The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Roosevelt

By Earl G. Fisher © 1992

Issue: July-August-September, 1992

Editor's Note: Since 1992 is a presidential election year, I thought you might enjoy a little "political" humor, mountain style.

Granddad Bozarth was one of the happiest looking men I've ever known. He was always smiling - as if he'd played a joke on someone and was recalling the memory of what he had done. In fact, I imagine that, if my granddad were still alive, he'd be laughing today - if for no other reason than the practical joke he played on me that lasted for most of my life.

Back when I was young man, in my pre-teens, Granddad Bozarth had a farm, about ten miles outside of Franklin, North Carolina. Most of the ten miles was a winding, one-lane dirt road - the kind where you had to slow way down, and crane your neck forward when you came to a curve, because if you chanced to meet another car, both of you weren't going to make the curve at the same time. At the end of this road was Granddad's farm, etched into the side of a mountain, amid myrtles, black walnuts, apple trees and tall cedars. There were five buildings on my granddad's farm, three built by him, and two that had belonged to the previous owner of the land.

The two buildings that had preceded my granddad were the barn and the springhouse. The barn was built out of logs, painted red, and had a hayloft above, with more chiggers in it than hay. The barn was about a hundred yards from the house, and between the two buildings was the springhouse, which was two-story; a tool house above, and the damp, cold, mossy, spring collection area below. The spring was located about sixty yards above the house, and the water was piped underground to a concrete basin, where it chilled tall chrome canisters of fresh cow's milk, until the cans would be brought into the house for skimming and churning - a tasty chore, but not one we kids enjoyed doing.

The main house was a red and white two-story building, paneled inside with knotty-pine and wormy-chestnut tongue-and-groove boards. The house had a covered porch on the front, five bedrooms and one bathroom. Below the house, at the end of the winding dirt road, was a one-car garage. The garage was built almost twice as long as normal, because the far end, closest to the house, was used to store firewood, stacked in rows, four and five feet tall. Then, about six feet away the end of the garage, was the fifth building - and probably my granddad's favorite structure of all - the Roosevelt. The Roosevelt was small, about five feet square, and it was built out of full, one-by-eight planks - the kind today that we call five-quarter boards. It had a small shed roof, made of tin, and was painted bright white, inside and out. Just about any time that you couldn't find my granddad, he would be in the Roosevelt.

Up until then I had never seen, much less heard of, a Roosevelt before. Being a naturally curious child, I asked my granddad how did this building come by such a strange name.

"My favorite president," he said with a wicked smile. "It's named after one of my idols - Franklin Delano Roosevelt." My granddad grinned and slapped me lightly on the back. "A fine dedication, wouldn't you say?"

I never did understand my granddad's gift for irony. Not back then, at any rate. And I am sure that, as the years rolled by, my granddad, grandmom, parents, aunts and uncles, always got a kick out of me when I would tell them with a straight face, that I was going to "the Roosevelt."

It wasn't until I was almost thirty a decade after my granddad had passed away - before I realized that I was the only person I knew of, or had ever met, who called the common outhouse, a Roosevelt. Somewhere along the line, President Roosevelt must have angered my granddad, and the best way he could figure to get even was to dedicate a building to the man. And, bless my granddad's soul, I still call it that.