A Visit With Uncle Nick Grindstaff

— Doug Nelson


This hermit’s grave is marked on the Appalacian Trail in Tennessee. The inscription says, “Lived alone, suffered alone, died alone.” He withdrew from society after an assault and robbery. I was hiking ten miles a day with a 40-pound pack on this trip and appreciated this boxed spring. A lady hiker had been assaulted on the trail near here near the time of my visit.


To Nick Grindstaff

I dunno, Nick.
Only you could know your suffering.
I drew water from your spring. Was it you who built the stone wall to keep it clean and pure?
hank you.
So strange that the place you chose to live in peace should see a senseless act of violence.
You wouldn’t like the world today, either.
Those of us who come this way are seeking peace, good friends, insight into ourselves, things
nly we know.
Once in a while, although rarely, someone will suffer for their innocence.
Like you, Nick.
Whose uncle were you?
Did you ever know the love of a woman? Did you hear your child’s laughter?
Did you know the warmth of a home?
I think someone loved you. Someone loves all of us. I hope that they didn’t wait to put up this stone to tell you.
The water from your spring is still pure and sweet, Nick.

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