The Battle of Walnut Hollow


Chapter One

           The family home is a log building, a fact that elevates the value of the property, to my way of thinking. When the realtor senses this, she recounts more features regarding the Ramsey homestead, to which I listen politely and not without interest, but the sale has already been made. The property sold itself to me soon after I looked it over.
           "The logs are black walnut, Mr. Stone, a native tree that thrives in this area, and walnut logs will survive for generations."
          "Really, the house is built with walnut logs? Walnut is one of my favorite trees, Cathy. I'm finding the history of this property quite fascinating, so by all means, continue."
          "I'm related to the Ramseys by marriage, so I happen to know a good bit of their story. In the early 1900s, Mathew Ramsey, the grandson of the original owners, encased the family home with chestnut planks, added the room in back, and covered the wood shingles with a metal roof.
          "How interesting, six children in this little house. Are any of their offspring still in the area."
           "Yes, all of them, actually, but only two are still alive. The youngest, Edna, lives a quarter mile away, and Edna's brother, Ben, lives right across the road in that green house."
           We talk for ten minutes longer, and while I appreciate the conversation, I feel I've taken up enough of the realtor's time. I thank Cathy and say that I would like to stroll across the tract one more time, but promise to be at her office in the morning to sign a contract.

           Walnut Creek meanders through the property and provides a steady, comforting sound of rippling water, offsetting the traffic noise from Walnut Creek Road. This vehicular tributary marks the northern boundary of the acreage.
           What caused me to settle on this property, isn't the history of the house or the charm of the creek, and certainly not the noise of the road. The decision was made after viewing the picturesque gray building, situated at the western end of the land. Measuring thirty feet by thirty-two feet and constructed of decorative cinder block, the structure was raised a century after the house, and for decades, was a general store for travelers on Walnut Creek Road.
           While but one of many back roads that wind through Madison County and the mountains of Western North Carolina, this tree-lined avenue, which twists and turns along the course of Walnut Creek, is a major thoroughfare west to east. The store was built on the property when automotive travelers began to utilize the road.
           Because I wish to enter into commerce myself, I'm confident that the building and it's location will serve me well. I speak of business tongue-in-cheek since I'm retired now. Let there be no mistake about that. At age sixty-four, I embark upon the trading of goods and services for amusement and pleasure, perhaps at some level for much needed therapy in my advancing years. I don't need the money; I need the occupation.
           Whereas this particular tract was selected for the advantage of the store, I chose to establish my enterprise in Madison County because of another structure, one that exists now only in memory. That is my grandmother's house, a wood-framed, two story, Victorian house which once stood on this same road as part of a beautiful homestead. That was where I passed my boyhood summers, helping Grandmother Wallin and Great Aunt Emma, and playing with my cousins who lived on the next farm.
           Along the many complicated paths I have traveled in life, the peaceful, easy pace of those summer days have always hung gently on my mind. I've long sensed that I lost something when I stopped coming to Madison County, something that I've looked for ever since.
           I'm a realist and have no illusions about recapturing those days from half a century ago. My hope is that by entertaining them in action and spirit, I can to some degree separate myself from the regretful memories I've accumulated in the years since.
           For most of my life, I've been a forward looking individual, believing that when the truth is made known righteousness in humanity will follow. Over the course of my career that outlook was repeatedly compromised until my experience in Afghanistan dealt the final blow to optimism.
           My fervent desire in returning to Madison County is to ensure that I do not depart from this life bent over and bitter, harboring, as I do in dark moments, the notion that civilization is, and perhaps always was, inherently flawed, a hopeless endeavor.

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