Visitors rave about the gentle beauty of the place I’m privileged to call home, and I have to agree with them. But it’s been cold and snowy lately and hard to travel. Thus, I’ve been forced to create my own fun. I hope you’ll enjoy my list of Highland’s four wacky wonders.
Wonder #1 Fly Art: Highland County would be perfect if it weren’t for the pesky cluster flies. They congregate by the hundreds on the sides of houses and many manage to sneak inside where they spend the winter spinning aimlessly on their backs until they die of exhaustion. About two miles north of McDowell there’s an abandoned store building. The store has a huge plate glass window in front and the window is double-paned for insulation. Sometime in the last ten years, the pane on the inside broke, leaving a gaping hole. The outside pane is intact. This window is the perfect cluster fly trap. When you drive by you might be fooled into thinking it’s a large piece of sand art, but the five foot black and white parabola is actually ten year’s worth of preserved flies. Their little bodies create a layered effect. Fly art at its finest. And of course the best part is that they are dead.
Wonder #2 The Coyote Tree: The meadows in Highland are dotted with ewes and lambs and not too long ago there were more sheep in the county than people. Not so anymore. Coyotes have forced many farmers to give up their flocks. However, one farmer is doing something about that. Travel down a dirt road tucked between two steep hills and you will see his warning to all toothy lamb-eating outlaws: an ancient sugar maple decorated with the mummified remains of sixteen coyotes. They hang from the limbs like furry Christmas ornaments and in the right light and a soft breeze they possess a bizarre beauty, but maybe I think that because I’ve seen a lamb with his belly ripped open and his tongue eaten out. The last time I saw the tree, I was on a horseback ride with neighbors. We stopped to admire it and give a silent salute to this vigilante farmer. He makes us and our flocks feel a whole lot safer.
Wonder #3: The Ice Tower: Travel four miles west of McDowell and look south about 100 yards beyond the road. If it’s cold, you’ll catch a glimpse of the ice tower. Created for the first time about ten years ago, it appears each year when winter weather pushes the mercury consistently below twenty degrees. The fellow who creates it told me that the overflow to his spring kept icing up and he needed a way to prevent the blockage. He draped a hose in a tree and let the water flow down. The top of the tower is about twenty feet above the ground and it grows all winter long. At Christmas it is draped with colored lights--a fun testament to the cold weather around here.
Wonder #4: The Rubber Tree: Rumors persist about this tree, and twenty odd years ago when I moved to Highland, it was legendary. I have never actually visited it, but residents chuckle as they recall their own escapades beneath its branches. Like the Coyote Tree it is decorated, but not with something I can mention in polite company. Prophylactics dangling from every twig are evidence of hundreds of close encounters. In my opinion, no lover’s lane or make out spot in the world can match the romance of this highly decorated tree at the end of a steep dirt road.
So there you have it. Next time you have a yen to see something a little bit out of the ordinary, forget the plane tickets. Just hop in your car and traverse four friendly mountains. I promise it’s worth the drive.