Scarves, Dollars and Scholars

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In the case of The Mountain Farmgirl it was 1300 miles, and it was in a car (not on foot), but it was totally AWESOME!!! Find out where she went and what she did in … “Scarves, Dollars and Scholars”…


I love scarves … I have dozens of them, in fact. I wear them constantly and they’re part of my ‘look’! The other day I was on a trip and was reading a used copy of the Wall Street Journal that turned up somewhere as I was traveling. It was the ‘Style and Travel’ section and the cover of it had an article on scarves. It caught my eye. It was a LONG trip and my husband was driving most of it, so being a captive audience I started reading. ‘Every Scarf Has a Story’ it began, and it proceeded to tell the story of Hermes scarves, from Paris.

Now I may love scarves but I’m not a Scarf Snob, so I had never heard of these upscale accessories before this, although to some they are a coveted, much-collected symbol of success. Interestingly, these Status-Scarves have no single designer, but their diverse and whimsical styles come instead from a far-flung array of freelance artists from Poland to Japan to a postal employee in Waco, Texas … and everywhere in-between. They are actually rather beautiful, and that includes their price tags as well, which start around $410 per scarf, but large sizes can double that, and Special Edition scarves can be much, much more. Imagine that for a scarf!


I enjoyed the article and many of the artistic designs shown in this highly illustrated cover story, which seemed uncharacteristic of the paper, at least as far as my limited knowledge of the Wall Street Journal was concerned.  But I suddenly felt like my old Quaker friend, one of the owners of the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, where I visited about a year ago.  I was staying in this old Victorian Castle in the Catskills, and had been invited to have breakfast with members of the Smiley family who continue to own it after many generations. After we ate I was invited by my old friend to go on a tour of some of the new construction that the younger generation of Smiley’s were undertaking.  One was a ‘Tower Room’, which although ‘Magnificent-with-a-capital-M’, cost $2000 per night to stay there! “I don’t even want to meet a person who would spend that much money to sleep in a room!” my practical old Quaker friend related!  And now I was feeling the same way … ‘Who would spend that much money for a scarf? Ridiculous!’ I thought, rather curmudgeonly.  ‘A scarf would have to be awfully special to be worth that amount of money …’

We were in the car for an inordinate amount of time … 12 ½ hours straight actually; and I soon forgot all about scarves.  I’m sad to say (and my husband is even sadder) that I am not a very good traveler. I am restless, and I can’t sit still for very long. I want to get up and move. “ARE WE THERE YET???” 

The trip we were taking started in my home state of New Hampshire and ended in Virginia, where my son and his wife – the ones who got married this time last year – now live. The occasion was his college graduation from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and because our busy innkeeping season is about to begin, this was to be a blitz trip: 36-hours long, to be exact.  It covered 1300 miles, a day tour of Washington, DC on Wednesday; a fabulous dinner at their favorite restaurant, the graduation ceremony itself on Thursday, and home again the same day. (Our photo even made it onto the university's website home page!) I thought I was going to die while still driving in the pouring rain at 2 am!! Aaargh … Stop the car -- I want to get out!!!


Thanks to my husband’s good driving, we made it home safely, despite fog, torrential downpours and a lot of traffic. We are both so proud of our son for his amazing accomplishments these last four years … and of his wife who encouraged him through the long hours of study. But this column started out about scarves, and before I close, I have one more special, special scarf story to tell you.

After the graduation ceremony was over, my husband, daughter-in-law and I met our son at a designated spot on campus. He stood there in his cap and gown looking very handsome, and said that at Johns Hopkins, they have a tradition at graduation. As he was telling us this, he took the yellow ‘scarf’ from around his neck, and placed it around mine.  This, he said, was the ‘Cloak of Gratitude’, and every graduate bestowed it upon their parents in thanks for the love and support which got them where they were that day. I was totally overcome. I own a lot of scarves, but NONE of them can hold a candle to this!!  I never wanted to take it off! I ate in  it; slept in it, and was even wondering how I could shower in it without ruining it when a thought hit me. I now owned The Scarf of All Scarves, bar none. All sentimentality aside, when you think of the cost of a 4-year degree at a top university, the Hermes people have NOTHING up on me!! 

Congratulations, Noah … you are the best! And when it comes to gratitude,  I can’t thank you enough for being who you are!

Until next time,
Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from
Cathi, The Mountain Farmgirl




By: Adrienne
On: 05/27/2013 08:19:24
I have a few cherished scarves--all right, bandanas--that I wouldn't put a price on. Some were gifts, some absorbed a lot of sweat and grime on outdoor work days, and some just kept my sparse hair covered during radiation. There is one beautiful sky blue scarf with pink hibiscus flowers on it that I have draped several different ways around my neck and across my shoulders. There is a southwestern-themed scarf that covers my printer and sometimes covers my head depending on my mood. I didn't receive a scarf at graduation but my master's hood will do as a remembrance of achievement that took many years to complete. It was fun to wear with my gown at the graduation of my students when I sat in the faculty section to watch them receive their diplomas. I had the chance to be a proud "parent" many times over. Thank you for reminding us of how terrific scarves can be!
By: carolj
On: 05/27/2013 10:55:34
Your story was so very touching. Thank you for sharing this special moment in your life.
By: Robin
On: 05/27/2013 11:12:00
What a wonderful story
By: Louise Marie
On: 05/27/2013 14:22:42
I so love that God presented you with the Wall Street Journal article on scarves before you were actually presented with the best scarf of all time. Again, you are an amazing woman.
By: Debbie
On: 06/10/2013 13:48:05
Congratulations fellow homeschooling mama!!! What an accomplishment for the entire family... yeah, I'd be lookin' for a way to have that yellow scarf bronzed if I were you! So touching...Loved it!
hugs from the beach!
Deb ( Are you coming to Cape Cod this summer? ) you better look me up this time!!! :) I'll put the kettle on, or if it's really hot, we'll have lemonade!
By: cheryl
On: 07/30/2013 12:15:11
Cathi, What a wonderful story ending with the most precious scarf of all ! And i agree a Hermes scarfs don't even hold a candle to yours... I don't think you have to pay those kind of prices for a lovely scarfs these days and why would you ? I have some as of recent yrs. thanks to my daughters an cherish each and everyone, but always end up in a quandry trying to arrange around my neck, so if you ever meet a woman with a weird looking wrap around her neck that might just be me !! thanks for sharing
By: Anita
On: 08/22/2013 07:56:23
I really enjoyed this article about scarves and the trip to your son's graduation. I cannot pass any wrack that holds scarves. You might say that I am a scarf addict. Congratulations to your son. The last scarf you received was truly the best one.

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir