Hill: Just roll with it

Sheridan Hill
Special to BMN

Here at the Just Roll With It Bakery & Tavern in Hudson, the soup of the day is broccoli and cheese and the waitress has an innocence and sweetness about her that is a hallmark of small towns in the South. The space is bright and clean, with the bakery counter to the right and tavern taps at left. Eric Clapton’s soft rock is playing overhead, just loud enough to set an easy atmosphere.

Under a Mitford blue sky, Main and Elm streets are ablaze with large signs in print and neon, announcing that Jan Karon is coming to town. It’s better than Santa shooting down the chimney for the people of Hudson, for its most famous native has come home for a weekend of parties, author talks, parades and meet-and-greets.

At first glance, Hudson’s not a place one would imagine could sprout a No. 1 on the New York Times best-selling author who turned out 21 novels and has 40,000,000 official fans worldwide. The books, primarily set in the fictional mountain village of Mitford, centered around a pudgy, prayerful Episcopal priest and those who were magnetized to him.

On a mild fall day, the Dooby Brothers are rockin’ it out from speakers mounted on light poles along Hudson’s Main Street. The music, from many decades ago, is somehow jarring against the quiet nature of a downtown that appears to be two blocks long. 

Hudson, like Black Mountain, includes among its residents the kind of Southerner who, upon first introduction, comes at you with arms flung open and is going to hug you whether you want it or not. 

I like the Just Roll With It Bakery and Tavern, and feel sure that on tap at the bar is plenty of Southern empathy running adjacent to the beer. Mitford may not have had a bar or a liquor store, but congenial types of Southern comfort ran like rivers through the town.  

Mountain views, like this one at Lake Tomahawk, are one of the draws of Black Mountain.

Black Mountain view corridor

Black Mountain has had many advantages that Hudson does not, such as being a nub on Western North Carolina’s transport veins. The Swannanoa River flows through town, as well as its tributaries like the Flat Creek, which you see on part of the greenway and is most visible behind Ole’s Guacamole. Because the river was here, the geography lent itself to the building of the train tracks, the state road, then, in my lifetime, Interstate 40 blasting through the mountainside.

We will continue to see development here, and all citizens will need to care how we develop. A good term to blaze into your memory is “view corridor.” In the town’s codes are specific regulations on the height of buildings in town, for instance, and how tall those buildings are affects what you can see as you look around: the view corridor.

On Highway 70, for instance, on the east and west sides of Swannanoa, two metal monstrosities have gone up, which obscure the gentle beauty of the mountains behind them as you drive by. These two big metal boxes have changed the view corridor in a horrible manner. Highway 70 is well on its way to become a filthy industrial strip. 

If the view corridor is an aspect of the town that you find important to you, perhaps take notice. Black Mountain codes only regulate what is in the town limits, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find the right people to talk to as a tax-paying citizen of Buncombe County.

The controversial renovations of the historic brick building next to Take A Hike, for instance, are within the town code. That building, thankfully, is relatively blended into the terrain and the existing structures around it. But had the town code allowed for an extra floor or two, we would not be able to see those gorgeous mountains behind it. 

The view corridor winds up being thousands of moments to tens of thousands of people who both live and visit here. If, for instance, the plot of land across from Ingles gets sold and developed, a four-story building or big box store on that gentle knoll will irrevocably change the peaceful mountain view from the Ingles parking lot and the vicinity, which is one of the reasons many of us love living here.

And so you see, this is not a time to “just roll with it.” It is a time to step forward with intention.

Rather than wait for the future we don’t want to live in, complaining all the way, let’s take just one step each week toward being more proactive citizens. One phone call to ask a question. The next week, another phone call. Text somebody. Call somebody. Meet with somebody. It’s not a matter of resisting change. It’s the challenge of shaping the changes that are creating our shared future.

Sheridan Hill

Sheridan Hill’s column explores small town charm. She is a lifelong Tar Heel, the founder of Real Life Stories, LLC, which publishes heirloom biography for select clientele, and she facilitates the Black Mountain Grief Circle.