A Few Words From Hank Beavers
Hank Beavers, here. It’s easy for a tourist to describe our tiny town in this small Appalachian county as a ‘paradise on earth,’ and they do it often. But, for young folks growing up here, that’s just not the way it is. Folks arrive from all over the Southeast and rant and rave about the peaceful way of life, the beautiful countryside, clean lakes and friendly people, but, to me, small towns like this are really just ‘traps’ for young people.
I am twenty-six years old and I live and was born in this ‘paradise.” Even though the cost of living is low here, I have to work two jobs just to get by. My ma and my daddy always told me that if I got good marks in school and stayed out of trouble, I could go far in life, so I did just that. I graduated high school in the top five percent of my class, but, with three kids coming up behind me, college was financially out of the question. Then I tried to find a good job in this ‘mountain paradise’ with hopes of going on to night school. Despite my good marks, the best job I could find was framing houses or working for a local paving company for ten dollars an hour. No benefits, just ten dollars an hour; and, if it rains or snows, no work until the sun comes out.
So, these days I split my time working as a part- time custodian at Wilscot Creek Baptist Church and handling the maintenance at Isabel Whitlow’s Faded Glory Farm. Over Christmas I earn some extra money doing temporary holiday mail deliveries for the Morganton Post Office. The Christmas job only lasts for two weeks, but the money is good.
Micah Davenport, who is my boss here at Faded Glory, has hinted at the possibility that I might switch over to full-time status at the Inn. I haven’t heard any more on that subject lately. I would really like to go to work full-time at the Inn because Micah and Isabel are nice people to work for, and someday I’d like to move up to Micah’s position when he gets too old to work here any more. Neither he or Isabel are ‘spring chickens,’ so that day will come in due time.
I guess what you really want to hear about is what I think about Homer. I’m just a newcomer at the Inn compared to Micah, Louella, and old Homer. Homer has been around there since rocks were invented. Sometimes I bring my little Beagle, Champ, to work with me, and he likes to tease old Homer some; but, all in all, I think they get along real well most of the time. Homer has grown persnickety in the last couple of years, and he growls at Champ once in awhile, but I think it’s just because Homer’s getting old, and he has his problems. Homer does fart a lot, and I don’t think he hears too well any more because he gets startled easily when you come up on him quietly when he’s dozing. Old age does that to you; Homer reminds me quite a bit of my grandpaw — the startling part, of course.
Because Micah doesn’t drive, Isabel asks me to drive her when she needs to go somewhere, and lately she has asked me to drive her around in her new Lincoln. We seldom go into Atlanta, but we drive to Chattanooga quite often. Isabel likes to shop, and I really don’t mind waiting in the car for her because the stereo in her Lincoln ‘rocks.’
I have been dating Willa Jean Turner for nearly six years, and I figure when I decide to settle down, it will be with her. Willa Jean also lives in Suches, and she works for her daddy who cuts and hauls timber for a living. Winston Turner, her daddy, does the hard work, and Willa Jean runs the business. As far as I know, Winston never learned to read and write, so he’s been real lucky to have Willa Jean working for him. Willa Jean graduated from high school two years behind me, and she has excellent secretarial skills. These days, she lines up and bids on cutting contracts in the state and national forest lands, and Winston cuts and hauls the timber to the mills in his trucks. It’s heavy work, but, around here, it’s also very profitable work.
Willa Jean isn’t in any hurry to marry and have children even though her momma is always quick to remind her that her ‘biological clock’ is ticking away. Willa Jean’s laid-back attitude suits me just fine because I need time to get on my feet and build me a house. A few years ago when my grandpaw passed, he willed me the family ‘home place’ in Suches. The original house is unliveable and is falling in, but it is located on ten acres of the prettiest ground in all of Union County. The well is deep, and the water is plentiful and sweet. My town, Suches, is known as “the valley above the clouds” with an altitude nearing 3,000 feet. I hope to build my own home on the old family property one day soon. I am currently living in “the bunkhouse” on grandpaw’s property. The bunkhouse, which was once a henhouse, is a solidly-built single story building that has been insulated and now boasts a working bathroom. Grandpaw used it as a workshop up until he died. It still contains Grandpaw’s old woodworking tools and lots of sawdust, but it’s fine for a single man like myself, and it is all mine to enjoy.
It’s almost 22 miles of twisty road from my property to Faded Glory, and sometimes it seems like one hundred miles when it’s real early in the morning. Luckily, Willa Jean can brew a good cup of coffee, and that’s a big help of a cold morning. If I switch over to full-time, the trip will be brutal because Micah will be expecting me before nine o’clock, and that’s not when I’m really at my best.
But, these days, when I walk into Louella’s warm kitchen, old Homer always gets up to greet me, and there’s always a warm biscuit or two to start my day.
I guess life here in Appalachia isn’t really so bad after all.