But after close to fifteen years, the beauty of this place - including its delicious quirks - is something I rarely tire of. Even something as mundane as a trip to the tire shop can hold little jewels.
So. Tires. One of the things I truly hate spending money on, but on curvy mountain roads it is an all too often necessity. After lots of phone calls trying to find the very best deal, I made an appointment. This tire shop was new to me, and really, the guy that owns it seems to be more into hotrods than selling tires.
Within the first three minutes of hanging out in the clean lobby while his grandson worked on my car, Tire Shop Guy, started telling me a story about his dog. A Chi-Poo, which he pronounced "She-poo".
"I love that little dog," he said. "Now my wife, she likes a clean house, so I bought some little booties for my dog. I'll come home and take her out to do her business. She never ever messes. And when she comes in, she jumps from one chair to another to a little table I built just for her. Then she holds up each paw for me to take off her shoes."
A guy pulls up in a purple dune buggy and comes in. He glances at me then starts talking to Tire Shop Guy. If you've never lived in the country, men of a certain age tend to "loaf" at the establishments of their buddies. There are no neighborhood bars, as this is deep Baptist woods, so the feed store, the tire shop, the barber are hang-outs.
Within minutes, Earl (the new guy) and Tire Shop Guy are deep into a discussion about Facebook. TSG is showing Earl the like button. "See here, this little place that says like. You press that if you agree with what someone is saying. This here girl, I can read all about what's she's a doing and where she's a going. I think I'm gonna post something from today from that Chinese guy. You know like, "Confusion says learn to fly before going on a plane, learn to swim before going to the pool." The he looks at me, "You think, they'll think I don't know it's really Confucious if I type Confusion?" I nod.
Earl grabs hold of me, pulling his chair up in my bubble. "Me and my wife we got kicked out of our church. " Then for a full twenty minutes I was given a story about church politics and back stabbing and ostracization. When he left to go check out the tires I was getting, TSG says "Old Earl, he's really bothered by that church business. Happened over a year ago, but he tells everybody that will listen. I think he ought a just let it go."
Earl comes back and asks me "Did you know TSG is one of the best bluegrass pickers around?" "No," I say. "Yep," Earl says. "See that up there." He points to a framed certificate from the governor of NC hanging above the shiny rims. "Old TSG he got that for going to the World's Fair in 1964."
TSG steps in. "Yep, they went around the state scouting talent to represent the state and me and my brother got picked. You ever heard of Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt?" I nod. "Well, me and my brother we used to open up for them every time they came around. One time, Earl, wasn't that in Tn?"
Earl nods, "Yep, over in TN they outsold old Earl and Lester with records."
TSG says, "45's. Old little 45's"
They're standing in front of me at this point, performing, their voices like sermons, their eyes twinkling, whisked back to their teenage years. And I just smiled and watched because living in a place where people still tell strangers their stories and take the time to share, well, I wouldn't trade it for the world.