The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild
By Julie Terry Cartner
As I drove down the road in Mocksville the other day, I saw several multi-colored chalk outlines of hopscotch courts dotting the sidewalks in front of people’s houses. They were different sizes and shapes, but the sight of them took me back to my childhood.
I used to spend hours playing hopscotch. I didn’t have fancy colored chalk like you can buy today. Sometimes my friends and I would borrow the dusty, yellow chalk from Mr. Boerum’s fifth grade classroom. Other times we’d get sticks and dig our hopscotch grid in the dirt. On the beach, we’d use pebbles or dig in the damp sand. We were inventive, using whatever source was available.
The condition of the court was never as important as was the challenge of the game. Often we’d start with the traditional board, hopping our one foot, two foot jumps, tossing a pebble onto the appropriate square and carefully kicking it off to complete the round. Other times we’d up the ante, challenging ourselves to leap over obstacles to land, without falling, on the proper square. Sometimes, the obstacles were our classmates; we’d take turns lying down side by side to see if the person whose turn it was could leap over us and land in the correct square. We’d make the blocks bigger to make larger and longer leaps, to cover more ground, or we’d make the squares smaller to make our landings more precise. Many recesses of my childhood were spent making these personal goals more challenging and exciting.
When we weren’t playing hopscotch, we might be jumping rope, gyrating our hips with Hula Hoops, or playing marbles. Again, the tools were simple. Our farmer dads would cut us lengths of rope from the endless supply in barns, hula hoops were inexpensive, and everyone had a bag of marbles, often inherited from older siblings. The games were simple, but the skills they taught, and the lessons we learned were priceless. We learned to challenge and push ourselves. We learned how to win and how to lose. We learned how to encourage, and, truthfully, we learned how to trash talk. We had fun.
Other times we’d play tag with all its variations, as well as kickball, softball, red rover, or one we called spud. Again, the tools were simple; primarily we needed a ball. Only softball required some equipment, but as softball was a huge community sport, most of our families had bats and gloves, which we were able to borrow and willing to share.
Looking back, I see how lucky I was to have these childhood pleasures. There was very little in the way of organized sports; instead, we just got to be kids, to play and have fun. The challenges were internal as well as external. The competition was personal, not regulated by an umpire or referee. When we had disagreements about whether a player was out or not, we figured it out ourselves, knowing if we couldn’t come to an agreement, the game would be over, and nobody would be happy.
Like everything, life is a combination of good and bad. There is no doubt that the coronavirus has been horrific, brutal and destructive to people’s lives and the world at large. Despite that though, seeing children outside playing hopscotch or jumping rope, freeze tag or hide-and-go-seek reminds me of my childhood, a simpler time for sure. Giving children the time to be kids, to just play, to not have a time clock controlling every aspect of their lives warms my heart. Parents have had to struggle to juggle jobs, childcare, and often, eldercare, but they’ve also gained a greater relationship with their children by staying home. Let’s hope our new normal, whenever that happens, allows us to balance our lives better. At the very least, grab a pebble or a marble, go outside and play with your kids.
By Marie Craig
About 40 curvy miles north of Marion, North Carolina, is Roan Mountain, elevation 6,286 feet. This is on the North Carolina and Tennessee state line. There is also a Roan Mountain State Park, and a town, Roan Mountain, Tennessee, both north of the mountain range itself. The mountain is in Cherokee National Forest. The Appalachian Trail system passes by here. From 1885 to 1915 there was a 166 room, 3 story hotel on the summit. Catawba rhododendrons bloom on the mountain top. Almost too many subjects for a remote mountain range. I won’t even mention the amazing number of minerals that are mined in the area and the interesting mineral museum. Forget I said that.
Recently, I was lucky enough to travel there with a friend. It had poured rain every day for weeks, but we selected a day that was gorgeous and clear. We walked five miles through the beautiful forest and enjoyed the rhododendrons at their peak of blooming. I had a photo taken of me beside these flowers when I was 12 on this same mountain. We staged a similar picture these years later, and that was fun to see.
We hiked a bit of the Appalachian Trail. I’m virtually walking the AT with a smartphone app “Walk the Distance.” This app counts my steps and pretends like I’m walking the AT. I began in Georgia last October and was actually very close to Roan Mountain in my virtual walk. This is about 330 miles from my start at Springer Mountain, Georgia, but only about 15% of the 2200 mile AT. We talked to a few hikers, some long distance walkers and some just hiking a small section of the trail.
The end of the Cloudland Trail was a vista of mountains galore as far as you could see in the distance and left and right. The walk there was through deep forest with huge ferns and evergreen trees. The open areas featured the purple rhododendrons.
A large interpretive sign described Cloudland Hotel on top of the mountain. A Union General, John T. Wilder, had built the huge hotel in 1885 for guests. They rode a narrow gauge train to a nearby town and then rode by stagecoach 12 miles up the mountain. It was a destination for affluent people who wanted to escape the heat, humidity, and summer illnesses. Advertisements for the hotel stated that you could sit on the front porch and admire 100 mountains. It was built on the state line and had a white line painted on the floor of the dining hall denoting the line. It was legal to drink alcohol in Tennessee but not North Carolina. The Mitchell County sheriff would be present sometimes to watch for illegal drinkers crossing the line into his jurisdiction. It cost $2 a day to stay there. The harsh climate and winds eventually destroyed the building and all that remains now is a rock foundation of one wall. Several historic articles on the Internet feature old photographs of the hotel and its visitors.
What a neat adventure for me to escape isolation and be able to enjoy a beautiful day, good company, and a glimpse into a historic site.
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