Back in 2006 I was living 100 miles from the city I grew up in. Lived on top of what I call a mountain but was actually a “foot hill” of the Allegany Mountains that run from PA up into western NY. I lived near a little village called Cuba and the nearest “big” town is Olean. ( O lee ann ) Not much in the way of work to be found around there. I had a part-time job as bartender in Cuba at a Saloon called Nancy’s Northstar. Hated it. Loved it. When the friday night waitress quit, I got that job. The whole entire second floor dining room was my job. Something like 25 tables to serve the fish fry crowd. With the kitchen on the first floor, lugging those big oval trays loaded with food up and down those stairs was a great way to stay in shape. Stress had me at around 95 lbs. I know people gossiped about my having a problem with “powder”, but that wasn’t the reason. Drug test me any day, any time you will always come up with nothing. I hated that job because I hate being around drunks. On the nights I’d have to make Tartar Sauce and other condiments I’d get soooooooo depressed, it was an “in your face” reminder of how far I had fallen and all I had lost. Prior to that time in my life I had run multiple successful businesses for over 20 years. With out any formal education. The only time that education would have come into play was when things started to fail and my emotional attachment took over my logical business sense. Here I was, just a short time after filling little plastic cups with tartar sauce and watching otherwise normal people turn into stupid, drunk morons.
When not at the bar, I spent a lot of time in my trailer on my land. I managed to clear my mind and work at a positive attitude by playing with my art supplies. Taking walks around the mountain was my absolute favorite thing to do. It was so peaceful, so beautiful and so very good for my heart and soul. It is a very remote place, about 5 miles from the nearest paved road, no traffic, the air is crystal clear with so many trees filtering it.
The day came that I had to find more work, needed to make more money. So, I managed to land this grooming job back here in the city. For a little while I’d drive back and forth each day, two hours one way. That meant getting up at 3:30 in the morning, doing my morning chores, packing up the dogs and heading into the city to work. Eventually that turned into staying in the city for a day or two and living on the mountain the other days.
I became a Mountain Gypsy
It was both the worst and best time. My appreciation of nature and wildlife runs pretty deep. I don’t know where I got that from, but I’m glad I have it. My art stuff saved me on more than one occasion. There were days that I’d just cry boatloads of tears, more from fear than from self pity. Walking into my little room filled with my papers, paints, ephemera, glues, beads, inks I would pick up something and start to work. In a short time the tears would fade and though I still felt fearful, I also felt a sense of calm.
The realization came painfully one day, I had to leave. Had to move back to the city. Where would I go? I had NO money, no vehicle, two dogs, no place to live and what was left of my huge house was packed into this tiny trailer. Lord save me, I made plans to move in with my mother, leave my dogs in the care of my niece at her kennel and rented a storage garage for all but my art supplies. ( I lost my little buddy Jimmy that January, he was 14 )
My friend Patrick F. came down on Friday night. Saturday morning we drove into Wellsville and got the UHaul. Loaded all of that day and the rest of Sunday. We pulled off the mountain and I haven’t been back since. Except for maybe in my dreams. Enough time has gone by now that I don’t think of my mountain every day, just every few.
I heard that my place is for sale. Whenever I buy a lottery ticket, I know first off what I’d do. I’m wondering if I can still consider myself a Mountain Gypsy since I haven’t lived there in over 4 years now? But then, I think I can because that’s where my heart is.