The Mountain Laurel smiled

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Of all the many events of the Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival, I would vote for the crowning of the Queen in the Cove at the Park as the most outstanding. Even before the festival, the Cove was an important part of the area’s history. Oh, if only the high rock walls could echo back stories from its past. Last week, as I sat there for a few quiet moments, I heard the rocks speak.

In the open glade, surrounded by the dazzling white blossoms of the laurel, the big buck stood still as a statue. The early morning sun cast a giant shadow against the high stone face behind him. He sensed danger. His nose twitched. The twang of the Cherokee bow string broke the silence. The arrow found its mark and the buck became food for a hungry family in the village down along the river. The blood trickled slowly across the dark moss and into the small pond. And the mountain laurel smiled.

Years later, the white hunter put down his heavy pack. He marveled at the beauty of this little place in the wilderness. He gathered some wood for his campfire to cook the rabbit he had caught. To get a spark to start the fire, he hit his flint with his knife. He jumped as the sound echoed off the rock face like a gun shot. He laughed to himself and said, “Well hello to me. I’m glad to have somebody to talk to.” The growl of the big bear interrupted his pleasant conversation. The beady eyes on the swinging head came closer. He said, “So you want my supper? There’s not enough rabbit for both of us.” The roar of his long rifle ended their little talk. And the mountain laurel smiled.

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The hunter cut the trail and soon travelers thronged the Wilderness Road. They pushed their way into Kentucky and points west. A young man and his pregnant wife needed some peace, quiet, and privacy. They found the glade as her labor pains became more frequent. At two in the morning her labor screams sounded and resounded through the warm forest night. Her screams stopped at dawn with the faint cry of the baby boy and the anguished cries of the father. The mother died in child birth and is buried just down the hill at the Wilderness Road Cemetery. And the mountain laurel smiled.

Years later, strange-costumed people with painted faces strode around the stage in the place now called “The Cove”. They shouted and chanted words of the Bible, words of suffering, pain, sickness, and loss. Job never did find out why God sent him so many bad things. And the mountain laurel smiled.

And now, in the reflecting pool in our bloody little glade a long line of pretty young women dressed in shimmering gowns of white appears. Smiles, music, laughter fill the air. Even the Governor has come. Surely all will be well at this happy time. Surely the violence has ended. But wait! Who are all those young men dressed in black?

Thank heavens they are not the mafia. They are the escorts of the queen candidates. Here comes the winning Queen announcement. Happy screams of joy come from the winner. Great applause and cheering come from the crowd. The new Queen kneels for her crown and all is well. But no it is not! Not for one of the escorts. A violent scuffle ensues and the other men grab the queen’s escort. They throw him in the reflecting pool. And the mountain laurel smiles.