Most people that grow up in North Carolina have visited Blowing Rock at one time or another in their lives. Along with Tweetsie Railroad and the “mile high swinging bridge” at nearby Grandfather Mountain, Blowing Rock is a popular destination for anyone that visits the Blue Ridge Mountains.
But few people know the story behind Blowing Rock.
As a child I once stood on the observation deck at Blowing Rock and wondered if the stories I had heard were true – that if you tossed your hat off the rock that the wind would return it to your hands. I decided to take a chance and removed my brand new engineer’s cap that my mom had bought me at a gift shop at Tweetsie Railroad and gave it a toss, reluctantly, into the valley below. To my surprise, the hat was returned to me by the wind. Well, almost. It didn’t exactly return to my hands, but was instead blown into the face of an innocent bystander fifty or so feet down the walkway. Red-faced with embarrassment, I quickly apologized and my beloved engineer’s cap was returned to me where it stayed tucked in my back pocket until we got back to the car.
It is said that the wind blows up from the valley below with such a steady intensity that in the wintertime the snow blows up past Blowing Rock instead of falling down from above. As with any folktale in North Carolina, especially one borne in the mountains, there is a story behind the wind.
The story goes that two young Native American lovers, knowing their love was forbidden since their tribes were about to go to war with each other, met at the rock and swore to each other that their love would transcend the coming fight between their people and conquer all, as true love often does. But when the red sky signaled the start of the war, the young man made a horrible decision. Facing the shame of not returning to fight with his tribe, or the heartbreak of leaving his true love, he chose instead to jump to his death into the valley below.
But all was not lost. As the young girl watched her lover jump from the rock, she quickly prayed to the spirits of the mountain for his life to be spared. Legend has it that the wind, blowing steady and strong up from the valley below just as it continues to do this day, returned her lover to her arms.
So if you ever find yourself in the Blue Ridge Mountains, pay a visit to Blowing Rock. You can even bring a hat and test the wind’s ability to return it to you. But if I were you, I wouldn’t trust the wind any farther than that, as a young maiden once did hundreds of years ago.
Today I’m pleased to offer a guest post by Rachel Ratliff, a reader from Tennessee who has an interesting story to tell about her great-great grandmother, a woman known affectionately as “Ma Grooms”.
Victoria Scott was born at the turn of the century – the summer of 1900 – in Cocke County, Tennessee. Grassy Fork could hardly even be called a community at the time. It wasn’t until the 2000 Census the population broke eight hundred souls. At the age of fourteen, she was married to Ruldolph Grooms, fourteen years her senior, and they moved by horse and wagon over the Great Smoky Mountains into Cataloochee, North Carolina. Five generations later, Victoria was known to most simply as Ma Grooms or Mom Mom. She was my Great-Great-Grandmother.
Ma Grooms lived her entire life tucked back in the mountains. I’ve been told a year or more would pass at a time that Ma Grooms didn’t come down off The Mountain. Rudolph saw to it that they had what he thought they needed, and saw no need for her to leave. I never knew where the Old House was, just that it was on The Mountain – and a far piece from any neighbors or the store. Ma Grooms differentiated the timeline of her life by that Mountain – when we lived on The Mountain, and after we moved off The Mountain.
Ma Grooms enjoyed a simple life. She cooked and heated with an old wood stove, and refused to have indoor plumbing until she was almost ninety. She used electricity only for the necessities. When Rudolph brought home an old television, Ma Grooms refused to watch it. While he watched television, she would sit in her rocking chair with her back to the television and read her Bible. Ma Grooms kept a close walk with the Lord all her life. She read her Bible every day, went to church when she could get there. Her faith was so strong God allowed her to cure sick babies.
My grandmother says that people from miles around would bring their sick babies to Ma Grooms. They carried them through the woods, rain or shine, even hiking through the snow in freezing weather because they knew she had a gift. Whatever the ailment, Ma Grooms would bring the child close to her, and taking their tiny hands in her calloused and wrinkled ones, she would cup their hands over their mouth, recite a scripture, and breath through their cupped hands into the child’s mouth. Whatever the scripture, whatever the prayer, it was between Ma Grooms, the Lord, and the child in front of her. She never told anyone what she said. It wasn’t about the words – the words alone were powerless. It was about her faith and God’s power.
In 1952, Ma Grooms and Rudolph moved down off The Mountain on doctor’s orders for Rudolph’s health. By that time, Rudolph was having heart problems, and their house on The Mountain had no phone, and was too far away from any hospital to make it in time if there were an emergency. The last house she lived in was little more than a wood shack that sat with its back against the side of a mountain and the Little East Fork River in the front yard. Crossing a rickety wooden footbridge over the river was the only way to access the house. If the river was up, there was no getting out.
Six years after moving off the mountain, Rudolph passed away. Til the day she died, Ma Grooms said the Lord told her it was going to happen. One day, when Rudolph was out digging a new outhouse, Ma Grooms went out to call him in for lunch. Standing down in the hole he was digging, Rudolph reached his hand up and asked Ma to help him out. In the instant she clasped his hand, Ma Grooms said the Lord spoke to her very clearly and said, “You can pull him out of the ground today, but this time tomorrow you won’t be able to.” Still pondering the Lord’s words in her mind and heart, the two went inside and sat down to lunch. Rudolph died sitting at the table that very meal.
Even with Rudolph gone, Ma Grooms stayed in the little house by the river. She never came to trust electricity or indoor plumbing. She valued her independence so highly she refused any help from her children and grandchildren to improve the house or move somewhere better. She owned her little house free and clear, meager as it was. Eventually the local community held a fundraiser to get running water and plumbing for her, but Ma Grooms still went down to the river every day and filled old milk jugs with the cold clear water. There were never less than two dozen jugs of water stored on her porch ready to use.
The house still had no telephone, and never would. The day she was bitten by a copperhead snake while working outside, Ma Grooms did the only thing she could – she crawled across the yard, over the old footbridge, and over to the main road where she waited until help came in the form of a passing car. Still, she valued her independence far above any comforts a new home could offer.
As far back as anyone can remember, Ma Grooms refused to say “goodbye” to anyone. If anyone told her ‘bye, she would say, “No, it’s not goodbye, it’s just so long. It’s never goodbye with the Lord, just see you later.” For almost a century, through five generations of children and grandchildren… and great grandchildren… and great-great grandchildren, and finally a great-great-great-grandchild, Ma Grooms was steadfast in her faith, and in her simple life, until at the age of ninety-seven, the Lord took her to the only better home she would have ever moved for – the one He prepared for her.