• 61°

Two Gentlemen of Polk County

Terry was a wartime comrade of mine. He flew as a navigator and gunner on a Low Observation Helicopter (LOH, pronounced Loach) a very dangerous job. On most days, Terry and his group of Scouts with the 11th Armored Cavalrys Air Cav Troop flew missions that sought out enemy emplacements, drew fire and called for help in the form of artillery, air strikes, armored columns, or the Aero Rifle Platoon.&bsp;Like so many of my surviving comrades, Terry suffers from numerous combat-related challenges, including severe hearing loss (from the more or less constant exposure to machine gun fire and engine noise) and numerous PTSD symptoms (related to the more or less constant exposure to danger). He and his wife, Barbara, visited Birdland from South Dakota in late October for a few days. I wanted to show them an especially good time, and what they wanted to do most was to drive around the area to see the mountain scenery and the beauty of the falls changing leaf colors.

In our talks on the screened porch, Terry and Barbara related several stories about people stranded on the Interstate highway that borders their horse farm where Terry operates a boarding stable. Terrys stories about travelers who had run out of gas, or had flat tires, or blown up their engines were amusing and touching. Their graciousness and humility in these matters made me proud to have them in our home.

On the Saturday of their visit, while the wives were antiquing, Terry and I set out to traverse the loop over White Oak Mountain you know the drive, Im sure: up over Skyuka Mountain Road and across to that marvelous overlook before starting the descent, then to the next big view at the condominiums at the top of White Oak, past the gigantic waterfall that passes underneath the road, and finally down the other side into downtown Columbus.

We stopped many times to take pictures and just to gawk at the splendor. One of those stops was at that overlook mentioned before. While we were there, a gentleman joined us with his camera and we talked for a few minutes. We didnt exchange names, just friendly talk. Terry mentioned that we were together in Vietnam and the gentleman nodded his approval. He took a picture of the two of us and wished us well on our sight-seeing trip.

A little further down the road, I put Terry and his camera out on the road at the waterfall. He walked down the pavement and took a number of pictures, being properly impressed with the height and volume of water at the site. I sat in the van at the side of the road past the falls. Soon, the gentleman from the overlook came by in his truck and stopped. He said: If you and your friend want to sit for a while and enjoy the view, my place is just back a ways and youre welcome to sit there on the porch as long as you want. I dont live there full time, but Id be happy for you to enjoy it. He gave us directions and we gladly accepted his kind offer. We sat on the porch in his rocking chairs and didnt have to say a word to enjoy a few minutes of Earths magnificence.

Two days later, on the absolute peak day of leaf color, Terry, Barb and I drove up the Tryon side of Pearsons Falls Road to the barricade before the construction zone. The golden leaves made us feel like we were driving through honey. The sound of the early stages of the Pacolet gurgling near the roadside was hypnotic. Terry and Barbara were mesmerized, as was I. In fact, they enjoyed it so much that I drove all the way around to Saluda in order to show them the other half of the road up to where the bridge is being replaced.

Being from South Dakota, kudzu is a strange sight to them and Terry wanted a picture of the other worldliness, as he termed the vines takeover of trees, power lines and buildings. While we were stopped taking pictures, a gentleman stopped and asked if we were interested in taking some really good pictures. I was intrigued and agreed to follow him to the place he was talking about. That place turned out to be his home, a relatively new house that replaced one that had burned down a few years back.

This gentlemans name was Bobby and he toured my friends around his home and grounds, pointing out places with long vistas, or unusual plants, or special projects that he was working on. He spoke reverently of his deceased wife and of his hope for the future. His faith was prominent in his conversation and we all had the sense of the goodness of this gentleman. After an hour of talk and picture-taking, we continued on our way, feeling particularly blessed again at the generosity of this man.

The evening before their departure, Terry and Barbara sat on the screened porch with Faith and me. They expressed a sentiment that Id like to share with you. They said that although they helped out strangers in need and knew of others in their area who did the same, they had never known anything like the kindness and welcoming of the people they met while visiting here in Polk County. They said that they now really understand the term Southern Hospitality.

Im grateful to those two gentlemen and to all the other folks around who engaged us in conversation and goodwill. Thank you Polk County.~ BirdLand written by Don Weathington