Vicki Lane Appalachian Mysteries

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Visit cozylibrary.com to read an interview with Vicki.

Vicki LaneVicki and her husband moved to the mountains in 1975 – which makes them “new people” in a county where farms still in the same family after seven generations are not unusual. Though both had been teachers in Florida, they immersed themselves in the rural life, learning from their neighbors how to milk cows, churn butter, plow with mules, butcher pigs, raise tobacco and beef cattle, as well as the hundreds of other minutiae of a farm life that had changed little in a hundred years.

Except for occasional consultant work by Vicki and her husband,  the milk cow related  chores are now the job of the younger generation,  Vicki still tends a large garden, a smaller salad and herb garden, and is continually adding to the flowers and ornamentals that threaten someday to get totally out of hand. She cans, freezes, and dries garden produce for family use. A family flock of Ameruacana, Buff Orpington and Gold-laced Wyandotte chickens provide lovely brown, pink, and blue-ish eggs.  Three dogs (down from six, alas), two cats, and several fish ponds add to the general merriment.

The farm, the woods, and the people of Vicki’s adopted county are all reflected in the world of Elizabeth Goodweather. “I think that, as an outsider, I sometimes see more clearly the wonderful things that people who grew up here take for granted.”

Vicki used to quilt quite a lot (and has co-authored two books on quilting under her married name). Though she has a herb garden and has made dried flower and herb wreaths in the past, it was never a business such as that described in the Goodweather books.  

“We were so lucky to be able to make a choice about where and how we would live. I know there were those who thought we were crazy for choosing to live as we did. For the first several years, we didn’t have indoor plumbing (gasp!). And I
felt a little bad one dark night as I handed my four year old a flashlight and sent him out the door to the outhouse. But when he came back, his eyes were wide with wonder and he said, ‘City kids don’t get to hear owls when they go to the outhouse.’ I knew then we’d made the right decision.And I know it today because that same boy and his wife, after a five year stint working for a publishing company inAtlanta, moved back to one of two rental houses on our farm, from which they happily telecommuted to the Atlanta jobs till a recent change in company policy forced them to return to the city. And my younger son, with his honors degree in philosophy, lives in the other house and supports himself by carpentry andbeautiful artistic rock work. My husband takes care of the farm in the summer and does woodworking in the winter. For us, this is the good life.”

Our First Night in the Mountains

When my husband and I first came to North Carolina, some people said we were a part of the back to the land movement – we just knew we had to get out of Florida. We both came from pioneer families down there – my father’s people (all horse thieves, Daddy said) were of the same Scotch-Irish stock that settled western North Carolina. Florida had been a wonderful place to grow up but by the seventies the population was increasing at a horrendous pace and the secluded lakefront property where we had built our own home was being surrounded by suburban sprawl creeping out from Tampa. So we packed our eleven month old son and a bunch of camping gear into a big blue Chevy Blazer and set out to find a place in the country. We thought we might go as far as Canada But first we stopped in western North Carolina to visit a college friend of mine who, with her husband and their baby, had recently moved to a mountain farm.

Our first night there, my husband went with my friend’s husband and his two brothers to a little music festival in a place called Sodom. (My friend and I opted to stay home with our young children.) My husband John didn’t know the other men at all and was a little taken aback when he saw one of them put a pint bottle of whiskey into one pocket of his overalls and then a pistol into another.

John told me later how the car swerved around the curves heading up Lonesome Mountain – where the Vista worker was murdered, one brother told him. The bottle of whiskey was being passed around and the brother at the wheel (a non-drinker, thank god) was singing at the top of his voice, “There was whiskey and blood on the highway/ But I didn’t hear nobody pray.”

When they came down into the Sodom community, they weren’t sure just where the festival was so they stopped at a little country store. They all went in – after riding in the backseat on those winding roads John was happy to get out and walk around while he still could.

The store, a local hangout, was full of hard-looking men in overalls. They all stopped talking when the four bearded hippie types came in. One of the brothers asked for directions to the music festival and they were told how to get there. Breathing a small sigh of relief they turned to go back to the car. Just then the biggest, roughest looking one of the men in the store called out, “Boys --- don’t you never turn your back on no one from Sodom.”

When my husband told me the story the next day, I fell in love with the rural county that is now our home.

 

 

Photo of Vicki and cow by Charlotte Lindeman.