Have you ever heard somebody say, “I’m stuck in Highland County?”
One day, I was in town and heard that phrase blurted out.
It got under my skin, like it normally does, because occasionally some residents forget just how blessed we are to live here. I came home thinking about it… hard.
Here’s what I have concluded:
I prefer to be “stuck” in Highland County over any possible alternative. I will take it every day of the week and twice on Sunday especially considering the war-torn countries refugees are trying to escape from.
Stuck in Highland?
Yeah … I can sit out on my porch in peace and serenity knowing the only thing I have to fear is a skunk walking through the yard. I don’t think a single drive-by shooting has been reported in my neighborhood this week, and the only noise pollution today was a bird with a very shrill, choppy song having a fit in the woods next to my house. (I almost called the Sheriff’s Department on him for disturbing the peace… I’ll tell ya… Darn, noisy neighbors…)
All the children here go to school in a secure setting almost as safe as in their mother’s arms. No massacres have been reported recently. Furthermore, they have an entire community of “parental figures” keeping eyes out when they leave the school grounds. Here, everyone knows everyone’s kiddos, and most adults give a protective glance when they see our youth walking the trail to town and back from the school building.
Stuck in Highland?
Yeah… I can sit on my front porch as I type this and get a friendly visit from my resident chipmunk. He’s investigating me, and I think I’m on the verge of gaining his approval as the new inhabitant of my home and his new neighbor.
And being this close to wildlife and nature means my neighbors and I will always have fresh air in our lungs, a relaxing, mountain view, and access to a buffet of wild game and locally-grown fruits and veggies. I’ve always said: “If something truly dire happens to the world, the people of Highland County will prevail. We’ve got everything we need to survive right here.” (And, coronavirus quarantine has definitely tested those limits!)
Stuck in Highland?
Yeah… It’s not always a great thing when everyone knows your name (especially if they are counterparts to the gossipy, little ladies you used to see on The Andy Griffith Show.) But it’s a pretty amazing thing to see the entire town freeze and stare in concern when our emergency services vehicles pull out of our fire department with lights and sirens blazing. Everyone runs to the scanner (or calls a friend with one) to see if their fellow community members are alright. What’s more? No one wastes a second to send up a prayer for whoever is suffering even if it’s a complete stranger.
In fact, I’ve stood with fellow residents outside a burning home waiting for the fire department to extinguish the flames, secure the scene, and give everyone the okay to enter the structure and retrieve whatever we can for a young family who may have just lost everything.
Yeah… That’s Highland.
No, things aren’t perfect here. Every community has its issues. Luckily for us, ours are manageable even when they do seem larger than life or overly significant.
Sure, we’re an hour away from the closest Wal-mart. Sure, when my friends in neighboring Augusta County want to get together for a girl’s night, I have to plan in advance or not make it all if it’s spur of the moment. Sure, we have to drive an extra hour to get nearly everywhere.
But I’ll tell ya… while other places may offer more “conveniences,” I wouldn’t trade Highland County’s “inconveniences” for the world. Sure, every now and again, I’ll escape a little to explore other areas and get away, but Highland is home. There’s no place like it.
For those of you wishing to live here, keep the dream alive. Highland definitely isn’t always the most accommodating locale for available jobs, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. And many of our community members are living proof of that.
And for those who grew up here and decide to go forth into the world and leave our precious county behind, your community wishes you the best and hopes you return in the future to visit or reside. Rest assured, the gate will always be open at the top of Shenandoah Mountain and sweet Highland will be waiting with open arms for you to come home. Until then, we’ll leave the light on for ya.
And for all of us who are so lucky to live here, the next time we kinda lose our minds and are overcome by the downfalls of living in these heavenly hills, just stop, take in a big breath of fresh air, and look around. I guarantee you, you won’t have to look hard to remember how blessed you are.
Smile, my friends. In Highland County, heaven truly isn’t that far away.
About the Author
Dorothy Stephenson grew up on her family's cattle operation in Meadowdale, located in the southwest corner of Highland County. When she wasn't on horseback helping her father gather and work cattle, you'd likely find her (still on horseback) jumping creeks in her family's nearby "Big Pasture." Today, though she doesn't ride horses much anymore, she has her own cattle, land, and expansion plans for a farm. Additionally, (and with the inherited, Stephenson, entrepreneurial spirit) she owns two small businesses in Highland County - Sundance Media & Design and Sundance Studio & Productions, which houses another of Dorothy's long-time loves - Clogging. Dorothy loves exploring new places, skills, and ideas, and she intends to live life to the fullest as long as it will let her. (Oh! And she LOVES Christmas!)