Author: Doodlebug, Doodlebug, Your House is on Fire

 

Rafting Down the Nantahala River

   This Short story won Second Place in the June, 2014  Aspiring Writers Short Story Competition    

My wife, Betty and I had long looked forward to rafting down the treacherous and scary Nantahala River. We practiced rafting the friendlier Ocoee River until we felt we might be experienced enough to attempt the mighty Nantahala. Researching the Nantahala River, my wife found the word Nantahala was a Cherokee Indian word meaning, “Land of the Noonday Sun.”

On July 4th 2013, we arrived at the Big Bear Lodge just a few miles from the head of the Nantahala Lake. From here the water is carried through giant, sixteen feet in diameter pipes, a distance of eight and one-half miles through the mountains to two giant turbines. When water is released from the Nantahala Lake to produce electricity the whitewater rapids are formed. When the turbines are not being supplied, the river is very calm, but when the water is released, it becomes dangerously turbulent. It is then that white water rafting can occur.

We rented a raft with a guide from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. We started out from the head of the river where we were a little concerned because the river looked more turbulent than we had expected. The guide said the recent rains had added to the amount of water flowing through the power plant, but the extra hurly-burly would make the trip more enjoyable. Rafts were being launched every ten minutes. Leaving just in front of us were two young men, who we later found out were college students from Western Carolina University, who didn’t have a guide. Behind us were two young ladies who did have a guide, and we later learned were high school students from Andrews High School. I told Betty, “The young men seem very interested in the high school girls.” Betty said, “and vice versa.”

We pushed off without any problems. Our guide positioned us such that we could, following his directions, keep the raft afloat and headed on the right course. We noticed the two men seemingly were trying to capture the strongest rapids. The two high school girls and their guide were, as we were, taking a middle route. Approximately two miles down the river, the river narrowed and the rapids grew stronger. The two college students in front of us were jubilantly shouting for joy. Their raft at times seemed to be completely under water and headed in the wrong direction. Our guide seemed a little concerned and tried to steer our raft around them as he shouted for us to push our raft to the right. The two high school girls and their guide were trying to stay behind us as by now it was evident the two young men were in trouble. They were still shouting for joy, but at the same time, we sensed some concern in their voices. Then in a flash they were thrown from their raft, and washed into the most turbulent part of the rapids. One seemed to have hit his head on a rock and the turbulence pulled him unconscious under water. His friend plunged under water trying to find his friend, but to no avail. Our guide and the guide with the two girls shouted for us to push toward the two men. The raft with the two girls went toward the young man who by now was exhausted, crying, and almost past even moving his arms when they pulled him into their raft. Our guide shouted for us to look for the first man as he had not been seen for several minutes. Then, Betty spotted him partially under water lying near the bank. I dove into the water and worked my way through the rapids until I reached him and pulled him onto the river bank. One of the high school girls gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation and soon he was breathing on his own. We got him into our raft and took him to a first aid station. The last we saw was the girls and boys in the first aid station talking. They finally got to meet, but not under the circumstances they expected.

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Appalachia

                                                                                   APPALACHIA

The term Appalachia often conjures up images of moonshining and feuding, of the uneducated and backward.  Terms such as hillbilly, redneck, backward, poor, and ignorant have come to describe the majority of the people in the Appalachians.

I once attended a summer science institute at North Carolina State University. People came from all across the United States. I asked a lady I knew was not from the south, “How do you like North Carolina?”  She answered, “I love it here, I was expecting killings in the streets.” I was startled, but that was the image of the Appalachians, the media, and others, had painted for this lady.

I read Horace Kephart’s novel, Our Southern Highlanders, a novel written in 1922 about his life in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. He wrote of the people of the Southern Appalachians and a study of the life among the mountaineers.

In one place he wrote, “They are people of keen intelligence and strong initiative when they see anything to win.” He added, “They are apart from other folks by dialect, by custom, and by character, and by self-conscious isolation.

With just a little research, we would find that hardly a family today doesn’t have a member with some college education. We find, just in North Carolina, 131 colleges and universities. This includes the University of North Carolina founded in 1789, and Tri-County Community College founded in 1964 and this year celebrate their 50th Anniversary.

The Appalachian region includes 13 states, but people, including Horace Kephart usually just include the following states: West Virginia, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia as making up the Unakas or Unaka System or Southern Appalachia.

I’m proud of my Appalachian heritage, the people of the Appalachians, the culture, the dialect, and character. I have no statistics, but will venture to say that our belief and practice of religion far surpasses any other region of the United States. That is a practice handed down for generations.

What Edgar Allen Poe judged in 1845, “The Appalachian people are an uncouth and fierce race of men,” is no longer true, but today we are a proud group of people with a proud heritage, and a deep faith in our fellow man and in our God. We are still, to quote Horace Kephart, people of keen intelligence and strong initiative.

                                               First Date                                       Word Count 711

When I entered Murphy High School as a fourteen year old freshman in 1953, I met Laura Mae Brown, a beautiful and popular girl in my class. I immediately fell hopelessly in love with her. She was a cheerleader, and her parents were wealthy, high society, and members of the country club. My parents were farmers, and while not poor they were certainly not considered high society or wealthy.

We had several classes together, and she would often smile and say, “hello.” I made a point of trying to sit close to her in class. My buddies soon noticed my staring and yearning after her, and one teased me saying, “Roy, she is out of your league, quit pining after her.”

I noticed several of the football players hung out with Laura Mae, laughing, holding her hands, and putting their arms around her. Occasionally, I would see her riding through town, or hanging out at Peck’s Place, a local teen center, having a coke and burger with Brad, the captain of the football team.

Once, my friends and I were there when she came in with Brad, and as she entered she caught my eye, and smiled. One of my friends who had earlier teased me about her being out of my league noticed her smiling at me and said, “Roy, I believe Laura Mae has her eye on you.”

I ignored his remarks, and replied, “she isn’t interested in me,” but later I thought about her smile and mused about my friend’s quip, Could she be slightly interested in me? That night I played her look and smile over and over in my mind, as I tried to sleep.

The freshman year ended and as our sophomore year began I arrived, anxious to see Laura Mae, who was even more beautiful. We were in a biology class together and our teacher, Mr. Thompson, divided us, randomly, into pairs for lab partners. I said a silent prayer that I would be paired with Laura Mae, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I was paired with Cate, who my friends and I called Catie Bird because of her birdlike legs.

Cate turned out to be a blessing, because she was very intelligent and a super lab partner. Often other students, including Laura Mae, would come to our lab table for Cate to explain something or show them how to dissect a frog or a grasshopper. In those cases, I would sometimes get to talk with Laura Mae. Now and then I would show her the parts and proper methods to use in dissecting. I once asked her about Brad, “Do you still see him?” I asked. She answered, “Brad is away in college and since he’s on the football team, he doesn’t get to come home often, but I see him occasionally.”

Our junior year began, and I had finally obtained my driver’s license. Laura Mae was more beautiful than ever, and I still did everything I could to attract her. I spoke to her often, and she always flashed her beautiful smile and said, “hello.” I so much wanted to ask her out. My father had a 1949 Chevrolet truck he allowed me to use, but Laura Mae was used to Brad and his 1955 Corvette.

One day my friend, the same one who teased me as a freshman, caught me in the hall and said, “Roy, I hear Laura Mae and Brad broke up. This would be a good time for you to ask her for a date.” I was thinking about his comments, when I literally ran into her in the hall. As I helped her gather up her books, I asked her out for dinner and a movie. To my surprise she said, “Yes, I’ve been hoping you would ask me.”

I washed and polished Daddy’s old truck, picked her up at her house, and we headed out of town to a nice restaurant I had carefully picked out. On the way, the old truck’s engine sputtered and quit. I looked at the gas gage and it showed empty. I was apologizing and pondering what to when Brad in his Corvette drove up.

The last I saw was the two of them cuddled together, heading out of town.

SNOW

                                                                              Snow                                       

   For the entire month of February, 2014, snow covered every section of my cattle ranch and that of neighboring ranches. Feed for the farm animals was running low, and no grass was available in the snow covered pastures. Searching for my cattle, I found several of my young calves had already frozen to death, and the remainder of my cattle was in danger of freezing and starving. I called my neighboring farmers and the Farmer’s Federation seeking help and comfort, but their circumstances were similar, and though we talked and were sympathetic to each other’s plight, no solutions came forward. Roads were impassable, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures plagued the entire region so feed for the cattle was almost nonexistent. I was spending twelve to fifteen hours a day trying to find stray cattle and drive them to the barn for food, shelter and safety.

   I often called my nearest neighbor, Betty Jean Brown, who had lost her husband several years earlier, to see how she was fairing. She also called me, but together we could think of no solutions. Due to my having lost my wife the previous winter, I looked forward to Betty’s calls and I think she looked forward to my calling her. Though we had both lost our spouses, we had never as much as had lunch together. I often saw her at church and other community meetings, but we never more than spoke to one another. On one call to her, feeling low and overwhelmed, I told Betty, “if we survive this freezing weather, I want to invite you over for dinner one night.” Betty answered, “And, I’ll take you up on your offer.” We both laughed together for the first time ever, and for the first time, I felt a romantic affection for her.

    On March 1, 2014, I awoke to see the sun shining for the first time in a month. During the day, the temperature shot up from freezing to almost fifty degrees. Snow melted enough that hay could be delivered by the Farmer’s Federation. Cattle were able to reach the barn and feed on the freshly delivered hay. For the first time in over a month, I was able to stay in my house and rest, though still alone.

   I was telephoning my neighbors, and as we laughed together and thanked God for the sunshine and rise in temperature, for the melting snow and newly delivered hay, when I heard a knock on my door. Opening the door, I was greeted by my neighbor, Betty, who said, “I know you’re not expecting me, but you did invite me to dinner if we survived this freezing weather. Due to a tree falling just up the road from my house, my power and telephone are out,” and laughing sheepishly, she said, “I knew you were trying to reach me, so here I am. I brought over two steaks from a calf I had to butcher due to its freezing. If you have a fire in the stove, we’ll cook these steaks for dinner.”

   Though, Ms. Betty Brown was not expected, she was a welcome sight and for the first time, even wearing her work clothes and boots, I noticed how beautiful she looked. I fired up the old wood stove, and together we cooked a dinner fit for a king. The steak, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and homemade biscuits would have been the envy of even Donald Trump.

   After dinner, the temperature began dropping. We called Betty’s house and the telephone was still out of order so we assumed the power was also still out. I invited Betty to spend the night and she agreed. As we sat and talked, I popped some popcorn, poured us each a glass of wine, with a sliver of cheese. At the end of the night, I asked her to marry me and our lives were changed forever.

THE WINTER OF 1920

THE WINTER OF 1920                    William Pipes

          

It was the winter of 1920 and my son and I were hauling a load of logs to the Wilkes County lumber mill. My family’s survival depended upon us getting the logs to the mill and collecting the few dollars the logs would bring. The Farmer’s Almanac was predicting a severe snowstorm. Old timers, reading the signs, thought a deadly snowstorm would hit in about ten days.

In addition to my fifteen year old son, James, who was helping me haul the logs, my wife and I had four other children, ages two, four, nine, and eleven years. We owned a small farm, but our crops had failed due to summer floods. What little food we harvested after the floods was by now down to a few pounds of potatoes, and only a few bushels of corn. Most of the corn would be needed to feed our two mules. We had by now exhausted our credit at the general store. We had a hog we had turned loose during the summer to forage in the mountains. Our intentions were to round up the hog for winter meat, but the snowy winter came upon us early and we feared the hog might be frozen by now.

My wife, Betty and our eleven year old daughter, Jean set out to round up the, hopefully still alive, hog. Our nine year old daughter Cate would take care of our two and four year old sons. Betty said, “If Jean and I don’t locate the hog in one day and night, we’ll head back home.”

I told James, “Son, if we can get the logs to the mill, they’ll bring enough money to keep us alive until spring.” I added, “It’ll cut our travel time in half if Elk Creek is frozen hard enough to drive the mules, wagon, and logs across. My figuring showed my plan would get us back home in approximately six days. Four days ahead of the old timers’ predicted snowstorm.

Betty said, “Jean and I should be home in two days at the most. If we locate the hog, it might take an extra day driving him home. We’ll take a few ears of corn to entice him to follow us. Either way we should be home before you and James.”

We all went our separate ways. James and I to the lumber mill, and Betty and Jean into the mountains to hunt for the hog, while Cate babysat with her brothers.

James and I were soon to Elk Creek. We check the ice and decided it was frozen hard enough to drive across. As we drove across the ice, James walked behind holding onto the wagon, and I, holding the steering harnesses, walked beside the wagon. Several times, I heard the ice cracking, but soon we were across and in another day arrived at the lumber mill. Due to the poor weather, logs were in short supply so we received a nice price. We bought some supplies, had a nice meal, fed the mules, and with just a few hours of rest, headed home.

Arriving home after five days, we found Cate and the boys doing fine, but Betty and Jean were not home. I took some food, extra blankets, and headed into the mountains in search of them. That night the snowstorm came with a vengeance. I thought, I’ll never find Betty and Jean in this weather. I found some shelter and hoped, by morning, the storm would let up. The next morning desperately searching, very exhausted, and shouting their names, but not seeing a trace of them I was ready to turn back. Just as I was about to give up I heard a whistle. A whistle I recognized as Jean’s. Jean loved to whistle and was very adept at it. I started shouting and moving toward the whistling. I soon came upon Betty and Jean cuddled together with the hog. I gave them some food, extra blankets, and we, including the hog, were soon home. We decided not to butcher the hog as it might have saved the lives of Betty and Jean.

Aunty Ant

Aunty Ant

“We are so hungry,” Little William and Little Betty Ant said to their Aunty Ant. “Let’s go to the park. I saw a family with a big picnic basket headed that way. They had three small children with them. Small children spill lots of food – good food – sweets.”

The Brown family made up of Cate, age four; Lauren, age six; and Debbie, age seven; decided it was such a beautiful day that they would go on a picnic. “Children, you know the last time we tried, carpenter ants invaded our picnic with such a vengeance that we had to come back home,” Mrs. Brown said. “Carpenter ants love sweets so we have to be extra careful not to spill food.”

Cate, Lauren and Debbie promised to be extra careful not to spill food.

“I think if we place some ice cream just off the picnic blanket, the ants will eat that and leave us alone,” Debbie the seven year old wisely said.

“I saw two ants talking in my first grade reader,” Lauren said. “I’ll think we might just explain the ice cream off the blanket is for them.”

“I volunteer to explain to them about the ice cream,” Cate said. “I’ll tell them the last time we were here our mother cancelled the picnic. I am sure they will cooperate.”

Once at the picnic Debbie, without her mother knowing, place a strawberry ice cream cone just off the edge of the picnic blanket.

Cate, keeping an eye on the ice cream soon spotted two carpenter ants headed toward the ice cream. “Hi, what’s you name Mr. Ant?” Cate asked the boy ant.

“I’m not a mister,” answered the ant with a bit of sarcasm. “I am Little William and this is my sister Little Betty. The big ant over there is our Aunty Ant. She is 26 years old and not able to gather her own food so we take her food.”

“Oh! I’ll take her an ice cream,” Cate responded. “What kind of ice cream does she like?”
“She prefers meat – do you have a hotdog?” Little Betty said, smiling at Cate, Lauren, and Debbie.

“We have lots of hotdogs,” Lauren said. “I’ll carry it over there for you.”

“Oh! No!” Little William Said. “Little Betty and I can carry it as we are very strong so we can carry it ourselves. “Aunty likes mustard on her hot dog. Do you have mustard?”

About that time Mrs. Brown looked over and shouted, “What are you three doing? What is that ice cream doing on the ground? Look! Two ants are carrying off a hotdog. Help me gather up the basket, we’re moving to a new spot.”

“But Mother,” Cate said. “They just have one cone of ice cream and one hotdog. Let’s wait. Since we shared with them, I believe they will allow us to eat in peace.”

“Mother, look at their elderly aunt,” Debbie said. “Without us she would not have enough food. In people years, she would be 104 years old.”

Cate ran to Little William and Little Betty when they set the hotdog down to rest. “Will you promise to let us eat in peace so we don’t have to move? If you will I’ll get your Aunty Ant a spoonful of mustard.”

“That’s a deal Cate, Lauren, and Debbie,” said Little William and Little Betty with one voice. “Look, our Aunty Ant is nodding her head and smiling.”

“Look, Mother has placed the food basket back on the blanket,” Cate shouted. “We’re staying.”

Looking around Mrs. Brown noticed the ants were gone, also the ice cream, hotdog, and mustard. Cate, Lauren, Debbie, and Mrs. Brown were all smiling as they enjoyed their picnic short only one cone of ice cream, one hotdog, and a spoonful of mustard.

 

THE END

Wordsmith or Poet

I won third pace in the July, 2013 Aspiring Writers Short Story Contest for my poem:

 

            Wordsmith or Poet?

With writing novels I’ve had some luck

With poetry though my luck’s not much

 

With words that I try to make rhyme

I’m not so successful most of the time

 

My writing style will make you smile

My poetry turns your smile to a scowl

 

My novels usually have a surprise end

About my poetry you say, “Where’s he been?”

 

Bookstores sell my novels for 14.90

For my poetry they say kiss my hinny.