In the fall of the year, visiting with some long-time friends
CASHIERS, N. C. — Heat, being as scarce as it is here in summer, is easily managed and even appreciated. In the peak of summer, there are but a few days when people turn on their air conditioners. And that’s for only about two months. The rest of the year, everyone builds fires. Even in June, you stop by the General Store at Mountain Top and there will be a wood fire burning. Come back in September and you’ll find fireplaces active.
Fires are prominent at Mountain Top nearly ten months out of the year. Everywhere you go, there is a fire. At the restaurants and in people’s homes — you name it. Everywhere you go, you can smell the smoke and warm to the soothing embers that are as constant as the conifers on the mountains.
When you think of warmth, there are more than creature comforts and atmosphere to enjoy. In life, nothing is warmer than enduring friendships. We have come here on a Sunday after a Bulldog victory, which meant that the atmosphere was not disturbed at the outset.
Our hosts were Bonnie and Truett Jarrard, who live happily by accentuating the positive and sharing with friends. Laughter is as structural to their household as the plumbing and roofing.
Truett and I owe our friendship to the white-fringed beetle, a pest with which you may not be familiar but one which annually gets millions of dollars in control efforts by the United States Department of Agriculture. Truett and I, operating out of a field office in Macon, did our best to help control those little suckers in the summers of our college years.
Our principal research efforts had us checking the foliage of plants that flourished along railroad tracks, which led to a lot of fun when a freight train came roaring by. I always wanted to hop aboard and wind up in some distant place I had seen in the movies. Like Dodge City, Kansas, or Tombstone, Arizona.
Looking for those white-fringed beetles was financially rewarding, and younger generations would surely be flummoxed with the notion that in the sixties you could get by on a per diem of $7, which included three meals and a room of modest description. It could be done with enough left over for a few beers.
Even though we were enrolled at Georgia, we had never met until we sat down for a meal at a boarding house in Macon. We had a common interest — the Bulldogs. It was my good fortune to experience a lifetime affiliation with the Bulldogs. He became a successful physician, and the friendship gained momentum with the passing years. He settled in Newnan where his practice flourished.
His mantra was to work hard and play hard. Braves, Falcons, Hawks, and his primary sporting interest, his beloved Bulldogs. There were golf and tennis and periodic skiing trips to the Rockies. Life has been good. Life is full.
In retirement, the Jarrards are not slowing down — only adjusting the pace. Children have spawned grandchildren, who get the highest priority as they learn to pick wildflowers and climb mountains with an exposure to arts and crafts. And fireplaces, of course.
At dinner on a patio, there was a scene that brought pause to a day that followed a demanding week. It was dusk, and the fairways of the golf course were resplendent with their close-cropped grasses, accented by sand in bunkers as white as snow.
Out across the landscape, the leaves were turning just a few days before peak color emerges. The harvest scene was dominant at every house and every place of business. The half moon overhead seemed to suggest it was pouring out its blessings.
Fall is the best time of the year, with its pleasantness of balmy weather and fires to brace the cool of the evenings. We all need money to survive, but enrichment in life comes from family and friends, and the Jarrards and their Mountain Top home are a wonderful reminder of this.
[For 36 years the sideline radio reporter for the Georgia Bulldogs, Loran Smith now covers a bigger sideline of sports personalities and everyday life in his weekly newspaper columns.]