Welcome to Doreyl's
Backwoods Nature Blogging
Ghost Stories on Grassy Creek Road
by Doreyl Ammons Cain
The backwoods of the Blue Ridge Mountains breath stories. Stories that ride the moist air and settle into the imagination of people who live deep in the woods. The forests with their dark coves foster images that may or may not exist. I'm beginning to believe that's why our mountain heritage holds so many tall tales and ghost stories.
I always wondered why Grandpa Tom Ammons scared the pants off us kids with his ghost stories. Like when my sister Amy, my brother David and I spent the night at Grandpa and Grandma's cabin. Their homestead sat high on top of Ammons Mountain in Tuckasegee, Jackson County. The trip up the mountain took about an hour and a half, some of it steep climbing, and began on Grassy Creek Road. Dark coves, rattlesnakes curled on mica shining rocks and eerie shaped shadows decorated the length of Grassy Creek Road in our fertile young minds.
Sometimes, on the way back from a 12 mile walk to Sylva, Grandpa would stp by our house and let us follow him up the mountain to spend the night. This began a Grassy Creek adventure I'll never forget...
Grandpa walked bent over, with a limp, clicking his walking cane in the mica flaked, rocky dirt road. We clung around him like flies on honey as dark shadows made patterns across the road.
"Ya hear that?"
said Grandpa as he stooped and cupped his hand around his ear.
Stopping in our tracks we said in one voice, "No, Grandpa."
"Ya hear that pat, pat, pat behind us? That's a painter stalking it's prey," he said.
"We don't hear it Grandpa," we said, voices quivering and words falling in a mixed jumble as we clung closer to Grandpa.
A few minutes later he said, "Ya hear that?" We stopped and listened in the soft stillness of the woods until finally we heard the faint pat, pat, pat. Whether it was real or not, we didn't know.
Finally our journey brought us to the fork in Grassy Creek. To the left the creek curved to Grassy Creek Falls where the water roared as it cascaded over a huge boulder. "In the old days if a person messed up and got into bad trouble he'd be thrown over the falls," Grandpa spoke through the spraying sound of the falls. Then, turning to the right, he started another story.
"See those old boards laying on the back side of the creek? That was where a purty young girl and her husband lived when they first wed. She brought her own piano all the way up Grassy Creek on a cart pulled by oxen. She loved to play music that everyone could hear floating through the woods. Then she got consumption and died right there. Her husband was so sorrowful he left and never came back. He left the cabin just like when she died and it fell down into those boards that's left. Now on real dark nights the sound of piano music still comes through the woods... from right here," he points to the weather worn boards.
"Grandpa, it's getting dark now, we'd better hurry!!" said Amy as we edged even closer to Grandpa.
In the Appalachian Mountains stories float on wisps of wind through the hollows and glens. If you listen closely you can her them. Today these stories are displayed in giant works of art along the Appalachian Mural Trail. Public Art murals displayed in small towns, cities & communities. In Asheville North Carolina the storytelling public art murals cover early farming in the Chicken Alley mural, African American history in the Triangle Park Mural and mountain music in the Shindig mural in Pack Square Park. Winter, spring, summer or fall, it's always a good time to travel the Appalachian Mural Trail. Go to muraltrail.com and set your personal itinerary for a storytelling journey up the mountain.
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permission from the author, Doreyl Ammons Cain.