Posts Tagged ‘Clay County’

Shootin(g) Creek

Photo Courtesy of Tom Nugent

Shooting Creek is more than a body of water: it’s the community that was, and maybe still is,  considered the redheaded stepchild of Clay County. Despite the high-class shopping that one could partake in at the Shooting Creek Mall, my home community was not often the first choice for residency for move-ins when Clay County was discovered a few decades ago. Places like Warne and Tusquittee were more palatable for my home county’s newest residents, unless you take into consideration the lake lots that dot the outskirts of Shooting Creek.

“Shooting Creek is the new Tusquittee,” I thought to myself a few years ago when a doctor bought a lot on top of the mountain behind my house. Despite the time I’ve had to become acclimated to the idea of development, it still startles me and breaks my heart anew when I drive home at night and see the booger lights of summer homes perched on the ridges.  Before the housing market collapsed, Shooting Creek was one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods of Clay County, but now the sound of a nail gun or bulldozer is rare. Like the Shooting Creek Mall, construction is all but closed for business.

Oddly enough, I didn’t catch my first fish in Shooting Creek, but I wish that precious rite of passage had happened there. When I was young, its waters were all but empty, but my grandpa’s stories of freshwater trout fed my imagination and I satisfied myself with a collective memory of bounty. I spent many childhood afternoons tromping through the cow pastures with my brother until we reached our destination: a bend in the creek right next to a tree with a large hole in its trunk. I was afraid to stick my hand into its cavern, and I would fearfully imagine the terrible creatures that must have called it home.

Just the other weekend, I rode down to the creek with my dad in his Gator, and we took a few minutes to count as many fish as we could. There’s a considerable amount more now that the locals who live near my house have grown older and have given up the activity. While there, we placed bricks and other materials to help prevent erosion and keep the banks in good shape. Preservation is important to me; I like imagining that my children will spend their summer vacations using a favorite rock as a pillow as they lounge on the creek’s banks, and maybe I’ll be there when they triumphantly bring forth their first fish from the waters of the generations before them.

Tate City

Tate City, by Analicia Ashe

Tate City, by Analicia Ashe

Tate City is a ten-mile walk from my girlhood home, but it’s an hour’s drive in my dad’s ’83 Ford wood truck. I can’t attest to the sign’s veracity, but I doubt that the population is considerably more than the number allowed. Like so many places in Western North Carolina, it has been discovered by city folks and out-of-towners, but I am practicing sharing this place with an open heart. As someone who identifies as Appalachian, it’s hard for me to see people who move-in and try to change the culture of the area. What bothers me is that I know we, the out-of-towners and I, witness a different community; where they see convenient campgrounds and bathrooms with plumbing, I see the place where my grandfather’s family logged during the Great Depression.

My paternal grandparents are avid outdoors people and would bring me and my brother camping with them whenever they could. We  never stayed in the campgrounds towards the entrance, and I never wanted to; I loved running wild and splashing and swimming about without an audience. It amuses me that what we used to do is considered primitive camping. Jack, my grandfather, would bring us there because he has a rich connection to this place. As a child, he lived in one of the logging camps with his parents. He was six when they moved there, too young to log, but he has lasting memories of how the men would drag the logs out by horse because there were no roads. And even if there had been roads, who could have afforded a truck?

Conditions are considerably easier nowadays; there’s a road that goes for miles and stops a mile or so before the old homestead, so I have to push back the sea of tall grasses to get to this place. I like to go there alone and daydream about what they—my great-grandparents, the cabins, my grandfather—looked like at that moment in time. I picture my great-grandmother coaching my grandfather to walk after polio had ravaged his legs, and the smile of exhilaration they both must have had when he was finally successful in taking his first steps. I send her a silent thank-you because I know I would not exist if it weren’t for her determination and an ability to imagine what no one else thought was possible.