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Interview with Bernie Funk

Bernie Funk
Butler, Belinda
Date of Interview: 
Overcoming Obstacles; Relationships with People and Places; Stories and Storytellers
Bernie Funk recounts a trip that he and his family took to the mountains to see a lake house that they were considering purchasing. During the trip, Bernie was almost bitten by a rattlesnake, and one of his sons "defied the law of gravity" as he fell down a hill.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Belinda Butler interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
BF (Bernie Funk): This story, it's uh, it's, happened about two years ago and, uh, uh, my wife, Elizabeth, I have a son, Jack, who's ten years old, a son, Nick, who's eight, and, uh, Alex, who's five. And we're trying to make a decision whether to buy a beach place, beach house, or a lake house, or a mountain house. And we'd read this newspaper on a Sunday morning, you know, you get these articles about um, [pause] you know, advertisements about these beautiful mountain, mountain lake places and we thought, "Gosh, this is great, you know, it's a combination of both, it's a, it's a, a mountain place with this beautiful lake, that surrounds this, this mountain." So, um, we called, and, uh, this guy answered the phone, and he's with the development company, it's up in the mountains, it's near, uh, uh, Lake Lure. And, uh, the guy says, "Come on up," and he says, "Wha, what will you be driving?" and, uh, we said, "Well, a, a car or a van, you know." "Do you, is the van four-wheel drive?" and I said, "Well, no, it's not," and he says, "Well, you know, some of this gets real rugged, you know, up here, and, uh, it's not fully developed, the you know you can look at some of the lots, if you bring your van, you can just look at some of the lots that are developed you know, so it'll be, you can drive right up to it." So, um, we thought about that and we thought, "Well, let's just take the truck, because I have a four-wheel drive truck, it's got the king cab, and we put all the kids in the back, smashed them in that little king cab part and got in the truck and drove. And we drove about two hours, and it was getting pretty hot, you know, kind of, kind of a miserable ride, and we get up, and, uh, get up to Lake Lure into this development, pull into the development. You have to drive, like, meandering through this, this hillside, and we get up to this trailer and, uh, we thought, "Well, this is," you know, we thought, "Well, we'd be able to see houses," and, uh, you know, you could tell this development was not that far along. So we talked to the development guy, and he, he kind of shows us a map, a real rough map of the area, and uh, so tells us, "Well, you know, here, here are the key, key kind of sites, and you're looking for what?" And we said, "Well, we want a, a house that's kind of in the mountains and that looks on a lake like you had in the newspaper." And he goes, "Well, we got, we got SOME of those," and I said, "Well, in the newspaper it says you have all your houses are overlooking lakes" and he goes, "Well," you know, and he could tell we had driven a long way just to, you know, you know, just to see some really kind of rugged area, and we, he knew exactly what we wanted at that point. He says, "Well, here's, there's one lot left that actually overlooks this water, and it's on a hilltop," and uh, you know, kind of drew it out on this paper map and then we drove out there. Well, we start driving in this truck, you know, I have a fairly large truck, and we're driving, and the road's at first paved, and then we're driving along, and then it goes to stone, gravel, and then, pretty much, we keep going, and it's like dirt, turns into a dirt road, and then, at the end of this road, probably the last twenty minutes, we're driving over tree stumps [laughs], to get to this location on this map. And, uh, we finally get up there. It took us twenty minutes, of rough driving, in four-wheel drive, to get to the top of this hill. And we get, get there, and we literally had to park between trees that they'd just cut. And, uh, they'd just clear-cut. I don't know if you know, ever heard what clear cutting is. Clear cutting is, you cut the trees down, but you leave the trees there, then you bring a bulldozer and push them off later. Well they hadn't pushed any of these off, so there's these trees on top of this hill. And I kind of drove to the peak of this hill, and we could see down on the lake, and it was kind of neat, but the, the, the lake, the hill, the grade down to the lake was just unbelievable, it was almost like a cliff. And you know, you could it was probably an eight per cent grade very steep grade. So, Elizabeth--
BB (Belinda Butler): Like what degree? More than for, less than forty-five degrees, I mean?
BF: It was about, uh, probably thirty degrees, so pretty steep. And Elizabeth, ah, immediately she looks at me, and she goes, "You keep these boys here, you know, we'll stay, and we'll kind of look around, but, you know, um, just you keep track of these guys." Well, Alex, the youngest, of course he's just so sick of being in this truck, he says, "Get me out of here," you know, just, "Let me out!" I say, "OK, everybody, we're going to get out of the truck, we're going to kind of look around, we'll do some stuff, and then, we'll probably eat breakfast, and then we'll go or, ea, we had our little bag lunches, and then we'll go down to the lake. And, uh, we get out of the truck, and we walk about ten feet, and I, I was like, walking over logs and trying to get over to a fairly clear area, and all of a sudden, Alex just goes, "Snake! Snake!" screaming at the top of his lungs, you know, and it, it just, it was unbelievable how loud he was yelling, how, and I thought, "Oh, my God, he got bit by a snake." Well I turn around and I go, "Wha, what's wrong?!" and Alex is pointing at me, and I look down between my legs, and there's this rattlesnake, like I'd stepped in this rattlesnake nest! And I'm standing there [laughs] and I go, "OK, everybody just calm down," and, you know. And I stepped down on the log, and then Ja, Alex is freaking out, just freaking out, he's going, "Jees, Dad, Jees!" you know, my go, my son's cussing like I do, you know, I was so scared! So we walk, we walk away from that snake, I go, "Oh my God, I'm lucky I'm not dead, you know, they could have bit me and then you guys would have put me in a truck and hauled me twenty minutes and I, I, you know, I probably would have died." And I, I'm like, God, somebody's trying to tell me something. So anyway, we kind of, we stayed away from the snake and we're kind of walking around, and then, Jack and Nick, they, Jack's's the oldest, and Nick, you know, is eight, and, uh, they want to go down to the lake, and Elizabeth's going, "No, don't let them go down to the lake, just, it's too steep, don't let them go down to the lake." And, uh, [laugh] we, you know, they're just saying, "Well what are we doing? We're just going to get in the truck and then go back? Let's just at least look at the lake." So I said, "OK, guys. You guys can go, go down to the lake, just be careful." And, uh, so they kind of walked over to the hill, kind of started walking down, and at a point they just had to sit on their butts and kind of slide down, and the trees were all cut, so they'd grab trees as they were going down. And, um, I was just watching them, and I was up at the top, and then, I started down, I'd figured, let them go first, then I'd, I'd go kind of behind them. I was probably, um, I'd say sixty foot behind them. And, um, Nick was first, Jack was in the middle, I was at the back.
BB: And Alex was with Elizabeth?
BF: And Alice, Alex stayed with Elizabeth, and she was mad at us, because we were doing this. She's up at the top of the hill. And, um, I said, "Nick, everything OK?" you know, he says, "Yeah, yeah." All of a sudden, Nick, and we still, to this day, do not know why he did this, he stood up, on this grade, and started [laugh] running down this hill. I mean, the hill's, no human being could catch [laugh] that kind of momentum without gravity pulling him down, and he starts running, and he's running, and you could just see, it was like, there's no way he's going to recover from this. And he's running, trying to keep up with gravity, so he's going down this hill, and literally, falling down the hill, but instead of falling down, he's running! And, what we didn't know, was this hill came down, and then there was a twenty foot cliff, with a big terrace in it, and then the hill kept going. They'd cut a terrace into the hill, halfway down it, you couldn't see it from the top, where they drove trucks down, and they'd just clear cut this, and down at that cliff, the bottom of that cliff was twenty foot in the air, literally, higher than this ceiling, and down at the bottom were just these little like bungee, where they'd cut all this brush and there's little bungee stuff sticking out. And all of a sudden I just saw Nick just run, and disappear off this cliff, and he's just flying, like the last thing I saw was him flying. I go, "Oh, my God." By that time, I'm running down the hill, just grabbing stuff, like falling down the hill, grabbing stuff. And as I saw he hit the ground, flat, like on those bungees, and then flipped two times. He hit flat, face first, flipped three times, I mean, end over end, and landed in the, spread eagle, backwards and by the time I came down the cliff, he's just grabbing his eyes, and I looked down, and then I saw those bungees, and I thought, "Oh, my God, he impaled his eyes and his face and his body with these bungee things, uh, oh my God." I just flew off the cliff, you know, and by that time I get to him, he's just, he's not even breathing, and I looked at him, I go, "Nick! Are you all right?" And I looked at his nose and his mouth and his eyelids, and what he'd done, he'd hit the ground, and it was a real dusty, powdery. He'd missed all those bungee sticks, but the dust and dirt had gone in his mouth, and like, his nose was filled with dirt, it backed up in here, and under his eyelids were filled with dirt, he was, he goes, he looked at me, and he goes, "Uuuugggghhhh." He couldn't talk. He says, "Am I alive? Am I alive?" I go, "Nick, what were you doing? What did you think? Wha, why, what were you thinking to run down this hill?" And he goes, "Well, I started falling and I couldn't stop myself and I figured, I'd rather run down hill as fast as I could, and I thought that I could, I could outrun it, and I saw Bugs Bunny do it on T, on cartoons." [Laughs] He thought Bugs Bunny could outrun, you know, the speeding locomotive or, and it, I think his whole mind, you know, like when the house is falling and Bugs Bunny hops out at the last minute, and then lives? That's what he was thinking, that's, that's science, that's kinetic energy in his mind. Bottom line, we got him back up the hill, and one week later, we bought a house at the beach. [Laughs] No way, somebody was trying to tell us not to do that. Snakes, killing our kids, you know, two hours, it's hot. It was the most miserable time. And Elizabeth and I still to this day say, "We didn't, we're lucky that we, that two of us aren't dead [laughs], you know, from trying to buy the mountain house." But that's my story.