Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Millionaire mountain

Posted October 15, 2008

I was an eight year old millionaire. Childhood buddy Jimmy Williams and I were exploring a wooded area off W. Concord Street in Morganton when we discovered what we thought was an impressive vein of gold. It all made sense. My father had recently delighted me with the story of America’s First Gold Rush. It occurred not in California but in North Carolina. Some of the early gold was found in the South Mountains nearby. My father told me about a relative who harvested more than $1,000,000 worth of Burke County gold. Jimmy and I had just come across an extension and remnant of the gold deposit documented in the 1800’s.

We looked around to make sure no one was watching and filled five paper sacks full of the shiny metal and trotted proudly out of the woods with dreams of massive wealth and fame.

We soon discovered, all that glitters is not gold. Jimmy and I had fallen prey to the promise of fool’s gold. The crushing news prompted my father to take me on a car trip to the South Mountains. Here in the warm light of late afternoon he showed me Brindle Creek where the precious metal was found. He pointed out that gold nuggets and dust were still occasionally discovered here in modern times. However, this summer day I would have to settle on golden views of this ancient mountain range carved away from the Appalachian chain by erosion. My father loved the rugged beauty of the South Mountains, the pastoral scenes of surrounding farm land and the wealth of crystal clear springs.

A 2007 trip to the South Mountain State Park in October brought back a gold rush of memories. I am wealthy to have had a father who shared with me this natural treasure.

This is one of the stories in my new book and CD project titled Blue Ridge Reunion which features my father's watercolors.  I hope you'll join me this Friday evening at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh for a free musical performance, book reading and multi-media presentation.  We'll get started at 7:30.

Today's questions:  what difficult lessons did you learn as a child?  Please share. 


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  • todmax Oct 15, 2008

    My grandfather grew up in Enola, in the shadows of the South Mountains and he and I wore out most every trail in and around the Park when I was a kid. I took my son there in September of 07 for the first time. Although my grandad has been gone for several years, I think he was there holding my little boy's hand as we walked along mist shrouded Jacob's Fork toward High Shoals Falls. I look forward to your book to help spark some of my fond memories of a magical childhood.

  • news4u Oct 15, 2008

    Bill Leslie is a great Tar Heel broadcaster who never forgot his roots.

  • blytle Oct 15, 2008

    Fishnett, it's a deal -- I'll hug Bill for you if you'll eat an oyster for me!! Enjoy your coastal getaway!

  • fishnett5977 Oct 15, 2008

    mdoodle, we share alot of things alike. I too grew up with limited funds -my father died when I was 9 and my brother was 4. That,combined with a mother diagnosed with cancer soon afterward, our money was what social security benefits my Mom recieved. I learned alot back then, being the oldest. And how to manage money and know the difference between needs and wants.
    Please enjoy your visit with Bill!!!! Give him a hug if you get close to him and enjoy his music for me. Me, I will be happily on my way to my bestfriends beach house at Sunset Beach. Going to enjoy it and the Oyster Festival over at Ocean Isle this weekend! Getting a break from raising the granddaughter and she's getting a break from us "old folks"!!!lol ;)
    Take care and do have fun!!!! Bill, enjoy the night! All your fans will be there - minus one! :)

  • blytle Oct 15, 2008

    Wow, Bill, what a wonderful story! I grew up in what could be best described as a very average middle class home. We had our economic struggles from time to time and I guess the best lesson I learned was that just because I wanted something didn't mean that I needed it and had to have it. I didn't get everything I asked for, but I never went without anything I needed. Somtimes that meant wearing hand-me-down clothes from friends. But those clothes were as dear as gold to me! See you Friday!

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Bill Leslie