Several years ago while living in Coastal Georgia, hot flashes and global warming took control of the upwardly moving saturation of my body. That’s when my husband Babe and I began looking for a summer getaway in the mountains. It took a while to find the right town with just the right character (and characters), but finally our search paid off when a Saluda blip appeared on our personal radar screen.
Laying claim to a main thoroughfare not much longer than a football field, shops and restaurants line up on one side of the street. A defunct set of railroad tracks stands sentry between the business side and children playing outdoors on swing sets and monkey bars in the town’s well-used playground. Squeals of their laughter can be heard even when it snows. I love that sound.
Weekends often bring strangers to our midst, curious to find out how a town the size of ours has survived the onslaught of high tech as it heads toward the isolation of all people everywhere. The visitors receive friendly smiles of welcome and easy chatter, but it is difficult for any of us to portray Saluda in mere words.
“We believe Saluda is a special place,” it might be said to a stranger. Or, “Saluda is like a modern-day Brigadoon —definitely magical.”
Indeed, none of the residents have lived here for over two hundred years as in the mythical Brigadoon, but Saluda has no problem claiming to be the town time forgot. That, in itself makes it a haven for throwbacks who still remember how things used to be back in the day.
In Saluda it is rare to see people in restaurants texting the person seated across the table from them. They talk to each other using real words. I once even witnessed a boldly snatching a smart phone away from her child. “This is called real time. Get used to it,” she admonished. Good for her!
Saluda people don’t do a lot of texting because they would rather have conversations. They still speak and spell the language learned in grammar school and they don’t care what’s going on in the Silicon Valley. Saluda people don’t give a hoot about fiber optics; they don’t allow electronics to rule their lives, inhibit their conversations or steal their humanity.
Friendly folks chat with each other while munching on an old fashioned hamburger, hot dog or a made from scratch milkshake served up in a large metal ice cream shaker.
When visitors wander into one of our local cafés, it’s not unusual for them to be invited to sit for a spell. That's when a local might tell him about all the new grandbabies born the week before or give an update on the Historical Society project. The stranger learns about the kind of produce sold at the Friday tailgate market. “The veggies are terrific this year,” he will hear. “Best doggone corn and tomatoes since 1945.”
There could be a report on the Saluda Dog Society’s recent fundraiser when enough money was donated to build a new shelter. Information might be shared that local thespians plan to perform, “It’s a Wonderful Life” during the month of December.
A tear or two will grace the eyes of an older resident when he reports, “It’s official. A community barbeque will be held in the park annually with all proceeds going to the Wounded Warriors Project. God Bless America.”
Saluda folks still use Ma Bell to ask about a friend’s son serving in the Middle East and they still phone each when they just feel like saying, “Hey, how’s your mama and ‘em?”
They support the lonely veteran struggling to adjust to a life without legs. They sit in church next to the widow who feels abandoned since the love of her life can no longer be by her side. They attend town meetings; they donate blood to the Red Cross and they always, always vote.
Saluda people figured out a long time ago that when we care and nurture each other we make a difference.
It took us a few years to settle permanently in this magical place that is not Brigadoon but comes pretty darn close. What took us so long?
Brigadoon, Brigadoon, blooming under sable skies.
Brigadoon, Brigadoon, there my heart forever lies.
Let the world grow cold around us, let the heavens cry above!
Brigadoon, Brigadoon, in thy valley, there'll be love!