The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Southern Transfer

By Arliegh Parker © 1996

Issue: Summer, 1996

Sitting on my front porch, watching the sun set behind the beautiful Tennessee mountains, I am at peace. Audra is beside me, her warm hand in mine. Her gentle touch brings back memories of how I came to live in this paradise, and the day I knew she was the one I wanted to spend my life with.

Many years ago, my father was transferred to Carterville, Tennessee. The day he announced the move, I complained long and loud. I did not want to leave Los Angeles. But, at age 16, I had no say in the matter, except to vow that someday I would return to California.

It took me awhile to settle in at my new high school, adjusting to southern dialect and customs. Still, I made a few friends, and before long, one of them introduced me to a little brunette with a crooked grin.

I'm not sure why I did it - Audra Jones wasn't anything like the girls I knew in the city - but, I asked her out.

She accepted my invitation and gave me directions to her house. She said, "Of course, my parents will want to meet you. You will have to come to the door for me. If you wait outside in the car and honk the horn, they won't let me go with you."

I almost said that wasn't the way we did things in L.A.; instead I agreed.

Before she walked away, she said, "Be sure to watch for PeaVine," and I stood there wondering if I had competition from some strange fellow with a goofy nickname. Worse yet what if that were his REAL name?

Saturday night arrived. I found the house easily, parked the car, and walked toward the house. I had a speech prepared for Audra's parents and was feeling very confident.

Just then, a small black and white dog rounded the corner of the house and trotted toward me. I said, "I hope you don't bite," and reached down to pat his head.

As if on cue, he flipped over on is back and wet all over my outstretched hand.

I groaned and wiped my hand on the grass, this had to be PeaVine all right.

This would never happen back home, I grumbled. Only the thought of Audra's smiling dark eyes stopped me from getting back in the car and driving away.

A worried-looking Audra opened the door when I knocked. She whispered, "I'm sorry about this, but we have some out-of-town relatives visiting. You will have to meet them all, but I'll get you out of here as fast as I can."

Relatives! I wondered if anything else could go wrong before we left on the actual date. These preliminaries were killing me.

I followed Audra to the kitchen where at least a dozen people were feasting around a large table. She introduced me to her father, who stood, wiped his hands on his napkin, and to my horror, extended his hand.

"Nice to meet you," he said. And before I knew it, I was shaking hands with him and being introduced to a menagerie of sisters, brothers, cousins, and in-laws. Luckily, no one else offered to shake hands, but the scene wasn't played out yet.

I started twitching when I realized what and how they were eating. Audra's father sat down, picked up a piece of fried chicken with the very hand I had just shaken, and took a healthy bite as I watched helplessly.

There was no turning back; the secret was safe with me and PeaVine. At the time, I intended to take that secret with me to the grave.

I couldn't wait to get out of that house even if it meant facing the mutt in the yard again. Nor could I wait for this disastrous date to be over. Already, I was thinking of excuses to bring her home early.

But, when we were alone together, finally, I took a good look at Audra. When she smiled her crooked grin at me, I forgot all about the dog, the relatives, the handshake.

I was lost. Before long, my dream of returning to California simply faded away like the mist over Duck River. Shortly after her eighteenth birthday, we were married.

Before the wedding, my conscience bothered me so much, I decided to tell Audra about my run in with PeaVine. I hoped she would not be too upset. Instead, she laughed until she cried and said, "Now I know why you wouldn't hold MY hand that first night!"

But, I never told her father. And no, I never will.