Honest living. Simpler Times. Humble friendships. ---All of this was the basis for the beloved ‘60’s television series, “The Andy Griffith Show”. As many know, the story was loosely based upon the actor’s roots in a tiny town located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. That town is Mount Airy, North Carolina.
Today, a visit to this idyllic community reveals much of the same character reference… It is quintessential “small-town America.”
On a recent Sunday afternoon, I found myself in need of an office break. Thus, I took a drive through this little village, heading west on Route 89. Suddenly, I spotted a gathering of folks around an old converted camping trailer-turned-ice cream truck. It was: Scoops Ice Cream & Such. --August and ice cream? ... Of course!
Upon parking my wagon, I realized this was more than just an ice cream stop. It was an artist’s dream personified. Before me was an unassuming little shed whose crown read: Stone House Metal Works, Distinctive Sculpture in Iron. Scattered about the lot were fragments of recycled metal parts. Many were welded into shapes as if bits of the artist’s personality and thought process were left for others to experience.
The artist is Chazz Elstone. In 2007, he created this roadside sojourn as a means of support for his passion of metal sculpting. Rather clever, indeed!-- Over 24 flavors of Mayfield ice cream are hand-dipped into cones, sundaes, and rich shakes to allure patrons from many miles away.
Located within the adjacent woods is a gallery of his work. It is entitled, “The Elrock Sculpture Garden”. A meandering path allows visitors to experience his sculptures in a natural setting. His creative mind and dedicated faith are shared with all as there is a chapel in the woods, a Passion Path with biblical references, and over 50 sculptures.
The line for ice cream was long. Thus, I took a hike through this outdoor gallery. It was most enchanting. -- A bit frayed. A bit bohemian. A bit resourceful. This wasn’t the Gardens of Versailles, nor was it meant to be….This was an artist’s heart and soul shared with all.
The line had dissipated. Stepping up to the little window, a bright-eyed local youth took my order of a carrot cake sundae. The window slid closed.
Within just a few moments, a delicious dish of vanilla ice cream, carrot cake, and caramel syrup was passed to me. Taste buds danced as I sat upon a recycled tractor seat and savored every bite.
The summer sun was bright and found its way through the overhead canopy of maple leaves. My back was warm. A smile seemed to find its way across my face as I realized that the humbleness of this experience and its genuine character were exactly what had charmed Andy Griffith.