A curvy mountain road winds it’s way along the shores of Lake Burton, crosses the river below the dam, then ambles along beside the sleepy waters of Seed Lake. Just past the dam, tucked into the woods on the side of a mountain, stands an icon of my childhood. Every Labor Day weekend that I can remember from early childhood to my late thirties was spent within (and without) the walls of this place, known simply as “The Mountains”. The Dunahoo clan, along with various and sundry family friends, would gather at Uncle Bill and Aunt Carolyn’s cabin in north Georgia. Labor Day weekend marks the end of the DNR trout stocking in the area streams, and the menfolk were just crazy about standing in the icy waters, reeling in those rainbow trout. What a fun family tradition! Each respective branch of the clan would arrive on Friday evening, sleeping bags, tackle boxes and junk food in tow. The menfolk would sit on the porch and dutifully thread their fishing line, making sure the drag was set just so. Sleeping bags were arranged meticulously on the front porch, each fellow having his own favorite spot in which to catch a few winks. Up well before dawn, they’d set off for the upper reaches of the Tallulah River and engage in a friendly competition to see who could catch the most fish. “The Big Hole”, “The Bridge” and “The Bend” denoted some of their favorite spots. The women, on the other hand, stayed awake most of the night talking and catching up. (Back in those days, it was long-distance to talk by phone- no toll-free cell phones!) Next morning they would grumble profusely when the menfolk made too much noise as they left for the river. Children were scattered here and yon, cousins delighted to be together for a weekend of adventure. Maybe we’d start out in one room, sleeping with one cousin, and end up crawling in the bed with another cousin or our mom. Saturday was a very busy day! There were several must-do activities, and though we repeated them year after year, we never grew bored with them. We would get up and have our milk and cereal, get dressed, then Go To Town. “Town” was about 20 miles away over curvy mountain roads, and there would usually be some kind of festival that included sidewalk sales and hot dogs at the fire department. When we were really good, we sometimes even got an ice cream at the drugstore. My favorite store was an Ace Hardware-type store that carried fascinating outdoor wind chimes, and other unusual items. After returning to the cabin for lunch and a short rest, it was off to climb and walk across the dam. The back side of “our” mountain forms part of the shoreline of Lake Burton, and the dam is just down the street. Years ago there were no security issues, and one could climb up a steep rocky path and actually walk across the dam. When I was a very young, I was almost afraid to breathe- the cold, deep waters on one side of the dam posing unknown dangers, and on the other a very, very long drop to the tiny river below. Arriving back home safely, we kids would venture down the street to the “rock quarry”. This favorite play spot was not a rock quarry at all, rather the fascinating result of the DOT using dynamite when the road was built many years ago to blast the rock inside the mountain. It scares me to death now to remember how we climbed about those rocks, cliffs, and ledges like little monkeys. No Fear. It was a quite impressive formation, and one year we were furious that the Army was using our fortress for a rappelling training ground, thus barring our play. The last time I saw the rock quarry it was so overgrown with foliage and trees that you could hardly see it. Barely visible was the very top perch, and I shudder to think of climbing there. Next, a steep climb down the pasture in front of the cabin would take us to the boathouse and dock on the quiet banks of Seed Lake, still just a river at this point. Quiet, that is, until the siren sounded and they opened the gates of the dam. Then the water would pass by with a swiftness that belied its strength and power. No swimming allowed here! Later we would wander over to the creek to wade or catch crawdads. We were great explorers as we “climbed the mountain” via the stream. Time permitting, we would take a trip to Helen, a nearby tourist town with a Bavarian theme. Our final traditional adventure was a visit to the dental office. Around the turn of the century, Uncle Bill’s dad was a dentist and had an office in the basement. There we would carefully sit in the antique dental chair and look through the drawers at the archaic instruments. There were even a few sets of false teeth laying around after all these years. I can still remember the sterile smell of the room, and how we were so careful not to break anything. After the fish-fry on Saturday evening, we kids would play with poker chips and the adults would play pinochle long into the night. Families grow and change, and time brings about both blessings and unwelcome heartache. Our family is different now, and so many of them are no longer with us. It almost hurts to remember the times in the mountains because The Stainback Men are no longer here. We miss them so much. As another Labor Day weekend approaches, though, I can’t help but remember all the happy times spent at the cabin tucked away on the side of our mountain. And it hits me all over again how blessed I am to belong to this family.