Evins Mill

1535 Evins Mill Road, Smithville, Tennessee 37166
Innkeeper(s): Tina Clark
  • Just minutes from the Main Lodge and located on the Evins Mill property, 90 ft Carmac Falls

    Just minutes from the Main Lodge and located on the Evins Mill property, 90 ft Carmac Falls

  • Guests enter the Main Lodge at Adele Commons, one of two cozy living room that features a bar

    Guests enter the Main Lodge at Adele Commons, one of two cozy living room that features a bar

  • The Stone Room is named for its fieldstone fireplace and walls

    The Stone Room is named for its fieldstone fireplace and walls

  • Our dining room features hand-hewn log walls and an enormous fieldstone fireplace

    Our dining room features hand-hewn log walls and an enormous fieldstone fireplace

  • Taylor Hall at the Main Lodge is a 1,200 square foot reception room

    Taylor Hall at the Main Lodge is a 1,200 square foot reception room

  • Evergreen rooms feature bluff views, spacious covered decks with rocking chairs, private entrances

    Evergreen rooms feature bluff views, spacious covered decks with rocking chairs, private entrances

  • Mountain Laurel Rooms offer bluff views, spacious covered decks, vaulted cathedral ceilings

    Mountain Laurel Rooms offer bluff views, spacious covered decks, vaulted cathedral ceilings

 

Giddy 1 May 2011, 3:23 pm

We could tell you were giddy to be there – almost like school girls you were. But who can blame you for fawning over us? After all, not every broad is as privileged as you are to have spent a reunion weekend with the fine "gentlemen, scholars & athletes" from the storied MBA Class of ’86.
~
You were a fortunate few indeed, and whether or not you grasp the magnitude of the honor our invitation conferred, you were surely awed by the collective character of our class and have no doubt been bragging about the time you spent with us to your friends, who are understandably envious of you since they were not also invited to bask in the glory of our rarefied company. Life just isn’t fair that way.
~
We trust you’re appropriately grateful for, perhaps even humbled by, the fact we graced you with our collective presence. While no spouse or partner has thanked us yet, we know you want to, but please don’t. You are more than welcome, for we were happy to indulge you. We only wish we could oblige you more than once every five years, as we know you also opine. Again, life just isn’t fair that way.
~
Speaking of injustices, we understand that a few contrarians among you may have just assumed stay home with a good book. Scholars that we are, we can appreciate a book as much as the next guy but are galled nonetheless by your ingratitude. That said, as gentlemen also, we strive to be magnanimous and would deign to consider your attitude as best we can - enough so anyway to put some perspective on your perspective.
~
For one, it was just a weekend, and whatever pain you experienced along the way didn’t last long. Moreover, you surely encountered kindred spirits who didn’t want to be there any more than you did and with whom you could then commiserate and bond. We know of several spouses for instance who've met the dearest of friends via commiserations at past reunions. So not only was your discomfort short lived, it was also intimately if not broadly shared.
~
Most importantly, remember that it will be five long years before you will once again be called upon to suffer the likes of Bottorff, Cochran, Fuson, Mason, Wills or any of the other arrogant pricks from our class. You should take great comfort in this – God knows we do.

It's A Miracle! 23 Mar 2011, 11:15 am

What was once lost is now found – and hardly for the first time I should say. After a week on the lam, my wallet resurfaced – from beneath a mound of knick-knacks in a compartment of my wife’s car. The discovery triggered not so much a sigh of relief as it did a bemused déjà vu, for this wallet is the most errant of my possessions – as well as the most loyal. It always returns.
~
It has left me at airports, on planes, in restaurants and for more than one bartender – though it sits by my side even now. Kind strangers who had apprehended the runaway have on numerous occasions seen fit to reunite us – often before I realized the imp had escaped. As I left for work one morning, I spied the rascal on the city street near my car, where it had opted to spend the night.
~
If I believed in patron saints, most dear to me would be St. Anthony, who I'm told specializes in lost things. And though I’m no longer prone to believe in miracles either, my wallet’s eternal return does strike me as just shy of supernatural, enough for me to place a modicum of faith in its talismanic qualities – and to allow that some phenomena may defy rational explanation.
~
Skeptics would argue that without such faith, I would be less careless and lose my wallet less often – or that when it did flee, I would search for it more earnestly and locate it more quickly. It’s an irrefutable point, but still, there is something comforting, if not consoling, about affirming, or even feigning, belief in the whimsical or fantastic – be it a magic wallet, a healing relic, or a virgin birth for that matter.
~
But why? Maybe believing is a function of sloth - unlike painstakingly retracing my steps, faithfully awaiting my wallet’s homecoming is a walk in the park. Perhaps I was nurtured to believe in miracles – by parents who in my youth managed to orchestrate a few. Or, maybe our species evolved to believe, with natural selection somehow favoring those with a penchant for the transcendental.
~
If so, modern science now explains many of the phenomena our less informed ancestors once deemed supernatural, leaving less room for miracles to maneuver. Regardless, after millennia of seeing our world through supernatural lenses, the impulse to do so may be coded into our collective DNA, compelling us to divine miracles in nooks and naves alike.
~
For skeptics of the metaphysical, perhaps entertaining a space for it is a way to preserve for ourselves a cubby of hope in a cosmos we suspect may be indifferent to our eternal interests. Why ever we hanker, it seems only when certitude in our supernatural brand supplants faith do we trade in our cubbies for cudgels, with predictably bruising results.

Zing Blade 27 Jul 2010, 9:08 am

Surely one of nature's most vexing ring tones is a mosquito’s high pitched whir. If the drone alone annoys enough, more bothersome still is forethought that the caller is also drilling for blood, and if successful, will leave an itchy bump as it hangs up. For the past few months such a pest has been petulantly wringing me - and its name is Mike Blade.
~
Blade and I graduated from the same prep school together. Wait, that’s not entirely accurate - he merely attended. Be that as it may, even as I shooed him away then - and am now reluctantly swatting again, not long ago this same buzz-kill petitioned me to host his wedding at Evins Mill, aggressively lobbying for the best “deal” I could give him.
~
Out of loyalty to the tribe - and compassion for the woman who would suffer him, I acquiesced, knowing well the ensuing interface would be pricked with bloodsucking banter. Blade would not disappoint and continues to draw blood, routinely appending parasitic wisecracks to private and public communiqués alike.
~
Our exchanges inspired this abridged field guide - on how to zing and be zinged. The overarching counsel for the zinged is to understand a mosquito does not act with intent to irritate or harm, but is simply fulfilling a biological imperative. Chronic zingers act from a similar necessity, albeit psychological in kind.
~
Some may be angry, while others simply feel inferior - as Blade does in my presence, but whatever the reason, a zing is a cry for help, and the zinged must respond from a place of strength and compassion. This foundational principle aside, below are a few case studies from our parries that elucidate select zing tactics and tenets.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[In response to a post wherein I wrote "I embark upon what perhaps is a fool’s errand"]

Blade: Everytime you leave your house, it’s a “fool’s” errand.
Me: I am a fool – and wise enough to know it.

For zingers, Blade’s jab was utterly brilliant, incorporating the “four C’s” of effective zinging - curt, clever, comedic and cutting. For the zinged, the best alternative in such circumstances is often to cede the field of battle gracefully. Unless you have an ace in your pocket, a re-zing is likely to appear pathetic and grasping. Lick your wound and move on.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[In response to a post promoting a Father’s Day Cookout wherein I playfully wrote “if you’re man enough that is”]

Blade: So I guess you won't be able to attend your own Inn's cookout...
Me: …on behalf of my clients, William Cochran and The Inn at Evins Mill, please cease and desist from all such wise cracks... or you'll be hearing from our law offices….
Blade: ...the truth is an absolute defense to any defamation and/or slander action.
Me: ...for that reason our legal team is delighted that your wife has eagerly volunteered to testify in my client's defense.

Blade’s lead here was weak and left him vulnerable, which is to say, don’t zing lightly – it only eases your target’s volley. Two, if your target is male, calling his manhood into question is usually a safe bet - certainly so if Blade is the target. Three, the zinged must occasionally punch back, if for no other reason than to remind your nemesis he cannot use you as target practice.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
[In response to an essay I penned about a defeat I suffered in high school]

Blade: I thought for sure you were going to write about one of the devastating beatings I administered to you on the basketball court. You used to cry there as well.
Me: What took you so long? I expect better from you - which in your case is to say worse....

Intrinsically humorous or not, in contrast to the guttural laughter earlier zings had evoked, this one barely registered a “hardee har har har.” It was as if Blade’s daily dosage of zings had immunized me. Not entirely desensitized, I am disappointed his zings no longer itch, for laughter is cathartic, even if at your own expense.
~
Such is the danger of being a one trick pony, and herein may be the most critical advice for Blade and other aspiring zingers, who would well use the zing not as an end in and of itself, but only as one means to a grittier grail, which if we're honest is the humiliation of your target - or at least a marking of territory.
~
In accomplishing this end, a zing is best deployed in concert with other instruments, for relying on the zing alone renders you predictable and correspondingly limp - as Blade’s wife is sadly discovering. Since a zing is only as potent as it is unanticipated, zingers must keep their targets off-guard.
~
Whether you lull them with inattention or ingratiate them with kindness, your zing will penetrate more deeply when their soft underbelly is exposed. Put another way, for the zing you plant to bear the fruit you desire, you must also till the soil. Then and only then will you be a zing master - and not just another dull blade.

Flattened 29 Jun 2010, 2:35 pm

Around this time thirty years ago, I became acquainted with the Morehead Scholarship, an elite program affiliated with the University of North Carolina. Among many other perks, it bestows upon recipients a free education, hip summer internships and a certain cachet. For reasons that remain unclear to me, I resolved as a fourteen year old to vie for the scholarship - quite casually establishing an ambitious goal which I then toiled vigorously over the following four years to attain.
~
My quest for the Morehead exacted notable sacrifice, including late nights of earnest study and weekends of leading extracurricular endeavors. It also sired impressive achievements, including the presidency of the Honor Council and editorship of the school paper. Along the way, I was “tapped” into Totomoi, the school’s fraternity of high achievers, and received the prestigious “Most Honorable Student” award - all the while growing more convinced the Morehead was mine for the taking.
~
When I learned otherwise - that the scholarship would in effect be taken from me - I was not just deflated but utterly crushed. My mother knew I would be flattened, as perhaps only a mother could, and instead of calling me with the good tidings as planned, delivered the painful news in person. I still recall beating my clenched fists on the dashboard of her Honda Accord - a wholly unusual outpouring of anger, accompanied by an equally uncharacteristic display of tears.
~
If you’re rolling your eyes now in a “cry me a river” kind of way, I hear you, for in that forlorn pantheon of loss and defeat, my own would scarcely register on a Richter scale of set-backs. Losing an opportunity is hardly akin to losing a loved one or a livelihood, nor one’s home or health. That said, my experience of loss in that moment was profound, for I felt broken in a way I had never felt before or have since.
~
As such, I consider the loss a shape-shifting event, influencing how I navigate troubled and tranquil waters alike. I wonder for instance if this set-back fostered a risk-averse orientation, whereby I would henceforth swing for base hits rather than the bleachers. Though some would say Evins Mill is a home run, it was a hedged bet nonetheless, for my father was behind me, as was my naive ignorance of the risk.
~
I also suspect the set-back trained a sarcastic voice, which occasionally rears its wry head in these essays and routinely provides succor in difficult situations. It may have also spawned a self-deprecating willingness to take myself as seriously as I should, which is to say, hopefully not very. A spirit of skepticism also made its debut appearance in wake of the debacle, for when faith in one’s manifest destiny is shaken, the curious tend to question other basic assumptions about life and how to live it.
~
Speaking of assumptions, perhaps another outgrowth of the Morehead mishap is that I no longer presume a glass is half full or half empty - only that it bears both in equal degrees. And if Pollyanna bears high hopes while the world weary are resigned to low ones, as a self-described realist, I would jettison expectations altogether and simply strive for the desired outcome, knowing that the striving is its own due - and that the "best laid plans of mice and men go often askew."

Paper Boy 14 May 2010, 2:59 pm

Ten years ago this month, I graduated from one of the nation's top business schools and soon thereafter scored a gig with the Gannett Corporation, which publishes daily newspapers in cities nationwide. I didn't land in finance or strategy, nor in marketing or accounting, but squarely in operations - and not as a master of logistics either, but as a paper boy, who seven days a week for the following year rose at 3:00 a.m. to deliver the daily news.
~
I may be the only paper boy in the annals of that storied profession to have performed the job in a BMW driven by an MBA. How does a relatively intelligent individual with so much education grow up to be a paper boy? There are no easy answers, but during the years I left Evins Mill to attain my degree, the Inn suffered severely. This is not to suggest it had flourished under my early stewardship – it had not, but the rapscallion we retained to manage the business in my absence drove it further into the ground.
~
As the business could ill afford to support me, I cast about for interim sources of income that would also allow me time to resuscitate the Inn’s fortunes. I initially toyed with the idea of waiting tables. While I did after all have some experience in hands-on hospitality, my vanity put the kibosh on this rather sensible approach and drove me to consider more innocuous alternatives, for I cringed at the prospect of groveling before one of my "peers."
~
When I stumbled upon the paper delivery ad, I knew immediately that the job was as perfect as it was pathetic, for what could be more anonymous than flying through the streets like a bat out of hell before sunrise. If I spent the previous two years mastering such rarefied skills as managing inventory or valuating companies, in less than two hours I internalized the basics of paper delivery, and learned more esoteric aspects of the profession on the job.
~
To ensure a paper consistently hit its target for example, I could soon calibrate the strength and trajectory of my toss based on the velocity and torque of my vehicle and conditions on the ground like snow or ice. More than grasping simple technique, I was also reminded of a sobering reality - that around me were scores of people who hitherto were as invisible to me as they lived and worked right beside me, struggling on the fringes just to make ends meet.
~
Unlike many of my scrappy colleagues I suspect, my financial situation, while not ideal, was not dire. I may have been cash poor but did possess not insignificant assets against which I could and in the end had to borrow. Catholics might suggest I harbored guilt about this unearned financial cushion and was subconsciously wearing my paper route like a hair shirt. Romantics could say I was acting on some quixotic impulse, tilting at the windmills of my own financial hardship.
~
Southern confederates might interpret my route as homage to the lost cause ethos, for in its unrelenting nature, paper delivery carries a futile whiff. As for futility, the philosopher Camus might explain my job choice in terms of existential angst, rolling my papers each morning just as Sisyphus, that unfortunate figure from Greek mythology, rolled his boulder up a hill - only to watch it roll down again, requiring him to repeat the task for all eternity - and finding life’s meaning in that task.
~
However one cares to interpret the fact that I took this turd of a job, I remain proud of the experience. That I would feel proud should come as no surprise, for in the final and honest analysis, it was pride, more than hair shirts, windmills, lost causes or angst, that led me to this
humbling opportunity.
~
Post Script: I would like to thank that kind family on Kirkland Avenue who left me a Christmas Day tip. And to that bastard on Castleman Drive who called my boss every time his paper was a few minutes late, I still recall your silhouette by your bay window as you waited impatiently for your precious paper - and wish you could now regard my extended finger.

An Almighty Application 21 Mar 2010, 2:25 pm

As many of my Facebook friends can confirm, I am active on-line as much to promote my business as I am to break bread with them. And since most of my “friends” are clients or prospective guests of Evins Mill, I rarely visit polarizing topics like politics and religion. That said, en route to Florida’s Emerald Coast last week, my family passed a church whose marquee announced “You don’t need Facebook to talk to God.”
~
I’ve been fascinated with religious signage for years and even once considered collecting these folksy adages into a book whose clever title would read “Signs from God.” Given my interest in religious marquees, my involvement on Facebook and my unending wrestling match with the Almighty, I took this sign as a sign to comment upon its message – albeit with Abrahamic misgivings.
~
To the extent God exists and is listening, the marquee’s plainspoken words seem obvious enough, but the message drove me to consider a counter intuitive notion – that Facebook would in fact serve as an elegant and effective platform for communicating with God, and more than that, for comprehending Him/Her/It. So far as I know though, God has yet to establish a page.
~
If so, atheists might cite His on-line absence as just one more indicator, albeit a flimsy one, that He does not exist. Other rationalists might assert that God’s absence tells us nothing about His existence, but only that if He does exist, God must be Aristotelian by nature, a prime mover that spun the web but no longer intercedes with His creation – that is to say, the kind of God many of our founding fathers embraced.
~
Some theists might take His absence only to mean that God refuses to forfeit his omnipotence to human constructs, though for most Christians anyway, there is precedence for such surrender – namely on the platform of a cross. If God does eventually create a Facebook page, it would at least, hoaxes aside, verify His existence and establish beyond doubt His intercessory credentials.
~
As illuminating as His registration would be, God's subsequent on-line behavior would reveal much more. Were God for instance to issue commands via Facebook with political or military objectives, we might gather that He is akin to the tribal God of the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges, or even the eschatological God of Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation – or of present day religious militants and Armageddon enthusiasts.
~
If God however used Facebook to draw our attention to social and economic injustice, we might identify Him as the God of the Hebrew prophets and perhaps even Jesus himself – or of many modern day social activists. If God used Facebook rather to highlight our sinfulness and need for salvation by grace or good works, we might accept the vision of God given to us by the likes of St. Paul and St. Augustine.
~
However God would or would not reveal Himself, one seminal problem with a Facebook divinity, outside bandwidth, privacy issues and other mundane considerations, is that it would diminish His mystery. And science is doing a fine job of that without God abetting it. And why would He, for one of God’s strongest suits is the mystery of it all - a mystery that has allowed God to be many things to many people over many millennia.
~
The mystery of our universe not only grants God a protean quality but also requires for our part a degree of faith in how we choose to understand that universe. Whether we place that faith in faith as a believer does, in reason as many scientists do or in some other elucidating mechanism, absent certain knowledge we can hardly escape having faith in something. Conversely, if we possessed unassailable knowledge of the cosmos, including God, I’m not sure we’d need to have faith in anything.
~
If the act of believing then is a by-product of uncertainty, embracing the fragility of our knowledge should foster a spirit of humility. Perhaps such humility, spawned by life's mystery, would inspire a collective respect for our manifold conceptions of God – unless of course those conceptions lead to acts of violence. By the way, I’m not looking for any Kumbaya moment here – just a breath of grace and forbearance.

Howl 23 Jan 2010, 3:53 pm

Not long after graduating from college, I invited a few high school chums to Evins Mill for a "men's retreat." More than a caddish gathering of twenty-somethings, it was conceived with an elevated purpose in mind - to share with each other our respective life missions and the perennial goals that would naturally flow there from. There would also be a heavy dose of critique and accountability. Heady stuff for sure. And in just a few days, I ship off for the 14th such retreat in as many years.
~
The idea for this outing sprouted during one of life's more earnest moments - when horizons were seemingly limitless, and before we made those decisions that would inevitably impose the boundaries born of career, marriage, child-rearing, financial planning and so on. If I wax nostalgically, I do not do so regretfully, as for most of us this is life’s unavoidable trajectory, and I am thankful for my own.
~
I'm
also appreciative of the confreres with whom I annually discuss life's plans and passages. And if this rarefied notion of goal sharing was born in earnest, these conclaves have been anything but innocent, and remain punctuated by bouts of sophomoric debauchery and witless irresponsibility. None will forget the time we nearly burnt down the vacation home graciously lent to us by a family friend - indeed, it is seared in our memory. But we can laugh about it now - right George?
~
In spite of ourselves, we dutifully reserve time for a modicum, if not a muddle, of personal transparency, though I’ve witnessed that such openness increasingly dwells as much on our past as on our future - and is now as reflective as it is ambitious. With more miles behind us, this shift in gears makes sense, as does another shift - our visions for the future are now marked as much by aspirations as they are by metrics. Perhaps some of us, humbled or tempered by time, are hedging our bets.
~
That such testimony is routinely shared with and by alcohol-impaired minds undoubtedly renders the exchange less crisp, but openness, such as it is, might not percolate at all without bourbon’s succor - for
alas, the shadow of the strong and reticent man looms large even for the most self-possessed among us. Sober or otherwise, in these late night communions we break bread and new ground, even if the following day we couldn't always describe in detail the mountains we just scaled.
~
And if these wayward retreats do not exactly measure up to my original vision, it's all for the better, for the vision was as pompous as it was well meaning - and would surely render such weekends a grinding slog. As it is, they have evolved into a rich tradition that I think all of us to varying degrees anticipate and relish. Even if I don't frequently see most of these jackasses, I take comfort in their ritualized company.
~
And to the loved ones whom we leave behind this weekend, should you witness a faint red glow on the horizon, you'll know we burnt the house down this year - and not just figuratively. If on the other hand you are awakened late one evening by haunting bellows from distant woods, do not be alarmed for your safety or our own - as wolves are not the only creatures who would howl at the moon.

Humbug 31 Dec 2009, 10:52 am

A guest not long ago commented that she felt awkward and confused at check-out when confronted with the gratuity line on her credit card receipt - and recommended we clarify the Inn’s tipping protocol ahead of time. Though she left a tip at her table as well as in her room, she felt compelled to ante up yet again, not wanting to appear like Scrooge.
~
This was an observation after my own heart, for it was delivered not in passive-aggressive wrapping but in a constructive spirit, sealed with a solution. The remark also illuminated a core principle of what we hope the Evins Mill experience would be - which is to say, free from uncertainty. We wish for guests to depart more rejuvenated than when they arrived - and view ambiguity as an energy-sapping agent.
~
Furthermore, I’ve been grousing about gratuity for years, as the practice has in my estimation been abused, proliferating from an intensely service-oriented field to arenas where it is ill-construed. Why am I expected to tip a bellhop or barber? Why not throw in the store clerk as well? And speaking of clerks, what’s with that tip jar, behind which some punk just poured you a $5 cuppa joe?
~
Tipping at a restaurant is of course a different matter, for in most instances servers are paid far less than minimum wage and depend on gratuity for their economic well-being. But it is precisely this reliance that prompts me to harbor misgivings even here – as tipping foists upon the patron a judicial role in the waiter's livelihood. And assigning responsibility for grade of service can be challenging.
~
If the service is deplorable, is my server simply inept and undeserving - or did a colleague fail to show, requiring him to cover twice as many tables. If my server strikes me as gruff, maybe she’s in the wrong profession and unworthy - or maybe we simply have disparate notions of how chummy a server and patron should be. I’m uncertain - and that’s the point.
~
In some instances, the restaurant may bear primary responsibility. In trying to cut labor costs, perhaps it scheduled too few servers. Maybe its hiring and training systems are not up to snuff. Surely it will suffer as a result, but so too might a capable server who was not responsible for these failures. Again, I’m uncertain - and again, that's the problem.
~
I’m eager to compensate good service - or assign accountability for otherwise if I could fairly do so. But as illustrated above, one can't always, and I wonder if patrons and employees alike would be better served if we jettison tipping altogether and simply reward organizations that attract able servers with robust wages. That was actually the model at Evins Mill for years, though over time employees asked me to incorporate gratuity.
~
Fearing it would tread on my precious principle, I resisted at first but eventually acquiesced, for some felt quite strongly about the matter. I also began to appreciate that some guests take pleasure in tipping. And though I didn't perceive its benefit to me at the time, and while I continue to compensate our waitstaff at well above minimum wage, tipping does alleviate payroll inflation.
~
Despite my ambivalence and granted my bias, I am inclined to believe that if anyone deserves a fiscal pat on the back, it is the folks who work at Evins Mill. And judging from the tips our guests left them in 2009, I am not alone in this sentiment and am genuinely delighted for my staff - all of whom are most grateful for the generosity. Of this if nothing else, I am absolutely certain.

Mama's Boy 28 Nov 2009, 10:12 pm

Even as I publish this post, my mother is at Evins Mill replacing the Inn's Fall decor with a Christmas motif. Two months from now, she'll adorn the property with hearts for Valentines Day, then pastel colors for spring, followed by a patriotic theme for summer - after which the cycle repeats itself. She’s performed this ritual exquisitely and free of charge since 1994 - and a good thing too, as God knows I wouldn't pay someone to do it, or what the place would look like were I decorating it.
~
I suspect the only pleasure my mother derives from this routine is knowing that she's helping me. If true, this inkling would elucidate a seminal feature of our relationship - that is to say, her giving and my receiving. One ambit of this give-and-take involves food, for even as a grown man, I still receive from my mother periodic caches of pimento cheese, egg salad and a bevy of other homemade delights, including meatless chili to accommodate my new found vegetarianism.
~
Her helping hand extends beyond creature comforts. As if rooting for me at yesteryear's high school wrestling match, she is consistently among the first to applaud these essays. More welcome than this, she - along with my father it should be noted - routinely hosts my young daughter for sleepovers. While both enjoy Ivy's company, my mother seems dually motivated by the reprieve it gives her son from the duties of parenthood. Though her baby boy no longer seeks such aegis, he remains touched by the maternal impulse that compels it.
~
Say what I might, perhaps the best vantage point from which to capture the depth of my mother's devotion is found in a book called The Giving Tree, which portrays the relationship between a boy and a tree as they grow older. On one hand, the story illustrates profound generosity, for the tree bestows everything she has to bolster the boy - at first her apples for the scamp to eat, later her limbs for the young man to build a house, then her very trunk for the older man to craft a boat, and finally her stump for the codger to take a load off.
~
As it turns out, the story also depicts gross ingratitude, for the grown man not once expresses affection for the tree nor reciprocates her kindnesses - never does he mulch around her base, fertilize her soil or so much as lift a hand for the tree - unless wielding an ax. Indeed, the ingrate only visits when something's in it for him and fails to utter a word of thanks for all he's received. I am guilty of at least one offense, but it is not ingratitude - at least not toward my own giving tree.
~
So as I bask in the thankful afterglow of the holiday just celebrated and anticipate my mother's December 1st birthday, perhaps this public encomium will reinforce my hitherto private expressions of appreciation - and serve as a more fitting birthday gift than anything else I could otherwise tender. And as to the above referenced offense, it is shamelessly tugging on heartstrings of mothers everywhere - especially mine own, whom I love very much and for whom I am most grateful. Happy Birthday Mom!

Man Up 4 Oct 2009, 1:43 pm

I recently hatched this rather elegant idea for a development at Evins Mill, which is a peripheral yet necessary predicate to the subject at hand. To the east of our last guest house on the other side of a wide ravine is a thickly forested ridge top overlooking a deep gorge, Fall Creek and the precipice of Carmack Falls itself. The idea may be as brilliant as the land is beautiful.
~
As economic conditions improve, we develop this woodland into lots for the construction and sale of vacation rental homes. Variations of the concept are manifold, but in any scenario owners could partake of all the resort's amenities, as well as the services of its maintenance, grounds and housekeeping staff. Equally compelling, our sales office could effectively rent their homes either in tandem with or independent of its own operations.
~
And the Inn - without assuming the unsavory risks of owning the homes - could double its overnight capacity, allowing it to host larger corporate events which it now must routinely decline. In addition to amplifying the Inn's share of the corporate market, the expanded capacity would also augment its food & beverage sales and generate a respectable revenue stream via rental and maintenance agreements.
~
Brilliant is too strong a word, for it implies originality - and there's nothing faintly unique about the proposal. Unique or not, the more circumspect might divine boondoggle rather than bonanza - and they would have a compelling case too. The land would be costly to develop and sire only a handful of lots. The added capacity could potentially transform the essence of our business - and alienate a loyal clientele in the process. Oh, and did I mention - I have no idea how to pull any of this off?
~
And there's another pesky fly in the ointment - we don't own much of the required acreage - an adjacent farmer does. And a farmer, whose family may have owned the land for generations, can have an ancestral attachment to his soil, refusing to part with a family jewel for any price. Fortuitously, this farmer is willing to sell, and more than that, suggested I acquire more soil than needed - beautiful acreage that would serve as a buffer between his farmland and our development. What a break.
~
Not so fast, for most anyone will sell you most anything for a price - and his is a deal-killer. The opening salvo of our negotiations came unexpectedly - kind of like an ambush is unexpected. Standing under a tree in the pouring rain on the land in question - city boy in crisp button down and old timer in crinkled overalls - he asked me my price. To my low-ball offer he gruffly grunted "Oh, no, no, no - we can't talk like that. No sir, can't talk like that."
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His stance is not problematic in and of itself and is a routine feature of this particular dance. The dilemma is my capacity for negotiation, which is negligible at best. I'm analytical rather than aggressive, and given to cooperation rather than cajoling. At peace with my strengths and weaknesses, I do in these "to be or not to be" moments envy those who can bluff and bully - that is to say, mislead and overpower to further their interests.
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And something tells me that little I learned in business school will help me as I haggle with this plainspoken and weather worn farmer. If in a few years you start receiving solicitations regarding "Ridge Top Estates" or "Chalets at Evins Mill," you'll know I manned up and negotiated with nerve and cunning. Silence will likely mean failure - and on a very personal level. So wish me luck or give me counsel, for after all, I need some land I'd like to sell you.

 
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