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Hill Country Living

Greetings from the southern end of the Appalachian Mountain range. I’m currently writing this column from a cabin at the very end of a long and winding rocky road that twists some ways up the side of a mountain. 

There’s no internet or cell service here so when I’m finished writing this I’ll have to get in the car, drive back down the bumpy twisting road, and travel four miles on a paved two lane county road until I get to the highway in the nearest town. I’ll then park by the intersection stop sign like a creep, wait for the signal bars to show up on my phone and press “Send.” There’s nothing like lack of modern technology to show one the value of modern technology. It makes me think about how if this were back in the olden days I would have to ride a horse and buggy to the highway to send my email and that would take forever. 

I’ve learned to never take modern convenience for granted. The cabin I’m in is in the very tip top of Georgia, about a mile from the border. I can see the southernmost mountains of North Carolina to the north. I’m here teaching natural dying classes at an artists’ colony. Yes, that sounds like I was time warped back to a faction of early 1970s counter culture, but it’s much less exciting than that. I’m at the Hambidge Artist Residency, the birthplace of the Foxfire publications. 

These were periodicals that documented local people practicing, among other things, their traditional craft methods such as weaving, spinning and natural dying. While here I’ve instructed students in dying fabric with sumac, black walnut, goldenrod, and tickseed. All of these plants are out right now in our county in north Mississippi and perhaps some of you have dyed fabric with them before.

The property I am on is a massive chunk of land and there are seven or eight other cabins housing other residents, all tucked away in the woods, mountain sides and valleys. These other artists are from various places, all practicing various disciplines. We meet up for supper every night.

Many are from cities and have a hard time with the bugs here which is mind-blowing considering there are no mosquitoes, the only bug of real consequence. Some of the residents are unnerved by the silence at night or the total darkness of the woods. One asked me if the poison ivy was something to worry about.

Some also didn’t understand why going to Mexican for supper on Sunday wasn’t a good idea. The couple of us from Georgia suggested we wait until Monday night. “But…why?” the others asked, mystified.

This naturally lead to the point in conversation every rural Southerner eventually reaches when discussing life in your town with those from the outside: your town’s weird alcohol laws.  

We all know that Water Valley was certainly not singular in its bizarre and selective prohibition and I’m glad we’ve lifted the ban on not only beer, but eventually cold beer. I appreciate that, overnight, Beer Santa Claus seems to have visited Water Valley, dropping big and shiny new cold beer coolers and a tiny regained slice of personal freedom down the chimneys of all the convenience stores in town.  He even dropped one off at Fred’s! Thank you, Beer-ta Claus!

I did for minute, though, miss having the most nonsensical alcohol prohibition story in the room. Oh well, all watery beer under the bridge and I’m glad we’ve moved on. 

Now if we can only get a wine section in the Piggly Wiggly like they have up the road here, right by the stop sign where I’ll park in a minute to send this column. Yes, modern convenience is not lost on me.

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