Chocolatier Mountain, Tennessee Elevation 6200 feet.
One morning at Eula’s Breakfast Stop.
“Fellas, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. I’m away from home for nearly twelve hours a day,” said Jedd. “Me too, Jedd, almost never home,” said Tom. And Jerry Lee “Never see my kids. Just a quick kiss on Rose’s cheek, then out the door I go. That’s my day. That’s my life!”
“Hello boys, what can I getcha? Coffee, coffee, coffee???” “No coffee this mornin’, Eula. Just a cup of your hot steamed chocolate, that’s all,” said Tom. “Right back with the coffee, chocolate and some complimentary hot buttered biscuits,” said Eula.
Jedd to Tom and Jerry “An eighty-four mile round trip to Baconton, every day, does a lot of wear and tear on the body and soul. There must be somethin’ else, closer to home that we can do. Gotta be,” said Jedd with his thumb supporting his chin. “Here ya go, fellas. Hot brews and biscuits too. Enjoy!” said Eula.
Huddled together around a table, wearing their torn flannel shirts, Jedd, Tom and Jerry discuss what their futures may hold for them. Jedd said, “It’s been ten years since we closed the mine. No more coal needed, now that we’re nuclear. I just cannot take another ten year commute.” “Not me and no more,” said Tom and Jerry.
“Anyone thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” said Jedd. “I think I know what you’re thinkin’, Jedd. I’m thinkin’ it too,” said Tom. Jerry to Jedd and Tom, “I think I’m thinkin’ the same thing, but thinkin’ about a refill right now.” Jedd, “If I think we’re all thinkin’ the same thing, we may be on to somethin’.” Jedd said further, “Here comes Eula, let’s ask her what she thinks we’re thinkin’. She will know, she’s got intuition.”
“Here we go, refill, refill, refill and biscuits too,” said Eula. Jedd to Eula, “We’ve been thinkin’ about somethin’ and wonder if you know what we’re thinkin’.” Eula to the three mountain men, “How am I suppose to know? I don’t read minds, but I do sense somethin’. I think you guys want somethin’ closer to home. Maybe thinkin’ about openin’ up the mine shaft again. I may be wrong, but I sense it. My intermission tells me. I just know it.”
“Well, Eula Mae, you have kinda’ read my mind,” said Jedd and “Maybe there is somethin’ else in there we could mine, even more precious than gold. This may be our big find. First, we found coal, then we found gold, then we found coal again. Then the mine closed. That’s been ten years and nothin’ since then. A closed mine shaft forever. Well, I think it’s time for a grand re-opening. Let’s just see what’s in there. Are you guys game?” “I’m in, Jedd. Me too,” said Tom and Jerry. “Me three!” said Eula Mae. Jedd to all, “Let’s break her open this Saturday morn. Meet here at Eula’s at seven a.m. We will go from here.”
Saturday morning at Eula’s Breakfast Stop.
“Mornin, guys.” “Mornin’, Jedd” said Tom. “Mornin fellas,” said Jerry Lee. “Come on in, boys, breakfast is awaitin’.” “Mornin, Eula Mae” all three say together. “Have I got a breakfast for you. Bacon and eggs, red-eye gravy on hot buttered biscuits, grits is creamy and waffles on the griddle. All made especially for you on this day of discovery. Now, have a seat, coffee is on it’s way and biscuits too.” “Eula, you shouldn’t have,” said Jedd. “Eula, you shouldn’t have,” said Tom. “Eula, you shouldn’t have,” said Jerry. “Now, fellas, I know you all know I should have and I have done it just for you. All you can eat and all you can drink. Just relax and enjoy. Here’s your coffee and here’s your biscuits. The rest is on it’s way.”
“Mmm, this is good. Great coffee and these biscuits are heaven sent and already buttered. Made just for us by Eula Mae. She’s a mighty fine lady,” said Jedd. “Yup, she is,” said Tom and Jerry. “Let’s toast our toast to Eula Mae.” Toast are toasted and Jerry loses his jelly. “Where did my jelly go?” “Who knows, Jerry? Here, I even buttered and jellied your toast for you. Now, try again.” “Jedd, I can butter my own toast.” “But, Jerry, you need help with the jelly, bud. With the jelly!” Jedd and Tom laughed out loud and applied more butter and jelly to the conversation. “Jerry, do you need someone to spoon feed your grits? I’ll yell for help, if you need it,” said Jedd waving his spoon. Tom to Jerry, “Do you need a bib? It will keep your jelly, your grits, your eggs from staining that nice raggedy shirt of yours. I’ll yell for a bib from Eula.” “Okay guys, you’ve had your fun on me. Just let me be.”
“Anybody heard of the Legend of the Chocolatier?” said Jedd with an engaging tone of voice. “Never, Jedd, never,” said Tom. “What’s the legend, Jedd? Sounds like chocolate, but maybe not,” said Jerry. “Well, at one time, this valley was an Indian settlement. They called themselves the ‘Chocolatiers’ named for a legend about the mountain. They were an agricultural tribe. They farmed this land and grew all types of fruit trees and even coffee trees. This rich mountain soil produced the best apples, the best pears, the best figs, the best plums and the best coffee beans found nowhere else. All natural. Organic, as they would say today. We could restore these orchards and make part of our living off of them. Just thinkin’. You guys thinkin’?” “We’re thinkin’ too, Jedd,” said Tom and Jerry.
“Back to the legend,” said Jedd. “It is believed that the cocoa trees up along the mountain side were planted in rows by the Chocolatiers. We can still see that pattern today. They chanted, in their Indian language, of course, about the legend of the mountain. Here’s the chant as I know it. ‘Sweet, sweet chocolate, within the mountain. Smell the chocolate, taste sweet life.’ That’s it. This chant was said every year at harvest time. They believed that the cocoa tree was eternal. They believed that chocolate was food for the soul and nourished the body for a long healthy life.”
Jedd goes on to say, “One interesting thing about these cocoa trees is that they are out of place, out of their climate. Most of these trees are usually grown in a warmer tropical terrain and not along a mountainside at a 6200 hundred feet elevation. Just unheard of and as far as we know, these trees have been here for hundreds of years. The tree reaches maturity at fifty years and needs to be replanted. But nature does the work. Every twenty five years, the trees begin to drop seedlings and the next generation of trees begin to grow. This cycle has been observed for years and it is always on time. A cycle of life, as they believed. An eternal cycle of life.”
“Okay, fellas come out of the trance. You’ve been here for two hours and it’s half past ten. Still gonna’ open her up?” “You bet, Eula, let’s go guys. But before we leave the lot, we want to check our gear. We want to make sure we have everything we need to safely enter the mine, be safe while we’re there and safely get out of there. We can’t leave anything to chance. We all know and remember the hazards and the losses at the mine. Let’s never forget the fate of our fellow miners. I believe their spirits are still there. I hope they’re there to guide us through. Just a comforting thought. But, if we want to know what’s there, we need to get there. So, let’s go. Thanks, Eula Mae, it’s been great and you fellas?” “Thank you, Eula, it has been great,” said Tom. “We are well fed and in great spirits all because of you. Thank you, Eula Mae,” said Jerry as they left out from the door. “Be safe and bring back your find. Show me first, then tell the world!” said Eula Mae.
In Eula’s parking lot. “Fellas, let’s check our gear. Flashlights, headlights, batteries, goggles, plenty of face masks, jackets, tools, air supply, food supply, radios, first aid kit and any other gear, guys. Remember, safety first and we all stay together. It’s been ten years and we don’t know what it’s like in there. We must use caution at all time. We all want to go in there together and we all want to come out together.” A quick prayer by Tom, “dear Lord, guide our way and protect us all.” All three say “Amen!”
Jerry Lee to Jedd and Tom “Here’s the mountain, but where’s the shaft?” “See all that underbrush and the overgrowth of brush and vines? I think the shaft entrance is under there,” said Jedd and he went on to say “Let’s take a look guys. Again, safety first. It’s all boarded up and who knows the condition of the wood. Don’t need it on top of anyone of us.” Tom said, “here’s some tools to remove the vine and brush.” “Tom, start your cutting,” said Jedd. “Jerry, remove the cut vines and I will remove any other brush,” said Jedd.
Two hours later. “Tom, do you see anything yet?” said Jedd. “I do see somethin’. Yes, it is the shaft door and it is gray, rotten and covered with dirt. The boards are separated and it looks like it’s about to collapse due to the weight upon it.” “Boys, this is going to be slow going, but we don’t want anything on top of us. Get your iron tools guys and let’s remove one board at a time,” Jedd said in a cautious tone of voice. “Tom and Jerry, pull the first board off.” “It’s off, Jedd,” said Jerry. Jedd to Tom and Jerry, “I see there are three boards left, the others have caved in.” “Ready, Tom? You and I will get this one. Pull slowly and we got it,” Jedd said with relief. “Now one more board. It’s very loose, guys. Let’s all pull it off. Carefully, pull, pull, pull and there it goes down into the shaft. Done!”
“I feel a cold draft from inside. It’s not damp, but very dry,” said Tom. Jedd said “We must be even more careful, one accidental move could move that coal like an avalanche on top of us. Not ready to be buried alive.” “Let’s check out gear,” said Jedd. “I’m set, Jedd,” said Tom and “me too with hard hat, lights, air supply and tools,” said Jerry.
Tom enters the mine first. He is carrying a large light and is very alert looking for any possible hazards. “I see the first supports and they appear secure,” said Tom. “Good,” said Jedd. Let move in farther. Jerry, stay right behind me and we all need to beam our lights. As we used to say, “it’s coal dark in here.” Tom to Jedd and Jerry, I see the second support. Let me check it. It’s secure. We can move ahead. But, I need you guys right behind me. This is like stepping into a black hole.” “We’re with you, Tom,” said Jerry and Jedd in reassuring tones of voice. All three are scared but can’t let their fear control them. Only thinking about the next move. One step at a time. One careful step at a time.
Jedd said “Only two more supports and we will be at the back of the mine. Careful, guys, careful.” Tom said in apprehensive voice “I see the third support and it looks great. Almost to it. I’m here. It’s secure. Come ahead, fellas, carefully. Shine your lights all around and straight this way.
It is very chilly in here and I even see ice formations on these supports. I wonder what’s ahead.” Jedd said “I think I know, but I won’t say, I’ve had a hunch about it all along.” Jerry, I think I know what you’re thinkin’, Jedd and I’m thinkin’ it, too. Are you thinkin’ it too, Tom?” “Think so, come along guys, we’re almost there. We’re at the third support, see the ice?” said Tom. “Icicles and they are large. There is something in here that needs very cold air and I really think I know what it is, but won’t say, just have a hunch,” said Jedd laughingly,” but then turned his voice to a serious tone, saying “but this is no time to laugh. Just be cautious.”
“Guys, I’m at the fourth support. It’s so cold that I could hardly pull my glove off of it. Shine your lights this way. I think I see the back wall. We need all the light we can get. I see it. I see coal, but smell’s like coffee. It has a very sweet scent. Almost like sugar, but all I see is coal. “Tom, I know what it is. It has somethin’ to do with the Indian legend,” said Jedd. Jedd to Jerry, “bring your small shovel and I want you to gently dig into the coal wall. Tom, you do it too. I think we are about to find somethin’ extraordinary.”
“Hey, Jedd, shine your light right here. I’ve made it through to somethin’ else and it ain’t coal. It’s brown and it sparkles. It is very hard and is very cold, but it smells so sweet. “Sweet, sweet chocolate. Could it be?” said Tom. Jedd moves in closer and said “Looks like, smells like, taste like and sweet as sugar.”
Jedd to Tom and Jerry, “Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” “I know for sure what you’re thinkin’, Jedd,” said Tom. “I think I’m thinkin’ the same thing too,” said Jerry. Jedd with an excited voice said “If we’re all thinkin’ the same thing, I think we should say it. On the count of three let’s say what we’ve been thinkin’. One, two, chocolate!”
Jedd starts the Chocolatier chant–“Sweet, sweet chocolate, within the mountain. Smell the chocolate, taste sweet life.” “What a find. More precious than gold. A natural wonder and a legend solved. One that is real to life. Now, what happens to the legend if the truth is known?” said Tom. Jedd said to both of his friends “The legend is no longer a legend. There really is value to a legend. It allows us to wonder, to ponder, to speculate, to imagine, to question and to seek the truth. Now that the truth is known, what do we do?”
“Eula Mae said to tell her first, then tell the world,” said Jerry. Tom to Jedd and Jerry, “Can you imagine what would happen to our lives, what would happen to our town and what would happen to our way of life, if the world knows?” “The world would come to town and our lives would be changed forever. Do we want that here? I say no and don’t tell anyone about out find.” Jedd said, “It just wouldn’t be right. If I have to spend the next ten years doing an eighty-four mile round trip to Baconton for work, I will do it.” “I feel the same way. I will find a way to spend more time with my kids and have more than a kiss with Rose,” said Jerry.
Jedd to his friends “Fellas, what do we want to do? Tell the world or keep the legend?” “Keep the legend,” said Tom. Jerry said, “We can’t do this to our people, to our town. Let’s keep the legend.” “That makes three of us. Keep the legend” said Jedd and he went on to say “I know Eula Mae is expecting us to tell her about our big find. We’ll just say Nothing there of value. We closed the mine for good. The value is in the legend and let’s keep it that way.”
Jedd to Tom and Jerry, “Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” “I’m thinkin’ what you’re thinkin’, Jedd,” said Tom. “Me too, Jedd, I’m thinkin’ the same thing.” Jedd says to Tom and Jerry. ” Let’s do it. We know it. In memory of and honor to the Chocolatiers.”
“Sweet, sweet chocolate within the mountain. Smell the chocolate, taste sweet life.”