With a snow storm looming this evening and a high of 24 degrees forecast for tomorrow, I haven't been able to think of much more than how uncomfortably cold I am. This winter has been rough down here in the southeast, but before I get too frustrated with my situation; well insulated house, money to afford heat, down jackets, heavy Sorel boots and thick gloves, I want to remind my self of stories told by dad and Granny of Rugby winters past when temperatures were colder, for longer periods of time, and when the snow piled much higher over these quiet mountains.
When my grandfather, Walter, married my Granny around 1929, during the height of the depression, they lived on a small farm on Quillen Ridge, about a mile and a half from where I currently sit on my dad's couch. Around here the depression had less impact as nobody really had anything to begin with so the crash of the stock market didn't make a huge dent in the local poverty levels. Gardens and farms supplied food, clothes were made from feed sacks, goods and labor were often traded but there were still some costs to keeping a farm running that required money. Because work on their little farm didn't last through the winter, Walter sought other means to supplement the family income. Since he didn't own a car, each day Walter set out walking to downtown Rugby, often wading through snow that reached his belt buckle. One of my favorite running routes around here is up Quillen Ridge road but it isn't easy. The steep gravel road twists through fenced fields holding grazing cattle, nestled among thick stands of trees before leveling off a bit to reveal a view of the rolling blue hills of North Carolina. It is beautiful but definitely a challenge walking up or down the hill.
|Harper on Quilled Ridge road in the snow.|
|View from Quillen Ridge|
My dad told me that eventually Granny and Walter bought the house and 100+ acres I know as Granny's house from her grandmother Lissy for $5000. He said that was so much money to them they never thought they'd be able to pay it off. Many years later Walter saved enough to buy a brand new forest green 1956 Chevrolet pick up truck and used it for another method to earn extra money for their mortgage.
The roads were still pretty rough in the 50s so the local school sought someone to pick up the kids who lived so far back in the woods the school bus couldn't drive on the steep, uneven, and narrow dirt roads. Walter made a cover for the bed of his truck and slid two sets of long seats into the back for kids to sit. Every day during the school year he drove his route, picking up kids, taking them to school, then dropping them back off home at the end of the school day. My dad said he did this every day for all the years he was in school and even after that.
One winter morning, after about a foot of snow had fallen, Walter asked my dad if he wanted to accompany him on his route. My dad had only gone with him a few times, as he lived close enough to school that he could walk but agreed that morning. Leaving the house with only low slippers and a light coat my dad joined Walter in the cab of the truck. The bed of the truck where the seats were installed wasn't heated so in the winter Walter allowed the smallest children to sit in the heated cab and the older kids sat bundled in the back. Often there would be five or six children packed in the seat next to him bouncing over the green vinyl seats as they made their way toward school. As they ascended York Ridge, where the road is particularly windy and steep, the truck wheels spun in the slick deep snow instead of propelling the truck full of children closer to school. Walter wouldn't leave the kids unattended so he sent my dad in his little slippers to the nearest neighbor he knew who had a tractor. My dad slipped and trudged about a mile up the ridge to fetch Gail Cox and his two cylinder John Deere tractor that made a funny noise. Despite the cold, my dad was thrilled to hitch a ride on the three point hitch on the back of the tractor, the wind ripping through his thin jacket and burning his red cheeks. Once pulled free of the troublesome spot in the road Walter drove the remainder of his route to the school.
So while I work to keep my instruments hydrated and my hands warm, I find it important to take a few minutes to think of and be thankful for the sacrifices my grandfather made for his family every day. His ingenuity in building the first camper my dad had ever heard tell of, his commitment to providing for his family and community no matter the weather is inspiring. I hope you're staying warm too, but just in case, here are a few pictures of my current builds to distract you from the freezing temperatures outside.
|Walnut 000 rims|
|Fingerboard before the pearl|
|42 and 45 style tenor ukes in progress|
|Perhaps my favorite set of koa ever. Thanks to my friend Paul from Kauai!|
|Two tenor ukuleles waiting to dry enough to be buffed out and strung up!|