am the Infantry. I am my country’s strength in war, her deterrent in peace. I am the heart of the fight-wherever, whenever. I carry America’s faith and honor.

And then that terrifying night came when his body was simultaneously riddled with shrapnel from an enemy mortar round as well as a piercing bullet into the back of his skull. The pain in his head exploded, then nothingness. He dropped.
    
R.L. regained consciousness where he learned his fellow comrade Joe Campbell, who had also been wounded, had dragged him to an aid station still frighteningly close to the fighting. He eventually learned he had taken nine hits.   Mercifully, a medivac helicopter extracted R.L. and flew him to a safer field hospital. To this day he has a bullet fragment in his head and shrapnel fragments in his leg.
    
While still swathed in head bandages and on crutches, the U.S Army was preparing to send him home. He pleaded with them to not discharge him; he did not want to leave his fellow comrades behind. Convincing them he could still function in other ways other than battle they relented and he was allowed to complete his full two years of service.
   
Finally, the day came when Uncle Sam broke his plate and sent him on his way. They flew R. L. into California and left him on his own to get back home to the East Tennessee peace he so longed for. The Purple Heart he had earned, though appreciated, was not as healing at gut level as the purple Catawba Rhododendron growing wild back in his neck of the woods.
    
He had a deep need to spend that first summer riding a motorbike through the mountains of Carter County. He recklessly rode in places that one wrong move would have sent him careening over high bluffs into deep crevices below where He would have laid until only God knew when. “Just like in Vietnam, and the many times of dangerous situations I had faced before, God still had me wrapped in His big hands.”
    
I gently asked my buddy what he thought about the time he spent in Vietnam and he, with a far-away look softly muttered, “The looks in the eyes of the children, the people, made me feel that was the reason I should be there.”
    
A front page article was written January 27, 1966, in the Elizabethton Star regarding their returning hero and quoted Street as saying, “Seeing the children and the way they have to live keeps the soldiers from really minding the hardships over there.”
    
R. L. felt his final closure on that tragic war of so long ago came when Elizabethton High School invited a keynote speaker a few years ago and local Veterans were asked to attend. The guest's name was Bruce Crandel, and he was a highly decorated Army medivac helicopter pilot from the Vietnam War.
    
My friend sat up front in the roped off section. As soon as the program was over, R. L. quickly made his way to shake hands with the man who, risking his own life, had picked his shattered body up and flew him out of that battle hellhole with his angel wings to an army hospital in a safer place.
    
On a side note, the much acclaimed 2002 war film, 'We Were Soldiers' starring Mel Gibson and based on the 1992 book 'We Were Soldiers Once…And Young' by U.S. Army Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and war journalist Joseph L. Galloway (both in that battle) focuses on that deadly day at la Drang. A 'must see and read' in my book.
    
R.L. did pick up the pieces of his life and marched on. He eventually met and married his Jane (now deceased), and they built and settled down on those thirty acres he so loved. They even opened a western store, and life was good. Jane blessed him with his three (now) grown children.
    
All three of those children, two sons, and a daughter, have gifted him with his six grandchildren. All of these, cherished in his life, are according to R. L. a gift from God. I personally consider Jerry, one of R. L.’s sons, to be a Godsend as well. He is my farrier and takes excellent care of my Tennessee Walker, Trig.    
     
Years passed and with Jane gone and his children grown life for this man, still slightly bent but not broken, eventually settled down into the rhymes and rhythms of his life up on the ridge in his hollow. An avid hunter, he began to spend time hunting out West in Kansas and Colorado. His time in Kansas, in particular, gave him solace and he spent much time there in solitude. The love of that place is what drove R. L. to purchase a farm there. He still strikes off and spends weeks on end there.
   
As a hunter, R. L. has always carried a lifetime "code of the hills." He also carefully taught his children (and now grandchildren) this same ethos. "Don't kill it unless you are going to eat it unless it's going to kill you."
    
The living room wall around this hunter's home on the ridge is lined with the heads of the game he has killed from years past. That first time I barged in on R. L. I questioned him about the mounted heads and he, with not one iota of care for political correctness, proudly shared the stories of a couple of those heads.
    
He also let me know those heads hanging there was just a drop in the bucket but those particular ones each had an unusually funny, sentimental or freighting story that stood out for him, thus their placement.





























It was important for my friend to let me know he will never drop an animal that he does not immediately gut, skin, quarter and ice to bring back home to his own family members, someone up here in the hollow, or food banks that depend on his much-needed donations.
    
I remember so well a day I pulled out of Misty Hollow and started down the mountain passing my neighbors Berta and Barney's house. There they both stood with large chunks of deer meat splayed out in the back of Barney's pick-up truck. They were processing it into smaller roasts for their freezer.They told me it was given to them by R. L. It was killed in South Carolina and had been marked for them and they were grateful for the winter meat. It’s thought of like the circle of life up here in this beautiful place we live.
    
Very fiscally wise, R. L. has his office set up in a back bedroom where he methodically fills and refills his own cartridges. Some of those brass cartridges have already been used several times. I find it fascinating to watch this tedious procedure, but he says it’s the only way to go if you do as much shooting as he does.


        
                     
     
Never leaving anything to chance, R. L. has weapons strategically placed around his home. Curious, I asked him if he had guns in every room and he said, "No, not in my bathroom." To be honest, I have to be very wary as my friend has a subtle sense of humor and oft times I don’t know if he’s pulling my leg or not.


(This concludes Part I of 'A Man of Men Roams These Mountains'