BBQ, desserts, volunteers and smiles: Saluda News & Notations: When a town comes together to remember one of their own

Published 3:50 pm Thursday, September 14, 2017

“On a branch

floating downriver

a cricket, singing.”

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~ Issa (Japan, 1763-1827) [translated by Jane Hirshfield]

A couple years ago I wrote a September column that began: “One Saluda memory that often crosses my mind is Charlie Ward in his white apron whistling in early mornings, sweeping the sidewalk outside Thompson’s Store down on Main Street.

Because of Charlie, the town has the annual Pig Out, carried on in his honor. More than 500 people attended the first one back in 1999, all put on thanks to volunteers and donations. At the start, folks like JoAnn Way, Charlie Lewis, Dwight Smith, Bill Wilkerson, and Levi Randall came together and planned it all.

Saturday, it continues on, with more volunteers, bigger and better every year, a gathering of Saluda folks, young and old, with music, food, and once again, big hearts in a small town. Thank you, Charlie. I know you’ll be right there with us.”

Once again, another Saluda Pig Out evening has come and gone. Despite interstate snarls and worry over Hurricane Irma, the weather remained BBQ-worthy. Folks came and lined up for plate-loads of barbecue, baked beans and slaw.

There once again was the dessert table, groaning with homemade carrot cake, pound cake, chocolate brownies, caramel apple cake, and on. And on. There was Mayor Fred helping out. Walking up, I caught him red-handed at garbage duty, and joked that it was a pleasant surprise to catch a politician hard at work! Over at a picnic table, I spotted Sheila and Bill Russell, and Charlene Pace at another, here a smiling face, there a smiling face.

It’s a homecoming, a welcome to strangers, a bit of everything, with bluegrass music floating up. In line with me were a couple visiting from Greenville, originally from the UK. They’d been sent over to have barbecue after visiting our train museum at the Depot. Enthralled, they took it all in, this small town with friendly folks. They’ll be back.

I found out from Catherine Ross that her mother’s doing just fine in Houston. Someone asks about Ruth Anderson. Kids weave in and out of the crowd. Volunteers keep a steady pace spooning up beans, barbecue, slaw. Donation jars fill up. Everybody’s talking, eating, and talking some more. The line keeps stretching long. The barbecue trays keep coming.

Along the sidewalk, I ran into Bob and Marty Payton who lived up the street from me years ago. I miss them in their little yellow house, and was glad they’d come back for a visit from Hendersonville before moving off to Portland, Oregon next.

Yes, somewhere Charlie is right there with us, chatting and making sure everybody’s got a place at the table. You can just hear him whistle once again, the sound of the train’s lonesome whistle joining in, a memory echoing up the tracks.

Saluda Tailgate Market is open on Fridays from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the city parking lot off Main Street.

Saluda Welcome Table is every Tuesday. Dinner is served from 5:30 -6:45 p.m. in the fellowship hall of Saluda United Methodist Church. All are welcome; donations accepted.

Saluda Community Land Trust (SCLT) has “Walks in the Woods” on the first and third Sundays each month. On Sept. 17, the hike is at Poinsett Passage; meet at Saluda Library parking lot at 2 p.m. For information on hikes, contact Chuck Hearon at 828-817-0364 or Contact SCLT at 828-749-1560 or visit to learn more about our local land trust.

Saluda Historic Depot is located at 32 West Main Street and will have extended hours in mid-September, Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m. Saluda Train Tales are held on the third Friday each month at 7 p.m. through October. The September 15 Tales will feature Saluda natives Billy Shand, Priscilla and Millie Pearson, David Twiggs and Chuck Hearon.

The 5th annual Saluda Play Day is at Saluda School from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 16. There’ll be a range of activities with a DJ, refreshments and fun! This rain-or-shine free event is made possible through Polk County Community Foundation.

Happy September Birthday to Wayne Thompson, Courtney Hoots, Merci Weitzen, Dale McEntire, Joni Rauschenbach, Sonya Monts, Linda Kaye Hayes, Carol Kenfield, Debbie Fisher, Leslie Jespersen, Linda Mintz, Sheila Billeter, Cary Pace, Ross Arrington, Hop Foster, Chuck Hearon, Alexia Timberlake, Jason Justus, Beth Carson, Clark Thompson, Nicholas Edwards, and Cindy Tuttle. 

Thank you, dear readers, for reading this column. You can contact me at, 828-749-1153, or