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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Millionaire mountain

Posted October 15, 2008 7:10 a.m. EDT
Updated October 15, 2008 8:15 a.m. EDT

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.