It’s a Small World

In 2005, after exploring most of the North Carolina and Georgia mountains Lori and I, like many Floridians, decided to buy a second home in Northern Georgia. The place we found had everything on our list… a creek, a mountain view, a pond, exotic cherry, pear, and apple trees (exotic to a native Floridian) and it was near a nice little town with restaurants, a hospital and all the other things you would want close… but not too close. It was nestled in the quiet beauty of the mountains. Well…beautiful in the summer and fall. In the winter it is a little frightening.

When we first saw the property it was winter and since most of the trees are broadleaf in the region, the landscape was absolutely grim. Everything looked dead and every abandoned car, old tractor, lawn mower and piece of junk that had been lost over the years was visible. I was not thrilled. It was only after I saw the pictures of the property taken during the other eight months of the year that Lori convinced me that we wouldn’t succumb to depression and head back to Florida after only a few hours.

So we closed on the property on Good Friday and began setting up our cabin as our place to relax and get away from it all. We needed basically everything, so of course the first thing Sunday morning… we went straight to the Home Depot, two towns over in Blairsville.

A thousand dollars later we were coming out with our three carts full of “house stuff,” when Lori spotted a handwritten note stuck on the windshield of our well-marked Nelson Marine Construction pick-up truck. Lori, who had up to this moment been treasuring the anonymity of the mountains, read the note out loud. “Ben Nelson… is that you?” Her hands fell down to her sides and she looked straight up. “Oh come on! You’ve got to be kidding! People even know you up here?” She handed me the note. It was from some really good friends of mine who had moved away from Bonita Springs decades ago. I had no idea where they had moved to and I hadn’t heard from them since, so I was pretty surprised. The note said to meet them in the garden center and as we walked in the door, like magic… after twenty years, there they were! We hugged and laughed at how unlikely and serendipitous it was for us to have bought a place twenty five minutes from where they had moved to so long ago and that we had somehow managed to find each other on our first day there, on Easter Sunday in the Home Depot. But that was just the beginning.

“So where did you buy at?” asked Jay as we all walked slowly out to the parking lot together. I motioned back over my shoulder. “A couple of towns over in Hiawassee.” Jay nodded. “Oh yeah, I know Hiawassee really well. Where in Hiawassee?” Our cabin was one of thousands that were out in the middle of nowhere, so I didn’t think there was much sense going into detail. “Oh, way out east of town off Scataway Road.” Jay nodded again. “Sure! I know Scataway really well. Where off Scataway?” Again I kind of dismissed the possibility that out of all the small dirt roads, he would know where ours was. “It’s a little place off Phillips Cove…” Jay interrupted. “Ohhhh… you bought the Rigden place!” Lori and I stopped and stared at Jay with our mouths open. “Wha…” I sputtered. “How could you possibly know that?” Jay grinned a big grin, took me by the shoulders and said “Because I’m your MAILMAN!” “WHOAAAAA!!!” We all said at once.

I still get chill bumps when I tell the story of how we reconnected with our good friends. And when I think about how many different seemingly unrelated, unconnected decisions had to align in order for this to happen it reminds me that every day, unbeknownst to us, seemingly small decisions constantly turn the course of our lives, our businesses and our communities.

It is indeed a small world, crafted by small acts. But they can lead to big wonderful surprises.

What Are Friends For?

It’s good to have close friends; friends who you can swap tall tales with, who accept you for who you are, despite my… I mean your, little quirks. But, apparently, everyone has his or her limit.

About 15 years ago I was telling some buddies of mine about the local Indian mounds that as kids, my brother and I used to explore. One in particular was right off of Terry Street near my parent’s home that they had built, just before Interstate 75 slashed through their property. A fill pit for I-75 was dug in the area and I had always thought that the mounds were destroyed in the process. Or were they?

My friends were now anxious to help me solve this “mystery”, so we grabbed our shovels and headed east of town. Immediately, we found a large 5-foot high mound just off the road. It was covered with a thick layer of palmettos and large pine trees and was obviously ancient and man-made. We each picked a spot and in the scorching July sun… we began to dig.

An hour later we were still hacking through palmetto roots when my father pulled up in his truck. He stopped and watched us for a few minutes and then finally said “What are you doin’?” I stopped digging and said, “We found that Indian mound we used to dig around in!” My dad sat in his truck, with the AC running, watching with interest. Thirty minutes later, as we dug deeper, my dad looked at his watch and said, “I’m going to get some soup!”

An hour later I was standing up to my neck in a huge hole, shaking my head. “Something’s wrong.” “You’re right… I’m having heat stroke!” said John, throwing down his shovel. Just then, my soup-loving father drove back up. “How’s it going!” he said looking rather unconcerned. “Not so good,” I said. “We haven’t found anything yet.” “I’ll be damned,” said my dad shutting off his truck. He paused. “You know who built those mounds?” asked my dad. “The Calusas?” said Chuck. “Nope…He did!” My father was grinning and pointing at ME! “WHAT!” I yelled with my hands on my head. “Yep, you were 8 years old when you cleared this property with a bulldozer and that’s YOUR trash pile.” My dad drove off, smiling. Satisfied that he had done a good days work.

After shaking my fist and yelling “farewell” at the back of my dads retreating truck, it became eerily quiet. (Uh-oh! I thought, suddenly remembering that I was outnumbered by possible “ex-friends”) I closed my eyes and turned slowly to face them and then, took a peek. They were both walking towards me like angry zombies, shovels in blistered hands.

As it turns out, they were equally unimpressed with my contribution to ancient history, my dad’s devilish sense of humor, and my apparent inability to remember where I’d left something fairly large. I had some explaining to do, but I’m proud to say that they have since forgiven me… but being good buddies… they have not forgotten.