“I need to stop.” I said it out loud although there was no one in the car with me. The windows were down, the radio blaring, and I was singing loudly along with the radio (well that is whenever a signal happened to bounce off the mountains and into my car). I was low on fuel—for both the car and for me. “Yep, I definitely need to stop—no way do I want to run out of gas in this remote area.”
My job territory spans seven states so I spend a lot of time between places. Today I was driving through the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, enjoying incredible views as I passed through rolling hills and deep valleys and around towering, majestic mountains that blocked the sun—and radio signals. As the miles rolled by I would occasionally see a house perched precariously on a hillside but often it was quite a jaunt between towns of any size.
A road sign ahead said Hatfield was coming up. I hunched down in my seat imagining Hatfield Country on my left and McCoy Land on the right. Who knew whether bullets might be passing over my head right this very minute? In these hills, feuds and grudges were honored with a peculiar pride.
Feeling bold and adventurous—and hungry, I pulled off the highway leading to civilization and headed into a tiny little town that really didn’t care what the rest of the world did. I couldn’t shake the odd feeling that every dog and cow in the area was tracking my every move.
I soon discovered a small diner that lived up to all my expectations. I shuddered at the “Good Eats” sign painted on the glass door; the crack splintering through the two “o’s” didn’t help my confidence much.
I plunked into a booth, noting that conversation had stopped among the four other customers in the place. I always marvel that these small establishments can bring in enough money to stay open. I gave a nod and a small wave to everybody and they abruptly turned away, speaking in low whispers.
My eyes flitted around the room taking in the simple, quaint décor until they fastened upon a curious object mounted high above the door; it was a humongous, old-fashioned two-man lumber saw that had been painted with a most stunning forest landscape. From one end bubbled forth a stream that fed into the waterwheel of an old mill until it plunged off in a thunderous waterfall on the other side. It was an amazing work of art and captured on such an unexpected canvas!
The waitress came by, automatically pouring me a cup of coffee—it may have been the only choice on the menu. I wondered what she would bring me for lunch. She followed my stare and proffered a well-rehearsed remark, “Bet you ain’t ever saw a saw like that before!” Her accent was pleasant; her smile warm and genuine.
“No, I haven’t.” I answered, staring intently to see if that water wheel was actually turning. “Is it for sale by any chance?”
“No sir! I’ve certainly had offers for it, but I’ve turned them all down.” That mountain pride was evident, and this time it wasn’t misplaced at all.
“My Granny Louise painted that saw. She died quite awhile back, but when she was alive, that’s what she did—she painted. She didn’t have fine paper or nothin’, so she’d paint on anything she could find. She loved her painting. Most everyone around these parts has something or other she did—and no one will ever sell any of them, because Granny Louise would never sell any of them. Folks would ask her to paint something, and she’d do it, and she’d never take money for it. She’d say ‘my painting is a gift from God, and I’m on this earth to share it with everyone.’”
We chatted a bit more before she hurried my order back to the kitchen. She had recommended the ham steak and a slice of fresh apple pie. Alone with my thoughts, I abruptly realized that I was envious of her. I thought about my own grandparents. I remembered them vaguely, but I actually knew almost nothing about them. And here was Granny Louise, still painting a brilliant picture for God long after she was gone.
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