by John farmer
Is there such a place?
Most of my adult life I trekked about in the Great Smoky Mountains. Walking in the woods with young people is an absolute delight. Years spent we owned a retreat at the juncture of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountain National Park.
Behind our condo a gentle winding road soothed you away from the bustle of the village out into God’s park. The slower one wandered along the lane, the more things came into view. The trees grew taller, birds sang louder. Bears peeked back at tourists. The troubles of the world moved further away, at least for the duration of the tour. Along that mountain road sit idle and quiet, the homes of American pioneers. Some places you can view stone walls. The stones weren’t so much fencerows as they needed to be cleared so that our mountain ancestors could scratch a garden into the hills.
Every so often there would be a spot to pull off, get out of the car and trek through an old log cabin with a dogtrot and appropriate outhouses. Kids would run ahead; sing and shout. They would send echoes across the hills and valleys.
Once a lad on my tour stopped dead in his tracks and asked, “Can I go in there?” His voice was almost a whisper.
“Sure,” I said, and kicked a bit of path ahead of my shuffling feet. While he wandered in and about the place I sat down upon the porch with my feet propped on a rock foundation to listen to his exclamation of joy at finding so “neat” a place.
Another time I sat upon a fence rail counting deer and eagerly sending my ears ahead to find the song of one of the wolf families repopulated into the park. My lad, having, surveyed several cabins and mountain trails, pulled along side and began to chat. Mind you there was nothing of particular importance to the conversation. Words burst forth about the things being discovered. The little voice shared that when he got big he would build a cabin in the woods, where he could raise a family, plant a garden and walk to church.
My heart smiled. I wanted that for him. In fact, I wanted that for me too: a cabin in the woods, by the side of the road. A place where friends and family would gather… A green hill near the cabin where loved ones could be buried. Such a setting makes it easy for me to wax nostalgic.
My life has been anything but the honest toil of clearing land, building a cabin and enjoying nature. I was born a city boy and for the most part have lived in metropolitan areas. Yet there is something so fetching about a cabin in the woods.
Let me share an old song we used to sing out west. It was a time when I lived in the shadow of the levies that kept the mighty Mississippi and Forked Deer rivers out of our homes. It was a place so flat that it appeared ironed. It was “just over the hill” from Gatlinburg, a far ride from my Northern Neck. It is called: “I’ve got an old log cabin by the side of the road.” It is best sung solo, with fiddle and banjo; pipe organs won’t do it justice.
“I’ve got an old log cabin by the side of the road and you’re welcome to rest there if you bear a heavy load. There’s a picture of Jesus hanging over my door and I talk to my Savior from my knees on the floor.
“Many years I have lived here just struggling along. Once the walls shook with laughter they heard many a song. It seen the joys of my family, shared my grief since they’re gone.
“It heard me sing ‘Rock of Ages’ and the ‘Old Rugged Cross’, heard me pray for many people whose soul I feared was lost, seen me welcome many strangers who needed help on their way; will see the angels come for me when I’ve lived my last day, kept me dry from the rain, weathered many a storm.
“I’m just an old feeble man now, not much farther to go. Soon my savior’s gonna call me for He’s often told me so I’ll just stay in my cabin till I’ve lived my life’s span. And in my Savior’s name I’ll do all that I can.”
Constructed here, along these bright waters and backwater creeks, are mansions superb. I have toured many of them; ogled over plans of some yet to be built. My age now allows the freedom to want a simpler life. I yearn for a life in a cabin filled with Jesus and memories of the kids with whom my paths have mingled along life’s way.
I have on occasion snuck off, with bag lunch in hand and sat at the old log cabin along the western branch shore of the Corrotoman River. Retired college professor and award-winning author Alf Mapp called it “home.” I sat not on the porch, but on the bottom step where my feet could stir a bit of dust. Food never tasted better.
Pray with me that we can adopt a simpler life style. Pray with me that we can learn to live with fewer closets, less rooms, simpler things. God will be blessed and will bless us in return.