Paris Goodnight: Land of the Sky — not what it used to be

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 22, 2023

If you ever walk by Rowan Public Library’s main branch, you might notice a marker detailing the works of author Christian Reid, the pen name of  Frances Tiernan.

She was known for novels and particularly “The Land of the Sky,” and after noticing that sign one time too many I decided to look into her most famous work a while back. It was not the easiest reading for someone who doesn’t get a chance to delve into many books since I spend most of my waking hours reading words on a computer screen or printed versions of page proofs in an effort to catch one last error before it makes it out into the world.

It also wasn’t really made for an audience not enamored with romance novels or with the particular phrasings of late 19th Century authors. Not really my cup of tea, as they say.

It’s not as if you can’t understand her writing, like say, some of Shakespeare’s works that you almost need to be in a class with a teacher pointing out the subtle undertones of that era’s English. It was more of a problem with the subject matter for me, but it apparently was just what her audience was looking for.

And what a world she described in our western mountains. She sang the praises of such places as Asheville, Old Fort and Black Mountain, even using that title for what later became known as Mount Mitchell, not only the state’s highest peak but also the top spot in the eastern United States.

That setting was what kept me interested enough to make it to the end just to see if anyone fell off a mountaintop to their death or something like that but nothing of the sort took place.

All those places in ‘The Land of the Sky” are a lot easier to get to these days than back when train travel or horse and buggy were your best options. We visited that same area recently and where we crossed over the Eastern Continental Divide, if you weren’t doing at least 70 mph going uphill you were likely to get your doors blown off by those who were.

On into Asheville, I noticed they still had a little snow on the ground from a recent dusting. That certainly made me miss the mountains even more since we’ve had no such winter weather to enjoy down here in the flatlands.

We took in the sights and visited a few places I’d been before. But what we really found out was the Land of the Sky really isn’t what it once was. You can’t get a container of molasses sold in bulk at the food co-op any longer since they only carry the kind in little plastic bottles that we can get anywhere around here. And you can spend $30 on a little box of cookies if you’re not careful while traipsing around the tourist areas of downtown Asheville.

My how things have changed.

You can still climb various mountain ridges in that neck of the woods, and I took on one in Montreat with a dog along to supervise. Him doing the supervising, of course.

I only took one questionable turn on the way up and only had to sweat it out a little bit as the sun began to set as we tried to get back to civilization at the appointed hour.

Luckily we met a few other hikers heading up, and they assured me if we kept going downhill we would arrive back at the right spot before dark.

They were right and now I’m already looking forward to my next adventure in the Land of the Sky.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.