Our First Night in the Mountains

When my husband and I first came to North Carolina, some people said we were a part of the back to the land movement—we just knew we had to get out of Florida. We both came from pioneer families down there—my father’s people (all horse thieves, Daddy said) were of the same Scotch-Irish stock that settled western North Carolina. Florida had been a wonderful place to grow up but by the seventies the population was increasing at a horrendous pace and the secluded lakefront property where we had built our own home was being surrounded by suburban sprawl creeping out from Tampa. So we packed our eleven-month old son and a bunch of camping gear into a big blue Chevy Blazer and set out to find a place in the country. We thought we might go as far as Canada. But first we stopped in western North Carolina to visit a college friend of mine who, with her husband and their baby, had recently moved to a mountain farm.

Our first night there, my husband went with my friend’s husband and his two brothers to a little music festival in a place called Sodom. (My friend and I opted to stay home with our young children.) My husband John didn’t know the other men at all and was a little taken aback when he saw one of them put a pint bottle of whiskey into one pocket of his overalls and then a pistol into another.

John told me later how the car swerved around the curves heading up Lonesome Mountain—where the Vista worker was murdered, one brother told him. The bottle of whiskey was being passed around and the brother at the wheel (a non-drinker, thank god) was singing at the top of his voice, “There was whiskey and blood on the highway/ But I didn’t hear nobody pray.”

When they came down into the Sodom community, they weren’t sure just where the festival was so they stopped at a little country store. They all went in—after riding in the backseat on those winding roads John was happy to get out and walk around while he still could.

The store, a local hangout, was full of hard-looking men in overalls. They all stopped talking when the four bearded hippie types came in. One of the brothers asked for directions to the music festival and they were told how to get there. Breathing a small sigh of relief they turned to go back to the car. Just then the biggest, roughest looking one of the men in the store called out, “Boys—don’t you never turn your back on no one from Sodom.”

When my husband told me the story the next day, I fell in love with the rural county that is now our home.

Mountain gathering