Ode to a Rocky Top Retreat

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this campground has no phone, no website, no address

every morning the mist rises up                                                        
from the belly of the gorge
spreading sparkled dew drops
on the grass, little heirloom baubles,
left over from the soupy, wet pre-dawn air
and the roof, of this barn-red shack sags
under the coming southeastern sun,
capping a porch littered with camp stoves.
red, blue and white coolers starting to sweat
and filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon
dot the uneven floor planks
a rushed carpentry job, done for free.
the sign hanging above the busted
ole’ RC Cola machine is missing an O
in R cky Top Retreat, but people know
this place for its proprietor, Roger.
he sits in an abandoned, frayed green
camp chair, lounging, surrounded
by his adopted rock climbing children.

he verbally slings his man-on-a-mountain
colloquialisms into the air as steam
rises off our ten coffee cups, his long-timers.
“yep, I paid the weather bill this week,….
gonna be a good one, well… that is, its
gonna be hot till it rains,” he sings, smiling
at Muggs, my dog, the canine campground
director of mayhem and sexual infamy
who lies splayed out, rolling on his back
sunning his belly, doing the grass dance.
we’ve been here four months, with four to go
there are nine other travelers on the same schedule
content to wake each day and climb together
drinking Roger’s free mud-river coffee
and shaking last night’s rust from our eyes.

every night the family gathers
piling in and around the shack, to eat.
roommates bound by the walls
of these Wild and Wonderful West Virginia woods.
we sit in the low slung porch swing, the
make -shift picnic table, or just kick back
in the grass encircling Roger’s rustic climbers cabin
and tell harrowing and comical stories of peril
while a symphony of southern rain forest
crickets sing into the dark.
and our communal voices hover
on the sweet summer air, dancing
a stompgrass jig across the mountain stars
an electric envelope enclosing our four foot flaming camp fire.
…….a fire that some of us will eventually jump
after a few more beers, to rattle the weekenders.
Muggs rests on the porch, wary and watching
scanning the exhausted fumbling of his extended pack,
a motley crew he has grown to love.
when he finally falls asleep, his muscular haunches kick
and I imagine that in his nightly dreams, he catches
one of those deer or rabbits that he loves to chase.
at seven months old, this has been his home
for over half his young life, and it shows
in his fiery amber eyes, a touch of wild,
evident in the appearance of all us long-timers.
a certain rogue dishevelment seems to overtake
and settle on those who measure success
by days spent in the woods.
the tribe soon stumbles off to bed, bodies tired
and minds relaxed with the appropriate amount
of protein and adult beverages.

every afternoon we decide on a plan
packs get loaded full of water, food, and climbing gear
on the unpaved pot-hole infested road
that separates Roger’s land from the Park
we’ll pile into vans and pick-up trucks
homemade converted vehicles
all turned into mobile homes on the cheap
relishing travel and avoiding conformity
touring and climbing our bliss.
living off of five thousand or so a year
our ratty, mangled wardrobes
in sharp contrast to the radiant red-brown
hue of vibrating passion on our exposed skin.
i hoist a black pack bathed in dirt
strapping it to my back as Muggs wags his tail
he knows that in ten minutes he will be off the leash
and free to roam the mountainside, in search
of those secret treasures that placid eyed dogs
locked up in air conditioned homes, can only dream on.

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