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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

No. 29 "It just weren't meant ... to see no mountains!"

My brother, Tommy, holding my nephew, Anthony (with me in the cowboy
suit in the corner) not long after his "trip to the mountains."

One of my family's most often told tales is of Tommy and several friends (all of them cousins, either first or removed) on an aborted journey "to the mountains." According to the story, one Friday afternoon and after a particularly good week of shrimping the group made an impromptu decision to use Lester (first cousin) Hamilton's new car and go on a trip to where none of them  had ever been before. With Donald Guthrie (see post no. 28)  driving, Lester riding shot-gun, and Tommy, Grayden Moore and Kerm Guthrie in the back, the young voyagers headed for Asheville, some 500 miles away in the Smoky Mountains.

Up to that point none of them had ever seen a hill much larger than the sand dunes that dotted the Banks. They were determined to lay their eyes on real mountains and then to be able to tell about it to their family and friends. Grayden, whom they called “Gray Boy,” was especially excited and punctuated every conversation by repeatedly saying, “I can’t wait to see them mountains!”

The trip began to turn sour near Goldsboro when the car, a 1952 Mercury, began to "run-hot." A check under the hood revealed that one of the car’s two water pumps was leaking. After applying a quick fix, the journey continued as far as Durham when the other water pump went bad. This time they sensed that their repair job was only temporary and the group was forced to alter their route. Rather than the mountains, they would head for Wrightsville Beach and see what a “real beach” was like.

But even those revised plans didn’t work out as the car simply refused to cooperate. The group spent much of that night and morning trying to fetch water for the overheating engine out of road- side ditches. Lacking a bucket or even a bottle, they used the hubcaps they pulled from the car’s wheels. Sometime just after midnight on Saturday and near the town of Burgaw, they gave into the inevitable, cancelled their plans for Wrightsville Beach, and headed for Harkers Island.

They rolled over the Island’s wooden bridge just before sunup the next morning, with Grayden no longer restating his hopes to view the Great Smokies. By now he was only nodding his head and quietly lamenting that "... it just weren't meant for 'Gray Boy' to see no mountains!"

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