And I Live to Tell

Against the same smudged window out of which the Gollum gazed, a pedestaled two-dimensional mummified cat cast a terrible silhouette against the gray sky beyond.

Was this a totem to ward off cat-kind, or a monument to celebrate them–in a most peculiar and macabre fashion? The prominent display of this flattened fauna appeared almost like a work of art.

But wait! As I turned with no small apprehension to take my leave of this inexplicable place, it flashed before me that this whole compound may have no other portent or purpose than to say “Look at this and marvel!” Could it be a kind of gallery? But by whom?

I made my way, best I could, back down the mountain approximately along the path that had brought me to this place. And I had not gone a fraction of a mile before I came upon a message–a crudely penned parchment tied to a tree with a length of honeysuckle vine, still fresh and green. It read:

“To him what has come here: take care that you find your way home, and in so doing,  find your way back. You’ll not see nowhere else the likes of these wonders I set out for ye.”

And in bold letters, the wizard signed his name and title:

Sir Ernest, the Supreme Bryant of all of Lick Ridge.  And he added a PS: “come again and bring any what would fancy my curiosities such as ye have.”

And so I will.

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Yes, I’ve been telling you  a whopper of a tale, but it was the way I took in neighbor-artist Ernest Bryant’s wonderful assortment of craft, whimsy and tangible daydreams. There was a story there!

Read the four parts in order:

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Your tale sounds like it could be the start of a great novel! I say “Go with it!” I could hardly wait for the next segment. You sure had me interested!