Tom Dooley's door
In fact, the headline is lying. The door mentioned is not actually Tom Dooleys, but his mother's, but I will get back to that.
I wasn't in a hurrry getting out of the door here on July 10th, so I did not leave my B&B in Spruce Pine until around 9 am. The final goal of the day was The Irish Rose Bed & Breakfast in Lenoir about 50 miles (80km) east of Spruce Pine, so I could get there in about an hour and a half, and faster if I used the highway instead of going through the mountains. And actually, I was going a bit further than that, because I had to visit a lady! And even if she lived within the Lenoir area (and zip code), it was still about 15 miles (24 km) east of town, and actually in very rural surroundings, which I, oddly enough, never thought of photographing, even if I normally take pictures of even the most unlikely motives.
Anyway, I checked out of my B&B, said goodbye to the landlady and headed east on small, winding roads through the mountains and forests, going on North Carolina Road 194, until I reached the town of Linville Falls, which is not far from the likewise named waterfalls where I almost “killed” myself from exertion on my visit to the falls in 2015 – more in the article “Just another day in Western North Carolina". This time, however, I was not going to visit any waterfalls, so when I reached town I just switched to another road and headed south on North Carolina Highway 181, a road I have been driving many times before. When I got to the "famous" Brown Mountain Overlook I made a short stop and took some photos of the mountains that I missed in 2015. You can read about this in the article "Getting lost in the mountains". After the short stop I continued south for a few miles, until my gps directed me to turn left (which had actually been my plan all the time) on a road with the somewhat odd name "Brown Mountain Beach Road". It was quite close to Brown Mountain, so that wasn't the strange part. But the "beach" part was. The place is around 250 miles (400 km) from the nearest ocean, nor are there any lakes close to the road so which beach the name is referring to, I have no idea. By the way, it was on this very road that the gps in 2015 led me terribly astray, which I also mention in the latter mentioned article, so I feared the worst. However, everything went well this time. Both I and the gps knew exactly where we were going. However, I got a little nervous when at one point I came to an intersection where a sign told me that the road would be closed for passage 7 miles further on. But it must have been the intersecting road, because I got all the way to Lenoir, and then I had only 15 more miles to go to my first goal of the day.
Me, touching the door that Tom Dooley must have touched hundreds of times. People must have been shorter in the 1860s.
This was the easy part, as I had driven that particular stretch several times before and in no way needed the GPS. I just had to leave Lenoir taking NC east to the village of Kings Creek then left onto Grandin Road to Tom Dula Road and that was it. Along the way I made a stop to refuel the car, but besides from that I made no more stops and at 11 am I reached my goal – I had a little help in locating the house from directions I had received from Margaret Martine, the lady I was going to visit. She is the daughter of Edith Ferguson Carter who founded and until her death in 2014 ran the Whippoorwill Academy and Village, the "open air museum" in Ferguson which I had often visited and I have had many pleasant conversations with Edith. Now Margaret and her sister, whom I have not yet met, continues their mother’s work. I had met Margaret in 2017 but only briefly. This year, however, I wasn’t able to visit the museum during opening hours as it is limited to the 3rd Saturday of each month. I had therefore sent a mail to Margaret and asked me if I could come another day – which she confirmed. I could even choose whether to meet her at the museum or in her home. As she, when we first met the previous year, had revealed to me that she owned Tom Dooley's door - or rather the door, that used to be in the now long gone cabin, where Tom Dooley lived with his mother and sister back in the 1860s I chose to visit her in her home.
The house itself was very interesting. Originally from the 1830s, it has, of course, been renovated, and Margaret and her husband, Dick, have made an extension to the house in the style of the original building. There is, however, one small difference, since the original house was built of handmade bricks, where you can still see the impressions of the hands and fingers that formed them, while this is not the case with the new bricks. Behind the house is another building, a former dental clinic, which Margaret has moved to the site, and which she and Dick are renovating and when they are done probably will put up for rent on Airbnb. In this, Margaret takes after her mother, who also loved old buildings or maybe it's the other way round. And by the way Margaret is also an artist, just like her mother was. We chatted about this and that for just over four hours, and I said hello to Dick, who returned home while I was there. Along the way, Margaret had served me lunch, including the most amazing home-grown corn! I simply had to eat one more cob, not because I was hungry, but because they were so good. Along the way, I heard the story of how Margaret got to own the door that had been in Mary Dula's cabin, however, that story is too long to be told here, but maybe I will tell it another time. The door is now used between two rooms in the home of Margaret and Dick and of course I had a picture taken of me holding the door handle that Tom Dooley must have used hundreds of times.
Margaret also told me that they had regularly seen bear tracks in the area surrounding the house and that they had set up game cameras in the woods, and they had actually "captured" bears on some of the recordings as well. There are quite a few bears in the southern Appalachians, although they are more rare today than before. I have even seen the "rear end of a bear" on a single occasion, crossing the road in front of my car and disappearing into the forest, but it was somewhat higher up in the mountains. What was even more interesting was that Margaret told me that they also had caught a glimpse of a puma, locally known as the Carolina Panther, on one of the recordings. This is interesting because every year, people report having seen pumas in the mountains of western North Carolina, even if the animal is officially extinct in the area.
As it had gotten quite late in the afternoon I had to say goodbye and head for my B&B in Lenoir, The Irish Rose, where I was going to stay for the fourth time. It didn’t take me long to get back to town, and although Rose had send me a message when I booked the room that because I booked late, I unfortunately had to "settle for" one of the two rooms that did not have a bathroom en suite, she had nevertheless managed to put me in the room that has a bathroom en suite. A bathroom that is larger in square feet than the living room in my apartment at home (though with a slightly different shape), and with both shower stall, as well as two wash basins and a claw feet bathtub. After being accommodated, I went down to the kitchen and had a long talk with Rose about this and that, including her trip to Europe in 2017, which she began the same day I left her B&B. At one point, however, I had to break up to get something to eat, which I did on the same Ruby Tuesday, in which I had dinner for four consecutive days in 2015. Yet they looked somewhat confused when I asked for my usual table! To bad with such a loss of memory - or replacing of employees J.When I got back to The Irish Rose, I continued my chat with Rose for a couple of hours until it was time for me to return to my room and get some rest before the next day's program.
Yet another day of fine weather, though with a few more clouds than the day before, and I only drove 116 miles on the small and mostly winding roads from Spruce Pine to Lenoir.