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When I was a young teenager our church, Silver Creek Baptist, decided to send some of us to a Baptist retreat in North Carolina called Ridgecrest. Half of us went in the preacher Brother Spain’s car, the rest of us went on the bus.

It was 1,000 miles, and we really got tired of traveling. We went to a motel or hotel, I don’t remember which, but we spent the night halfway there. When we finally arrived, we were really exhausted. Such a trip really takes a toll on a person.

We had passed a small construction site on the way with a sign that read “Danger, Men Working.” I think they were building a roadside park. Anyway, I said, “I see why they have a danger sign.” This was after the construction men had hollered at us and and made wolf calls when they saw a car of young girls. That was before window tint was invented. Brother Spain laughed.

When we finally got to the place we were going to stay during our stay at Ridgecrest, we saw where we were going to sleep. There were about 12 cots lined up on the front porch of that huge old house. There were several rooms in that house, but they were all occupied. We had to stay on that open porch in front of a huge set of steps; that was the only way in or out of the house. We had no privacy. I don’t even remember where we took a bath, but we had no privacy at all.

However, we were not there long enough for it to matter anyway. They kept us in church from daylight until way after dark. We’d eat breakfast every morning in that huge dining room that served about what looked like 1,000 people. I’ve never dined with so many. We had individual tables where you could eat with your friends or God knows how. One morning, I recall, we had the best breakfast I ever ate in my life - chicken stew and grits.

Then it’s back to church. We spent nearly all our time in church. I think I love Jesus as much as anyone, but I don’t want to spend every hour of every day in church.

However, I remember one time we went mountain climbing. I don’t recall if we had to go to church that day or not. However, we climbed Rattlesnake Mountain. I had the worst time going up that big mountain. The only thing that kept me going was the false idea of breathing fresh air when I reached the top. However, when I got there I could hardly breathe, the air was so thin. Never have I climbed another mountain.

That night, after church, we went back to our open air cots on the porch. Everyone in the house walked past us on their way in or out. Anyone could come off the road and come up on our porch. We had no defense. We couldn’t even keep the mosquitoes away.

On our last night there, some young punk came up the steps with a snake and tried to scare us with that reptile. I often wish I had shoved him down those steep steps. The only reason I didn’t was that I was too tired from going to church.

Doris Gracia, who lives in Moody, Alabama, included this story in her recently self-published book “The Girl from Silver Creek.” Got a story? Send it to news@blackmountainnews.com.

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