2619 Eaton Rd. - Cleveland, Oh
My dear friends:
We are home again. But I'll gladly go over the trail again with you - if you care to come. Speaking of trails, there is one that I would like to follow - from Charleston, W. Va., to Norfolk Va. that is part of Route No. 60, known as the Midland Trail. It crosses the Allegheny and Blue Ridge mountains. Think how beautiful that must be! We followed Route 60 from Charleston to Gauley Bridge, and a few miles beyond, just to see the New River gorge and "Lover's Leap." The view of this deep gorge at the edge of the highway is quite breath-taking - and beautiful. Just a little farther up the mountain is "Lover's Leap", a rocky cliff, from the top of which there is said to be a sheer drop of 1,000 feet. The highway is on the same side of the mountain as the cliff, and well removed from it. The children and I walked through the woods leading to it, and saw the terrifying ledge, but you may be sure we didn't go near it. We turned back to Route 21, which branches off from No. 60, and followed the former to Beckley.
We know that the marvels of nature - by that I mean the unusual - and the
sacred shrines are seldom along the highways, but rather in the by-ways. And
so it was that, forced to a kind of schedule, we had to pass up many interesting
things: the marvelous New River gorge near Beckley, the famous Pinnacle Rocks
on another route near Bluefield, the Fort at Tazewell, Va., built by Washington
in 1755, etc. Our route from Gauley Bridge to Bluefield passed through coal
and oil regions. No impressive mountains, nor beautiful farms. We reached Bluefield
at six, stopped at the P.O. General Delivery for mail from home, and hastened
on, eager to find a spot to roast the corn we had bought for supper. We crossed
a small river and then began to climb a mountain (still Route 21), winding 'round
and 'round, until suddenly we found ourselves "on top of the world." There,
far below, lay the city of Bluefield, surrounded by rolling hills; and beyond
them we could see distant mountains, peak on peak. Oh, that view at sunset is
unforgettable! There are times in our lives - we all experience it, don't we?
- when we seem very close to Heaven; not by elevation of land, but of thought,
and uplift of spirit. Just here allow me to digress a bit more and quote from
Archibald Rutledge in the September issue of the American, "My Colonel's Lady":
"When my heart's an empty chalice, I go to God, and He brims it with beauty.
Then am I renewed and at joyous peace with life." For real inspiration I would
recommend that true story of a real lady. To go back to our mountain top: the
children and I were so awed by the beauty of God's handiwork that we were impelled
to linger there and build our fire. The children had gathered some wood in the
afternoon and we had a bag of charcoal with us. It was great fun. We watched
the after-glow of the sunset, as our own little camp-fire glowed and the corn
husks turned black. We heated milk on our steel rack, and made cocomalt. The
children were so happy and sweet that evening. We had the hands of coal miners,
but the courtesy of kings. We had a jug of water with us, and washed afterwards.
It was very dark by the time we had packed our cooking outfit. We opened the
bed-roll, padded the floor of the car, put Virgil to bed there, and Charles
on the back seat. Estelle was eager to go on to Wytheville that night - she
who had exacted a solemn promise from me at home that I would do no night driving
in the mountains. We started out; but by that time the moon had come up, and
I could see in silhouette the beauty of the mountains, and knew we couldn't
afford to miss them. We knew not where we would camp that night - but we weren't
a bit afraid. Presently we came upon a romantic spot, a tiny camp ground by
a "babbling brook." There were three huge touring cars parked there, two
square tents set up, and a lighted lantern on the ground, as a sentinel. I pulled
off to the side of the road, and got out. A woman called, in broken English,
"Who dere?" I inquired very innocently, "Is this a tourist camp? "No, de boss
gave us dis place to camp." Pause. "You stay here if you want." We stayed. We
kept at a respectful distance, with the lantern between us. I set up my cot
beside the car, and Estelle slept in the front seat. The next morning I discovered
that we had camped with a little band of gypsies, or so I guess from their gaudy
tents. One of their cars was from New Mexico. I couldn't see the other license
plates. I should like to have lingered, to see our fellow-campers, and thank
them for their hospitality; but we were already behind schedule, and so we started
forth soon after daybreak. At first the mountains were enveloped in fog, and
we could see but little. However, the sun soon chased the fog down the valley.
The mountains between Bluefield and Wytheville are lovely; most of them softly
rounded, as if age-old, and covered with verdure. We bought some milk from a
farmer for our breakfast, and learned from him how to cut off about twelve miles
by taking a short cut, avoiding Wytheville. As it was, we had over 200 miles
ahead of us, and we had hoped to reach Knoxville by noon. We stopped in Bristol,
Va., for gas and for some sandwiches. The inevitable cat-naps delayed our journey.
I wonder if anybody else is subject to desperate sleepiness while driving for
any length of time.
We had a rather harrowing experience about forty miles this side of Knoxville. Some men working on the road signalled us to stop; and as I did so they asked me to take a girl, the victim of an accident, to the nearest town, Rutledge. Her brother, a young, irresponsible chap, had somehow run into the heavy road-truck and the broken windshild had cut the girl about the face, neck and arms. I would have given anything to have spared the children that experience. But I couldn't think of refusing. The poor girl - about fifteen -was squeezed in between her brother and me. I kept my eye on the road, and my foot on the gas, for the sight of blood makes me go all saggy in the tummy and knees. She wasn't badly hurt, but her fright was pitiful. In her charming, southern dialect, she kept saying, "Do you reckon I'm going to bleed to death?" We kept reassuring her, and Estelle got out some first-aid bandages. What a relief to all when we reached Rutledge! Her father, as though sensing danger, was out on the little main street, ready to receive the now-hysterical girl, and take her to the doctor's office. The little group of citizens glared at me belligerently as if I had done the damage. The children were so awed by it all they didn't quarrel a bit the rest of the day.
We reached Knoxville at 3:30, found a note from my sister, directing me to go to the Smoky Mountain Travel Bureau for routing to Kinzel Springs. Mr. Elliott, the man in charge of the Travel Bureau is the finest person imaginable for such a job. He knows the country like a book, and takes a sort of fatherly interest in his tourists. Mary and her four children had arrived from Austin, Texas, 24 hours earlier, having traveled a distance of 1300 miles. Out of the mass of literature sent us at our respective homes, we each took a fancy to Kinzel Springs. Mr. Elliott has a listing of cottages, cabins, and hotels; he advised Mary and directed her to a certain cottage, large enough for our two families. Mary liked it; and telephoned to the Travel Bureau for me to pay the first week's rent. So our fate was settled; and we began the 32-mile drive from Knoxville to Kinzel Springs. The outer fringe of the "Smokies" extends almost to Maryville, which is 16 miles south of Knoxville. The ride from Maryville eastward, along Route 73 is increasingly beautiful. When we rounded a certain bend in the winding road, we said we hoped Kinzel Springs was right here, in this perfect setting. And it was! ***
This letter has grown too long already. How I have rambled on! I'm afraid you will think this is a publicity stunt. Please don't think that. I want you to take it very impersonally. I mention the children because I believe all children - everywhere - make life worth living. I must confess that my motive in writing is partly selfish. I want to hear from you. Not praise. These letters do not deserve that. But, as one gets older, she longs to hold - and, if possible, enhance - the childhood friendships, and those of early womanhood. I think Mr. Walker most generous in giving me this means of communicating with you. If you care to hear about the "Smokies" and some of our experiences, I'll do my best to tell about them.
Sincerely, Florence B. Taylor