From last post, I continue Wade Nanney’s story about Ole Man Adair coming home from California in the 1850’s. He travelled from San Francisco around the tip of South America to make port in Charleston. And he wore an overcoat the entire time. “Did the other passengers figure out why, or just ascribe him as being some sort of nut?
A conversation between two observers may well have occurred:
‘I still say he’s addled in the head, or else he’s hiding something under that mountain of an overcoat! He’ll die o’ the heat if he keeps that thing on much longer!’ the more querulous of the two might have exclaimed.
‘Naw, if he had a cache of dust or nuggets, he’d carry ’em in a belt or a leg pouch. I think he’s just being cautious about these cutthroat vermin aboard this vessel. Wind whipped up that coat the other day and I spied one of them newfangled Colt Walkers strapped under there. Too, it’d be outright tedious trying to stab a man in the back through all that wool.’
‘Ssh! He’s coming this way. Let’s see if we can get anything out of him. Afternoon, Mr. Adair, I believe it is?’ The querulous one greeted him, pronouncing the name uh-DAYer.
‘AY-dare, hit is!’ the old man replied in the sound system of the southern Appalachians, ‘and good evenin’ to you fellers!’
‘Uh, Mr. Adair, we were just expressing concern about your health.’
‘Yeah,’ his partner offered. ‘Any day now you’re gonna roast like a baking turkey in that bodacious overcoat.’
‘Nah!’ the oldster countered. ‘Works t’other way. A good coat shets out the heat and keeps a man cooler in the long run! Seen some pictures of Ay-rabs in the desert onct. And they was decked head to toe in robes. If ary a body had orta know, them people orta!’
Completely stumped by this approach, no doubt, Ole Man Adair’s inquisitors decided to change the subject. ‘Indeed. Sometimes it takes one a while to catch on to a matter. Take us, my partner and me. We finally got over the gold fever and left the diggings before we totally starved out.’
‘Yep!’ added the more matter-of-fact of the two. ‘We had to cash in everything including the frying pan just to get a grubstake home. Might I inquire if you’re returning from the fields, Mr. Adair?’
‘Fer sartin! Spent three and a half years breakin’ my pore back afore I come to my senses. Going back where I come from to stay!’
‘And might I ask where that is?’
‘Little settlement name o’ Brackettown, county of McDowell, in North Carolina.’
‘McDowell County? But isn’t that where the old gold strike was?’
‘Right ye air! I holp dig and sloosh many a day back there. A man what had any sense atall would a stayed there. Brackettown’s the garden spot o’ the world, long’s a man makes his money some’eres else! Might be rough goin’ when I get back there. But that sandy ground shore does raise awful tasty taters! And a man had ort to slosh out a little color now ‘n agin fer spendin’ money, seein’s how it’s handy.’
The old man’s fellow voyagers would certainly have watched him sweat profusely until they attained cooler waters. However, if they happened to endure some Antarctic squalls coming around thte Horn and up by the Falkland Islands, then many of the shivering passengers would have vocally coveted that overcoat. But as they again approached the Equator, and proceeded on to Charleston, the incredulity would have resumed.
Disembarking at Charleston, Ole Man Adair proceeded northward toward his beloved little mountains by stagecoach. From all I can ascertain, the main road then still came up through Montford’s Cove and Sugar Hill. He may have alighted at Sugar Hill and returned to Bracketttown by way of Vein Mountain. However, it was probably more logical to come on up to Providence, where the east-west stage route from Morganton to Asheville crossed. There he would have continued down Goose Creek to the big oak tree in Glenwood where the road from Macedonia intersected.
Whatever his route, this intrepid adventurer finally ended his tremendous roundabout journey, arriving at his homestead underneath Conway’s Knob. If any of his family members were present, they would assuredly have looked on with eye-bulging amazement as Ole Man Adair finally removed himself from the torturous, sweat-drenched overcoat.
For he then slit the lining of the coat and emptied out no less than twenty-four pounds of weighty, glittering gold dust.”
Wade ends his story by admitting when he walks along that ridge to the old Early Farm Road even today, he “can almost glimpse a shimmer of a mule-drawn buckboard rattling down the hill, bearing an old man chuckling, snorting and proclaiming: ‘Brackettown’s the garden spot o’ the world, long’s a man makes his money some’eres else!’
Copyright, 2014, Georgia Wilson