Ashe countians do seem to be an ingenious, and community-oriented bunch.
The attribute has paid dividends in the past and likely will in the future.
One example of the ingenuity is the construction some two and a half decades ago of the pool at what is now Ashe County Middle School.
Our use of this example may seem paradoxical since the pool has fallen into disrepair and has been taken out of use until renovations can raise its standard.
But in the pool’s early days it was a marvel of local ingenuity we are told by Ashe County Board Chairman Judy Poe.
The effort to build the pool, she said, was led in large part by Lansing-area native Swansie Shepherd.
Shepherd and his family had owned a nearby farm for generations. They had designed the farm with the local geography and environment in mind.
They grew the well-known blueberry patch and the elaborate orchards that were the site of several varieties of apples. A marsh was harnessed and its runoff channeled into one stream that now runs through the orchard. The project opened up new flat ground for production.
The familiar spring box design used by many area families can still be seen on the back porch of the Shepherd house. It funneled fresh water in close proximity to the kitchen and also provided a way to cool perishables for the kitchen.
Those are just a few of the main inventions to come out of Horse Creek. Shepherd also created an apple press, powering it with an old washing machine motor. It was a community apple press, used in the fall by families all over that part of the county, on loan from Shepherd. The legacy continued this fall with a return to community apple squeez’n at the Shepherd home now owned by Johnny Burleson and Walter Clark.
Shepherd is also known for his generosity, says Roy Poe, Judy Poe’s husband. Apparently some of that legacy continues also.
With that heritage of innovation, Shepherd organized the construction of the pool Judy Poe says, sometimes using student labor.
It is a good story of a success, but we live in a different time that will not allow it to happen in the same way.
Still a group is trying to find a way to renovate the pool and make it available to the community using the limited means available to a small mountain community.
If successes of the past are any measure, they will find success in innovative thinking and community support.