There was a magical place in my past that creeps back into my mind now
and then as I approach the age that most of the “liars” were when I was
a “young fella”.
This place was in the backwoods of Maine, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, where the Appalachian Trail meandered through, north to Mt. Katahdin or south to Mt. Oglethrope in Georgia.
The “Liar’s Bench” consisted of a couple of long planks, nailed to substantial under-pinnings that supported one to eight or ten “liars” at a time. The bench was situated in front of L.R. Hall’s General Store in Andover.
L. R. was one in a series of native sons who had owned the store and
he wore the mantle well. Not one of these proprietors would ever
have thought of getting rid of the “Liar’s Bench”, even though there was
a lot of sentiment for ridding the town from this “eyesore”.
The term, “Liar’s Bench” was a derisive term applied by some of the ladies in town who thought that the old men were corrupting the young with their stories.
The “Liar’s Bench” didn’t only exist outside the store. When the
cold winds came and the snow piled up, the “Liar’s” sat on nail kegs
the old cast iron stove inside.
The inside atmosphere may have been even more impressive to me, because the “lies” that were told around the old stove had the added drama of frequent blizzards and isolation from the surrounding towns to dwell on, as I listened to the exploits of those seasoned veterans of life’ trials.
The old codgers would tell of near misses with black bear, moose and
tangles with Canadian Lynx. They stuck together on each other’s
“Yessah, by’god, that’s right” one would affirm when a fellow “liar’s”
story seemed incredible.
Many of the tales would include references or experiences on the Appalachian Trail, which only heightened my curiosity about the “other end of the trail”.
I spent many youthful days and nights on the Appalachian Trail and I
climbed a lot of mountains in the vicinity that weren’t on the trail, all
the while visualizing the exploits of the “liars” and hoping one day to
have my own gripping tales to tell to the next generation.
Little did I know what was in the future for me. No one would have been able to convince me back then that I would someday live in Georgia near the “other end of the trail” and be able to see first hand what life and times were like there.
One of the first treks we took as a family after settling in Conyers was to Springer Mountain to see the end (or beginning, if you prefer) of the trail. (Springer had replaced Mt. Oglethrope as the Georgia terminus somewhere between my youth and now).
I felt at home in the mountains of Georgia and I sensed the same sort of rugged individualism that I was accustomed to in Maine. And, there were plenty of old codgers in the towns I visited. There were even some at the General Stores along the way, usually in rocking chairs instead of on a bench.
I could see the same lined faces and weathered hands, the sparkle in
their eye as they spoke in a slightly different tongue of their battles
with bear and snakes out on the trail.
Thirteen hundred miles is a long way, but the distance between Maine and Georgia is short when you are in the mountains.
There is the same urgency about winter approaching. The wood piles and the wood smoke are reminders of long nights spent around the old stove, telling tales.
Yes, if the old “Liar’s Bench” is still there waiting, I’ll have tales to tell - of the heat, the water moccasins, the kudzu and the confounded fire ants!
Steve Hall - sidehill at worldnet (dot) att (dot)net
Article originally appeared in a Conyers, GA paper.