Diane Blanks, Blue Ridge Mountain Views #11: Mountain Protocol

Published Monday, September 21, 2015 at 11:40 am

Blue Ridge Mountain Views

“Mountain Protocol”

By DIANE WARMAN BLANKS

Around these parts, if you’re driving down a back road and you see an old farmer sitting on his front porch in a straight chair (and it’s always a homemade, rumpsprung straight chair, never a rocker–a rocker would be too self-indulgent for a hardworking man) the polite and civil thing to do is throw up a hand in greeting. He will do the same.

Marigolds

Mary’s Marigolds. Photo by Diane Blanks.

You don’t wave; that would be too effusive and pushy. You just throw up a hand, a bit like the Queen greeting her subjects, but a tad less formal. If you meet the farmer in his pickup while you’re driving around a hairpin curve and can’t take either white-knuckled hand off the steering wheel to wave, then mountain protocol demands that you give a courteous nod. Just one bending of the neck, nothing more. He will do the same.

When I was a child, one of our favorite family outings (which always had to be free, as we were on a post-Depression-era poverty budget) was to go picnicking on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Granny would take a big bowl of her wonderful potato salad, a pile of her fried chicken and the pressure cooker (her biggest pot) half full of green beans. If all the picnic tables were occupied, we’d just spread out our old quilt along the grass at the side of the roadway and have at it. Granny and I always threw up a hand to any passing car, hers a regal Queen Elizabeth wave, mine more modeled on a raising of the hand in class. We kept track of those who waved back, figuring the others were outlander snobs. The older people here are mostly reserved, but courteous. They mind their manners. And that has carried down through Some of the younger generation, but, sadly, not all.

 

I suppose we never really know how we appear to others. The image in the mirror is reversed, but still not exactly accurate, lacking something indefinable. I always thought I probably looked like a reliable soul whose feet were fully grounded. I based that on the fact that, at the very large academic institution where I used to work, every time I stuck my head out of my office building, some obviously lost person would come rushing up to me asking me where “the Woodruff Building” was. As easily half of the buildings on campus were named some variation of “Woodruff,” I took to carrying a campus map with me every time I went to lunch, bestowing it on the hapless visitor with a hearty “Good luck!” and beating a hasty retreat. Since I’ve been home, very few people have asked me for directions, which is good because I give directions here along the lines of “Turn left past where the old barn used to be.” The barn and a lot of other buildings I remember have vanished in the mists of time or, worse yet, been razed and their previous locations paved over.

 

My friend Mary, 97, gave me some heirloom marigold seeds that she’s been carrying over from year to year in her flower bed since time immemorial. They’re easily three feet tall and blooming now, giving off the slightly nose-twisting marigold scent that is always so reminiscent of Fall. There’s a slight chill in the air these days and here and there a tree branch is turning color. Fall is knocking at the door.

News at eleven,

Diane

 

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