Chatuge Dam and Lake were constructed in Clay County, North Carolina,
in the early 40's by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Chatuge is
a Cherokee Indian word meaning "the meeting of the waters"
of Shooting Creek and the Hiwassee River. The surrounding area
soon became a favorite place to vacation.
During the 4th of July, the lake is packed with tourists. Vacationers
invade the area to camp and fish in the cold streams for trout
or crappie. Others boat and water ski on Lake Chatuge, and at
night watch the fireworks. Many of these people are respectable,
but some break the law.
My family enjoyed celebrating the 4th as much as anyone else.
But I remember in 1963 we didn't celebrate Independence Day. Mr.
Jack Groves, a neighbor farmer, asked my brother to help in the
hay field. Rain was predicted, and Jack needed all the help he
could get. My mom, dad, sister, and I didn't have time to celebrate
the festivities, either. The green beans had come in, and we spent
the day in the garden.
At the end of the day, we were sunburned. Our backs ached, and
blisters covered our hands. We were ready to turn in soon after
supper. The cool, mountain breeze billowed through the open windows.
Before getting into bed, I glanced at the full hay moon shining
on mama's moonflowers. Black clouds churned across the sky. In
the distance I heard a rain crow cooing for rain.
It wasn't long until I fell asleep. This changed at midnight.
Smokey awoke me with gruff barking. I heard Dad yell, "What's
your business? Don't you know that's a good way to get your britches
filled with buckshot? You can't come around a man's pickup with
a can and hose trying to steal gas!"
The intruder hollered," I was just cutting through here to
Jack Groves's pasture. I aim to ride his bulls awhile."
Smokey howled and the thief headed for the pines with Dad's shotgun
shells exploding behind him. I snickered and thought, "We're
having our own private fireworks."
Sheriff Neal R. Kitchens was patrolling that night. He arrested
the gas thief at the Barnard Road. The rogue still had the gas
can and hose in his hand. Sheriff Kitchens hauled him into the
Clay County Jail.
Ledford Wright's writing has been published in Moonshine
and Blind Mules, and she was Associate Editor of the anthology,
Home for the Holidays, Looking Back and the anthologies
being printed for 2007: Readers Are Leaders, and Sand,
Sea, and Sail. She is a certified teacher. She is a graduate
of Gardner-Webb University, and has studied writing at Cleveland
Community College under Robert Williams, author of 48 books and
hundreds of articles and stories. Barbara and her husband presently
live in Shelby, North Carolina. Their son, John, served two tours
of duty in the combat zone of Iraq with the United States Army.
He's home now, and is studying to be a high school history teacher.