It was early 1972 and February had turned brutally cold with snow covering the Interstate. The hours passed on the lonely drive as I went from interstate to two-lane blacktop to a small dirt road near Boone, North Carolina. The landscape was buried under ice and snow and with dusk falling, I slowed down and drove with caution. According to my map, I was about ten miles from the farm that I was looking forward to spending some time at after many years of playing music on the road. For me, it would be a time of healing.
The wind was blinding, and my old 69 Ford Econoline Van was not made for dirt roads and snow, so I was taking it slow. The heater was struggling to keep the ice off the windshield, so it was icing over badly. I was still several miles from the farm when I realized the snow was too deep to drive through and the windshield had finally iced over.
I pulled over as close to the ditch as I could, putting the Van in park, and dug through my trunk for the winter clothing I brought. Fortunately, while shopping for an old barn coat at the thrift store, I also found some snow boots. I grabbed some trail mix, my gloves, and off I went into the night.
The cold was like a living thing, strong and at times frightening. It drained your energy making a short few miles seemed like a trek to the North Pole.
I found myself looking down, walking slower while the wind found any place it could to get past my attempt at weatherproofing myself. The snow came down harder and the wind was so robust that my face felt frozen.
The road narrowed and was lined with tall pines that swayed as the wind grew even more furious; the limbs started cracking with a noise like a loud thunderclap and the limbs crashed to the ground all around me. I dug into that waning reserve of strength and broke into a slow run toward a plank bridge. I could hear a dog barking in the distance and what looked like a lantern swinging side to side. While I was focused on the sound knowing they had a hound dog on the farm I hit a patch of slick ice and went sliding across the bridge over the side and landed on the frozen creek knocking the breath out of me.
I passed out for a moment but through the darkness, I could hear Henry calling my name and his hound dog barking. As I was fading out again the hound dog came sliding across the ice and came to a stop beside me. Henry said to grab his harness and he would pull me to the bank. Henry reached out a hand as I neared the bank and pulled me up.
He had a thermos of hot coffee with a big smile he poured me a big cup, and we headed back to his farmhouse which was less than a quarter-mile from the bridge. His house was a wood plank house with a big front porch and a big oak door that opened to a main room. Tucked into one corner was a wood-burning railroad pot-bellied stove. The heat was wonderful, and Henry brought blankets for me to wrap up in. Henry smiled and said welcome to the farm.
I had been on the road playing music for several years and the scars from that lifestyle were deep and painful. I came here to this farm away from the lights, the Bourbon, and the loud music to heal those scars and get past being tired and the burnout that the road can gift us with. I needed a quiet place to lay my head. I came here to find a better day.
Coming soon Part Two: Roosters Crowing and Train Whistles Blowing