Welcome to “Letters from Asheville and Beyond: A Fictional Journey into Western North Carolina” by Ellen J. Perry. This is Part One: “We Take ‘Em All” dedicated to Brittany Garcia.
Other day I was driving around some country roads to see the sights (I do this a lot since your Granddaddy died last year), took a wrong turn, and thought I was lost for sure till I saw old Mr. Hollis’s sign and knew I wasn’t far from home: DONATE A DEER FOR THE HUNGRY – BIG, LITTLE, YOUNG, OR OLD WE TAKE ‘EM ALL. I knew Mr. Hollis wrote this because he gets up that project every Thanksgiving through Christmas and then forgets to take down the sign after. So there it was in the middle of January, leaning over on one side about to fall down. It looked wobbly, kind of like me, unsteady on my feet. Your grandma has got OLD like some of them deer.
I stopped my van and tried to prop the sign back up a little bit, thinking maybe Hollis would come for it before too long. I read the words again… “big, little, young, or old.” We take ‘em all. And then I got to thinking about what the doctor told me, said he didn’t want me doing much, needed to watch myself since I sprained my wrist this summer by falling off the Frisbie twins’ tire swing. Plus he got real fussy when I went down that slide at the playground too fast and like to broke my hip. Take it easy, he said. Slow down. Take it easy, my foot, I said! I’ve got a whole lot of stuff I want to see and do. Joanne down at the Triple A office gave me a North Carolina road map when I went in there with my cousin Shelby who’s planning a cruise for her and Ralph’s anniversary (I wouldn’t go on a big boat for nothing but Shelby can’t wait).
I go on little adventures every day like to Triple A or the old mill and that garden up by the cemetery. Then I try to follow doctor’s orders and rest a little bit, watch The People’s Court in my recliner and trace lines on that map, thinking about where-all in N.C. I might could go. When I was a little girl, a long time before your mama was born, my aunt and uncle used to take me with them to the mountains in the summer, way on the other side of the state. I hadn’t left Columbus County till then. All I knew was sand and heat. But that cool breeze up there in Asheville, ooh-wee. I never will forget it.
So I’ve decided to go on a road trip. You showed me how to use Facebook and all that but I think I’ll just mostly write letters or postcards to tell you about it. Shelby is going with me but only because she’s worried the van or me, one, will give out. (I’ve told her and told her how slick that slide was, but she won’t hardly believe it, said I was acting up like a kid.) When I went to get my wrist splint check-up this morning the doctor frowned a little bit when I told him about my plans. Said, “Now, Myrtice.” He don’t think I can do it, but I’ll show him. I’m 75 but not dead yet. There’s something for everybody in the mountains – big, little, young, or old.