It was just past 5:00 a.m. when I completed the forty-five-minute drive from Bryson City to Fontana Village, a large resort by Fontana Dam. I followed the directions from the main highway to the home of John Carswell, who was the head of security at the Village.
We first had met in the emergency room over a year ago when he had brought in a heart attack patient. John invited me at that time to come out and go fishing with him. Today the rain check would be collected.
When I arrived at the Carswells, it was still dark, but the house was brightly illuminated. John Carswell came bounding out of his house and jumped off the front porch as I pulled up in our old Toyota. Now, John was a rather portly person, and for him to bound anywhere, especially off a four-foot porch, was a sight to behold indeed.
Still smiling from the spectacle, I crawled out of the car as John bounced over, smiling from ear to ear and extending his large, calloused hand. “Great to see ya, Doc! Just great to see ya! Can’t wait to show you around the place a bit!” He kept pumping my hand like the handle of a pump as he turned toward the house, pulling me in tow. “Come on in and meet the wife and kids. We got some vittles ready for ya.”
The fragrance of frying bacon smacked my nose as John released his ironclad grip on my rapidly paling hand and began to beat my back as we walked toward the house.
“Doc, the fish have really been bitin’. Can’t wait for you to catch a mess of ’em!”
We entered the house. It was small, and family pictures covered the walls. Family heirlooms crowded tabletops and bookstands. Introductions were made all around. John’s kids were school-age, and his son was a physical look-alike of his dad—and his handshake just as vicelike.
“John Carswell!” a shrill voice called from the kitchen. “Y’all best git in here right now if ya wants to eat. Now, I say!”
“Best be movin’ in that there direction before Priscilla Carswell gets irritated!” John herded me into the kitchen, where his wife, with her back to us, was fast at work over the stove. The kitchen table was covered with a quaint red-checkered tablecloth on which the family’s best china lay.
“Good to meet you, Doc! Welcome to our home. Welcome!” Mrs. Carswell exclaimed without turning around. “Y’all have a seat and help yourself to the juice.”
Her hair was tied up in a bun on top of her head. She was dressed in a simple blue-and-white-checkered cotton dress with an apron tied around the back.
We sat at the table, and John poured freshly squeezed orange juice. We began to visit, but as we talked, I couldn’t take my eyes off Mrs. Carswell. She was a whirlwind of activity that was a sight to behold. Her hands were flying like hummingbirds over the multiple pots and pans, each containing a different delicacy. Scrambled eggs, link sausage, patty sausage, and thick smoked bacon were sizzling in cast-iron frying pans. Grits and sawmill gravy were each gently bubbling in their own old aluminum pots.
Mrs. Carswell was overseeing the preparation of the feast like a composer—a maestro—over an orchestra of her own creation. Not only was it a visual spectacle; the smells were an olfactory bacchanalia instantly filling the room as she opened the oven and pulled out a pan of fresh, hot, homemade yeast bread.
“Got the starter for this bread from my ma’s ma. It’s been in the family for at least three generations. We girls just keep it goin’ and goin’. It’s almost like Ma was here herself.”
Mrs. Carswell slowly lifted the bread to her nose and deeply breathed in the precious aroma. Her voice softened. “This is heaven,” she said, almost to herself. Then she spun toward the kitchen counter, and platters filled with breakfast foods were transported to the table.
There almost wasn’t enough room. Already on the table were jars containing several types of local honey, jam, and jelly. A tub of local butter, which looked as if it would taste delightfully creamy, sat next to a small pitcher of heavy cream and a pot of freshly brewed coffee—with steam slowly rising from it and the heaping platters of food.
As Mrs. Carswell sat down, the family members instinctively bowed their heads and at the same time held their hands to the side. I did the same, and as we held hands in a circle, John said a simple, and thankfully a short, blessing—because bowing your head over that table only brought the splendid aromas into more focus. Had the blessing been too long, I’m sure I would have been tempted to lower my head into the platter of sausage right in front of me.
No sooner had the “Amen” been said than the family began to pass around the food.
“Doc,” instructed John, “take all you want. Don’t want ya gittin’ hungry on me out there on that lake. But be sure to leave me some of that sausage. It’s my daddy’s recipe. We combine boar and venison and pork and . . .” He leaned over toward me and continued with a whisper, “a bit of bear meat.”
He paused for effect. I didn’t know if the bear was poached or legal, and I was a bit too intimidated to ask—John being a law enforcement officer and all.
“We have to age the meat and then marinade it with an ole family recipe. Doc, if you and me stay together as fishin’ buddies for a few years, I may be able to share it with ya. But not till I know ya better.”
In many places, such a statement might not have been taken as a friendly one, but I knew it was actually a compliment—that John was offering me a promise, a token if you would, of a mature friendship, when, in fact, ours was just beginning. It was almost as if he was predicting that our friendship would grow and develop.
It was quite a compliment indeed.
I don’t remember much else about that meal. I don’t remember much about leaving the home and getting into John’s truck to take a tour of the Village. But I do remember the food and the laughter and the family feeling.
To this day, I’m convinced that the family that shares meals like this is just a healthier family—the kind we all long for deep down. By his actions, John had inspired me and given me a model to follow, for I wanted my family mealtimes to feel like his.
TO BE CONTINUED
PAST STORIES FROM BRYSON CITY SEASONS
- Dead Man Standing (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- Eyes Wide Open (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Auspicious Accidents (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Answered Prayers (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4)
- Rotary Luncheon
- Death by Emotion (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4)
- The Invitation (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Barbecue and Bacon (Part 1), (Part 2)
- A Touchy Subject
- Family Time (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Chicken Pops(Part 1), (Part 2)
- Swain County Football (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Hospital Politics (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- The Bobcat Attacks (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Dungeons and Apples
- A Tale of Two Surgeons (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- Tanned Feets (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- Wise Counsel (Part 1), (Part 2)
- An Anniversary to Remember (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Mrs. Black Fox (Part 1), (Part 2)
- The Littlest Cherokee (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Christmas Firsts (Part 1), (Part 2)
- The Silver Torpedo
- Another New Year’s Catch
- Turned Tables
- Doctor Dad (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3)
- The Phone Tap (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Labor Pains (Part 1), (Part 2)
- Staph and Staff (Part 1), (Part 2)
- The Ribbon Cutting
- Mountain Breakfast
PAST STORIES FROM BRYSON CITY TALES
- The Murder (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Arrival (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Hemlock Inn (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Grand Tour (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Interview (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Settling In (Part 1); (Part 2)
- First-Day Jitters (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Emergency (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Delivery (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The “Expert” (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Trial (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Shiitake Sam (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina; (Part 2); (Part 3); (Part 4)
- White Lies
- The Epiphany (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Monuments (Part 1); (Part 2)
- My First Home Victory (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Fisher of Men (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
- Something Fishy (Part 1); (Part 2)
- A Good Day at the Office
- An Evening to Remember
- Another New Doc Comes to Town
- ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1); (Part 2)
- A Surprising Gift
- The New Year (Part 1); (Part 2)
- The Home Birth (Part1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Showdown (Part1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- The Initiation (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
- Home at Last (Part 1); (Part 2); (Part 3)
© Copyright WLL, INC. 2018. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.