Snowstorm At a Country Inn
It was a Monday in late January here in north Georgia, and on Sunday, the day before, we had a virtual ‘blizzard’ that left us with ten inches of snow, drifting up to two feet deep. Isabel rarely uses the huge RCA television in the kitchen foyer, but early this morning she turned it on long enough to watch endless lines of harassed Atlanta motorists sliding around in the frozen hell of the city’s perimeter. On this Monday morning nothing north of Macon was going anywhere. Predictably, our guests were delighted, and four out of five of our visiting families had happily extended their stays through Wednesday.
Because I am a dog, I have obvious and pressing reasons to venture outside. I was the first Inn-habitant to forge my way across the icy side porch, down the stairs to the portico, and into the still pristine yard. When I left the Inn, Isabel was saying that the outdoor temperature was 15 degrees, but when the wind hit me, it seemed like zero.
Nothing seemed to be moving on Rte. 60, and the snow blanketing the trees surrounding the Inn served to muffle most sounds. Except for the low howling wind, all was quiet. Even I knew that this was not a typical north Georgia snowstorm. Every once in awhile a puff of smoke from our chimney would blend with the blowing snow to confound my nostrils, encouraging me to hasten my return to the welcoming front entrance. It was one of those rare times in the South when we get to experience the true magic of winter without the consequences of lingering accumulations, ice, slush and spring thaws; or so I thought. It was only a few minutes until I finished my ‘business’ and picked my way through the drifts to the safety of the porch. Micah Davenport, who wisely stayed over the night before, met me at the door and followed me to my favorite spot on the hearth near the warm fireplace.
I don’t understand why, but it seems that when extreme weather hits, humans like to relinquish their responsibilities; they appear all too ready to abdicate control of their lives to the circumstances and environment around them. Food seems to taste better, so they abandon their diets and eat without limits; conversation comes easier, so they talk and share more; friendships are hastily forged with unlikely strangers; and, I’m sure, romances spread like errant crabgrass. That said, the smell of hot coffee, baking biscuits, and cranberry scones permeated the Inn and evoked great joy as guests gathered expectantly in front of a roaring fire in the great room fireplace. A young couple, Ben and Jenny Gibbs, had already been out to Rte. 60 on borrowed snowshoes, but they soon grew tired and cold, returning with the news that there were no plows or sanders to be seen. Luckily, Louella Hess had decided not to make the trip back to her home in Dial on Sunday afternoon, and she was now busy putting out platters filled with her signature ‘lighter than air’ biscuits with honey and scones. It was already 11 a.m.. and breakfast had not yet been served. Despite the overcast sky, roaring winds, and blowing snow outside, there was a decidedly celebratory air in the Inn very similar to that of a Friday evening ‘guest appreciation happy hour.’ Things were a bit quieter than most Happy Hours, however, because Spook’s cage had not yet been uncovered for the day.
Sheriff Kenny Payne called to tell Isabel that Rte. 60 was closed to all through traffic, and, with the exception of Route 5, nothing in the county was moving. During his conversation with Isabel, Kenny asked if we had any elderly folks staying at the Inn who might need transportation or assistance of any kind. Isabel turned briefly, surveyed her group of guests assembled in front of the hearth, and asked the question. The answer was a resounding “no,” and she then began to laugh. “Except for Louella, Micah, and me, this Inn is filled with youngsters, so you don’t have to worry about us!” Isabel reported happily. “Just checking,” Kenny said, before hanging up.
At about 1 p.m., Ranger Matthew Tipton made an unexpected appearance in his US Forest Service SUV and lingered for two hours just to make sure we were safe. I heard him tell Micah that we were due for more snow later in the afternoon. “Unusual weather even for the mountains of north Georgia,” I thought. Louella Hess made sure not to let Matthew leave that afternoon without a slice of apple pie and some hot coffee. It’s funny how folks around here watch out for each other without being asked.
Matthew was scarcely out on the road before the snowstorm resumed in earnest, with the snow blowing sideways, and the shutters creaking against the walls of the old Inn. Micah, who had no choice but to stay another night, decided to forage for candles and lanterns, fully anticipating a power outage as the wind began to shriek outside. Isabel presented Louella with one of her spare flannel nightgowns (that reeked of mothballs), knowing full well that Louella would be staying at the Inn for still another night.
I can say that I’ve seen many successful parties at Faded Glory that failed to match the level of joy and enthusiasm that this gathering did.
There were times when guests were literally lined up to use the Inn’s single telephone to check in at home and adjust work schedules. Tones varied from elated to somber, but after putting the phone down, their general mood was ‘delight with their plight.’ Funny, watching you humans ‘fake it.’
Dusk was falling, and Isabel and Louella put their heads together and came up with a plan for dinner that seemed to delight everybody. During a tour of the walk-in cooler earlier in the day, Isabel and Louella managed to come up with large amounts of pepperoni, a variety of cheeses, and smoked sausage patties which, when combined with Isabel’s homemade pizza dough and tomato sauces, made for a delicious and savory feast for all. A few bottles of red wine from Isabel’s basement wine-cellar didn’t hurt the festive mood either.
On Tuesday morning we awoke to two inches of additional snow, but the temperature had risen to 39 degrees with a thaw definitely in process. Louella and Isabel were well prepared and focused on creating their signature ‘lumberjack breakfast.’ With the smell of roasting turkeys already drifting in from the kitchen, I knew in my heart that these lucky Inn-habitants were destined to enjoy some of the best food that this Inn has to offer.
Only a few of the local folks up here have four-wheel drive vehicles; most of our out-of-town guests sure don’t; so when Wednesday arrived, Isabel (as well as common sense) dictated that great care be taken should anyone decide to venture out onto the roads to return home. For some guests, the option of leaving was still out of the question. Micah got a ride to his home on Thursday morning with one of our departing guests, and Hank Beavers dropped by later in the day and dug out Louella’s Grenada in time for her to leave at 3 p.m. Our last guest left the Inn early Friday morning after an assurance from Sheriff Payne that Rte. 60 was clear all the way out to the four lane. Of course, negotiating the still-slippery slope down to the hardtop was problematic for everyone, but once there, it was ‘smooth sailing’ for most.
Pauline and Rita, our cleaning ladies, straggled in by 10:30 a.m. and started cleaning the rooms while Isabel and Micah began preparing the Inn for the arrival of a new houseful of guests later in the afternoon. Rain or shine, snow or sleet – the show must go on.