Pond Mountain and BRC were featured in the January 2012 issue of Our State magazine!
Pond Mountain: Soaring Legacies
Even when he heard Dale Shepherd wheezing over the phone, Mark Johnston wasn’t terribly concerned. Shepherd, an 82-year-old Christmas tree farmer, assured Johnston, his employee of more than 30 years, that he’d live to be 100. Given that Shepherd was still working like a man half his age and Johnston’s relatives have a habit of living until they’re 104, the claim didn’t seem outlandish.
So when Shepherd told Johnston — a wiry guy with a Wild Bill Hickok-style goatee — that he was calling from the hospital, Johnston nonchalantly asked, “Well, when you coming home?”
The line went quiet. “I’m never coming home,” Shepherd said.
“Aw, come on now …” Johnston said, unwilling to believe that the man he considered a second father might be dying.
But Shepherd was serious. “I’m in bad shape,” he said, “but there’s something I’ve got to tell you.” And that’s when it happened. The landscape itself was set to shift.
Shepherd, a quirky, self-made millionaire who sometimes borrowed gas money from Johnston to fill the tank of his 21-year-old mess of a car, announced that he was leaving 1,800 acres — the whole of a mountain — to Johnston and another workman, Chris Shumate.
Shepherd’s other assets would take care of his family, but Pond Mountain, located in the Lansing area of Ashe County, had a different sort of value, one he didn’t quite know how to calculate. But he believed Johnston and Shumate would be good stewards. He’d witnessed the place become part of them, too.
Article by Leigh Ann Henion
Photography by Travis Dove