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Jere Brittain: Shipwrecked in Upper Mills River

Jere Brittain: West of the French Broad Jere Brittain: West of the French Broad

The big storm Sunday before last left us on auxiliary electric power and without landline phone service.

Our Verizon cell phones are useless in the upper Mills River valley due to lack of a tower. Our Hughes Net computer service still works, but the AT&T web site is dysfunctional and should be an embarrassment to a communications company. Finally, after traveling out to the lower valley to report the outage, AT&T placed us on hold for 30 minutes.
Several years ago, when I was younger and less serene, I became disgusted with failed attempts to reach an actual person at AT&T and threw the phone from our deck to the driveway forty feet below and across the spring branch. When I later picked up the phone it gave a victorious dial tone. Their hardware is greatly superior to their customer service access.
Lack of cell phone service in upper Mills River is a lingering and serious issue involving safety and security, especially for elderly people. We have repeatedly brought this to the attention of the phone companies and to state and local government officials, to no avail. The problem is more acute during these anxious days of Covid-19 isolation. Even though our family physician is now accessible by phone, we still have to drive out to his office parking lot for the cell phone to work. Battery-powered party lines provided more reliable service 100 years ago than today’s advanced technology. When something needed fixing, someone would contact Rudd Whitaker, a neighbor, who came and made the repair.
Meanwhile, neighbors continue reaching out with acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. Chris Miller brought us a pretty Easter bucket filled with cleaning supplies plus a couple of candy-filled eggs. Our hound, Katie, ran away during the storm, and we feared we would never see her again. We posted a sign at the Community Center, and within two or three hours, Kenny Guthrie came by to let us know she was safe at his house, a mile-and-one half away. Andy and Phil see that we are supplied with groceries. Special friends, Judy and Bob Andersen, treated us with a drive-by visit, concerned that they couldn’t reach us by phone.
Joanne routinely keeps our pantry, freezer and refrigerators stocked with enough food for at least a couple of months. She had on hand all the ingredients for a favorite recipe, cranberry casserole, from a cookbook published by the North and South Community Club in 1977 as a fundraiser. It was provided by Ms. Sue Davenport, remembered and beloved as unofficial mayor of Mills River at Davenport’s Store.

Sue Davenport’s Cranberry Casserole

1 pkg frozen whole cranberries 1 ½ c. sugar 4 medium Winesap apples sliced, unpeeled (Joanne uses Rome or Fuji as Winesap is now a hard to find heirloom variety)
Mix above ingredients and put in buttered casserole dish-top with the following:
1 stick melted oleo (margarine or butter); ¾ c. brown sugar; 1/3 c. flour; 1 c. chopped pecans; 1 ½ c. rolled oats
Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. May be served as a main course with meat, or as a dessert with ice cream.

On a full belly ... journeying on …

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A sixth generation native of Mills River, Hendersonville Lightning columnist Jere Brittain is a retired professor of horticulture at Clemson University, a musician and songwriter and Henderson County history enthusiast. He writes about life in and around Mills River.