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Last updated: August 04. 2014 2:05AM - 594 Views
By Stephen Harris



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Listening to the radio set my blood to boiling. Again.


The radio gave a news report on a study that said kids’ IQs drop a few points over the summer while they’re out of school. I took it as another attack on kids’ summer vacation.


You can bet the IQ test did not include Little Mountain.


That’s what I did as a kid during summer vacation to stay sharp. I’d go to summer school with Little Mountain.


Little Mountain is part of the prominent ridge north of Elkin. The Roaring Gap Resort sits atop Little Mountain.


I like best the view from Willie Byrd Hill near Zephyr, but you can get a good view from a number of prime high spots here in the hometown.


I had a great view of Little Mountain from home when I was a kid here. The mountain stood tall and somewhat mysterious out beyond the north edge of our yard, and then beyond the pasture next door, and then some miles up the road. I didn’t have a good grasp yet of how far away it was.


The mountain became my friend, my buddy, as I saw it whenever I was out in the yard, which was most of the time during my first few summer breaks from school.


I played ball in front of the mountain as it cheered me on. I chased chickens for the mountain’s amusement. I built a tree house, well, more like a tree bench, to better see the mountain.


The best place to view the mountain was from the grapevine. I could plant myself with my back resting against the north side of the grapevine frame. Then I’d face and study intensely Little Mountain, the resort homes on top and the hotel water tower that stood tall and above it all. I spent a lot of time in the company of that mountain.


I wanted to know what all was going on up there. My folks had taken me up there once to the fish hatchery that was near Lake Louise but is long gone now. I never could satisfy my curiosity and actually take a tour of the mountain until many years later after I got a driver’s license and then a motorcycle.


So as a little kid I was stuck at home with the mountain standing silent and full of mystery about five miles away as the crow flies. I knew there were interesting things going on up there. I just didn’t know what.


So I tried to stare, very intently. Could I see anybody up there? Perhaps someone was on the water tower. Perhaps I could see someone at one of the houses, maybe mowing the yard. I looked for cars coming and going.


Nope. I never could see any activity up there. The trees on the ridge kept things too well hidden.


So I began making up things. What if the moon crashed into the mountain? (I watched a lot of science fiction when I was a kid.) Could I escape Noah’s Flood up on that mountain? What if I was with Lewis and Clark and climbed up to the top and peered over to see what was beyond? I did not yet know about Sparta.


I did not go so far as to talk to the mountain. But I felt its presence as I rummaged around the grounds of the old home place, which we left when I was 10.


I checked when I got up and out in the morning to make sure the mountain was still there. I checked it again before I went in for the night.


I would stop at the end of the day, and as the summer sun set I’d study the deepening shadows cast across the mountain’s face as the sky grew dark above. Dad’s hammock was an excellent place to see the mountain slowly go dark.


It bugs me that they continue to hammer away at kids’ summer vacation. Remember how they were slowly moving up the starting date of the new school year closer and closer to the first of August?


They stopped that foolishness a few years ago when the legislature set the start of school back to a more reasonable late August.


Nevertheless, they continue to hammer away at kids’ summer vacation, as studies claim kids aren’t in school enough.


However, there are important things to do and learn outside of school as well. Many of those things can take place only during summer vacation.


A wise soul once said that an unexamined life was not worth living. I did a lot of examining during my early summer vacations in the shadow of Little Mountain.


May they not make so much busywork for kids these days that they steal away their summers along with their youth.


Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.


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