Let’s keep it going in the right direction

Published 1:57 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

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Two weeks ago Allen and I went to a musical event at the Purple Onion. It had been nearly a year since we’d been ‘out’ for an evening, and this night was particularly special because one of the musicians was the daughter of an old, old friend of ours from our college days…and that was a long time ago. Then I took some time and looked around the room. What I was looking at were many old friends, friends that we hung out with when we all had small children, friends who helped us build our house, who worked with us, who started recycling in Saluda, who started businesses in town, who delivered the mail, who were Saluda school volunteer art teachers, coaches, and mentors. It brought me back to those days when we helped each other and did not think a thing about it. That was just the way it was.

Most of us moved to Saluda because the land was cheap back then, much cheaper than in Hendersonville or Tryon. We were the back-to-the-land hippies, those who may have been looked at suspiciously by the old timers. We moved out in the country and lived in houses with few amenities, heated with wood, and cultivated huge gardens. Actually, Allen and I had to get a small loan from the bank in order to buy our “fixer upper” cabin. We had never borrowed money before which meant that we had no credit, so the small town real-estate broker co-signed our loan for us. Then he came out and tilled our garden for us. And Ed Leland, the owner of the telephone company, walked in our mile-long driveway and climbed the telephone poles to hook up our phone line because he did not want me to be out in the boondocks with two small children without a telephone. These old timers showed us just what the word ‘community’ really means, and we’ll never forget it.

Most of us stayed here, and so many of our children have chosen to stay here too. Sitting in that chair at the Purple Onion, waiting for Hannah to start playing her fiddle, what ‘hit’ me was the beauty of what us old farts had created, out of necessity, community, and love of the land. Yes, we were and still are back-to-the-land folks, and it is good. Just looking around the room, at old friends and neighbors and Hannah’s parents, filled me with gratitude and Thanksgiving. We were given the gift of living in a beautiful place, surrounded by like minded friends and kind neighbors who valued the land and community. That’s pretty hard to beat!

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Then, my next thought was “will the next generation be able to protect and honor the land around us after we are gone? Will they be good stewards as the land as we have been?” I’ve been pondering this question since then and today I came up with some hopeful thoughts. The new people who have moved to this area have moved here because of our beautiful natural surroundings. Most of them are coming from more affluent areas, and they are willing and able to pay the astronomical real-estate prices in order to move here. It makes sense that they would want to preserve the natural beauty of this area just as much as we do. Today a fellow Saluda Community Land Trust board member and I went to look at a beautiful farm that the owner wants to protect with a working farm easement, and he’s one of the “newbies” in the area. He is going to protect that farm from development with an easement, which the previous owner was not willing to do; that owner ‘took the money’ and sold the farm without any restrictions.

Those of us who love the land have an opportunity that our predecessors did not have. Now we have an avenue open to landowners to protect their land from development; we have conservation easements nowadays, which we did not have before the 1980s. We live in a small town or in the country where we can meet the newcomers, and we can help them ‘settle in’ just like the old timers helped us. If they do not know about the many ways to be good stewards of the land , we can help them. We can show them what a wonderful place this area is, and we can be an example of the real meaning  of “community”. One of my favorite sayings over the years has been “We either all win, or we all lose”.  Let’s help save as much of our beautiful natural environment as we can, together.