I saw a prince purple dunk tank like you’d find on some backwoods county fair main drag flipped sideways and I passed right on by it. I saw a billboard that had that one Romans quote plastered across it that said “The wages of sin is death” but for some reason at first glance I thought it read “the wages of sin is romance”.
I saw ravens and dead possums and yellow painted houses and signs advertising wrestling matches written in sharpie on the side of the road. Fancy log cabins and gutted out jack-o’-lanterns that were starting to cave-in on themselves plopped hard on front porches.
I was heading on down 321 and a Celtic looking cross made of sheet metal appeared with black spray painted letters spelling out “Alfredo”.
I saw two white cows on the hillside but they were actually just small brambley trees.
Rock outcroppings jutting out the mountainsides providing cover to round bales and ranch style houses and there were always more cows to peep curbside. I wondered who the heroes are of this high country as I passed a post-harvest cornfield.
The song playing on the radio sang about corn liquor and banjos and fiddles and harmonicas screamed at me coming around a big bend. I spent time looking at mud splattered bulldozers that passed me flooded by the sun. This landscape seems premeditated like it’s some sort of crime.
There are cans of monster energy growing straight out the floorboards like some kind of weed and I’m still thirsty.
I crossed the bridge shielding me from the Watauga River and I’m reminded that I’m blowing my horn in god’s country now as I pass a truck covered in Jesus stickers and I see a scarecrow praying for forgiveness outside of the rusted out trailer perched on a hillside.
Big boulders have rolled down into the middle of this river and there’s no evidence of a waterfall yet but I did spy evidence of magic as there was a black horse on the hillside with one white leg.
Laurel creek falls is on the north eastern border of the Pisgah National Forest in an area called Sugar Grove where the Watauga River runs and Laurel Creek feeds right into it.
I parked on a gravel patch and started down towards the river basin to find my sweetie some river glass and immediately busted my ass on a large boulder. Hands in my pockets still and everything. My ass went thump and I hit my arm real hard. couldn’t tell if I was hurt and a few minutes later I could see the blood through my camp fleece. I’m just glad I didn’t hit my funny bone again.
I hobbled along riverside across more boulders slick with silt and thought about how it would be a whole lot easier to pretend I was far away from any sort of human existence if it weren’t for the 2 L bottles of Mountain Dew strewn around the shoreline.
I crept on down to the waterline and found a handful of milky white and green river glass mixed in with the sand and the river trash between the rocks. I put all that smooth river glass in my front pocket so they could get mixed up with all the quarters I’d gotten the day before while doing laundry.
I continued down the bank and found a golf ball wedged under a rock and under that golf ball there was a clamshell split wide open like a book. I threw the golf ball through the air into the rapids. I’m never gonna see that golf ball again.
This river is the color of mushed up sweet peas straight out the can and you can see proof of recent flooding. There are weavings of grass held high in the branches of waterlogged trees.
I climbed my way back towards the car up a twenty five foot bank and headed on back to town. The people out here in Sugar Grove are selling all kinds of stuff roadside. Wormy chestnut lumber and antiques out of there trailers, I’m hoping to stop somewhere to find something real or at least something good.
Rebekah Morgan is a writer living in Appalachia. His work has been featured in New York Tyrant, Hobart, Witchcraft, X-Ray Lit, and other publications. He is the author of two poetry collections, “Hotel Alexander” and “Blood Burger Parade”.