Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cataloochee Ranch: Ride? Write?

In the south where these two words sound a lot alike, we pack summer away on Labor Day; Tommy and I often want to gratify our disparate passions as Autumn sets in. He wanted to vacation with some horses, and I needed to continue drafting a collection of stories. The perfect place for both? Cataloochee Ranch, Maggie Valley, NC. We'd been there before, and it's one place on this planet that hasn't changed that much in its 75 years!

Some Floridians were there, too--Larry and Rosanne; Dennis and Nan--all riders, not writers!
The leaves have started to turn a bit at the top of the mountain, but mostly the green lushness would hurt your eyes.
As I approached the dock on the pond, hundreds of little froggies plunged from the tall grass into the water. Lily pads as large as dinner plates covered the pond in green patches. The distant trees were reflected in the pond. On the mountainside in a vivid green pasture horses grazed and a row of wild turkeys foraged for grasshoppers alongside them. After a hundred little blip blips of the frogs hitting the water, an extreme quiet set in. The summer zizz of locusts and tree frogs (I'm guessing) sounded very much like the summer sounds of my back deck in Birmingham.
On the path from Sourwood, our cabin, to the ranchhouse where we had communal meals with one of the Alexander family (owners) always at table as host, two large boxwoods and two large coniferous "bushes" framed the path. The boxwoods, Judy Alexander explained, were sent as sprigs by Sears Roebuck when her father placed an order with them. She told me the name of the "bushes" but I failed to write the name down. Each looked like a Frazier Fir which had spread into a bush before it got tall. It had tiny cones on it. Those, she said, were a part of a swap of plants that her father made with a nursery in New Jersey.
Other trees of interest were the Norway Spruce, heavy with long slender cones, and the chestnut trees planted as an experiment. They are helping to develop a chestnut tree resistant to the blight which was introduced to the U.S. by the Chinese Chestnut which wiped out all the native chestnut trees.
So I soaked in the flora and fauna more than I wrote. Now I can "recollect in tranquility."

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