Wednesday, July 23, 2008

RAMBLING ABOUT TENNESSEE

The last peg is in . I'm ready for any weather now. Tuesday, July 22nd finds me once again at the Blue Ridge Motorcycle campground. I am enjoying a vacation and the weather was stifling in the valley where I live, so I opted to spend a day on the mountain and catch up on my reading. The sky was sunny when I left home but quickly darkened as I gained altitude on the Blue Ridge. The fickle Blue Ridge Mountains; they can't decide to be happy and sunny or blue and forlorn. It is 3:30 PM and a gentle shower is steadily falling. I am sitting on a covered swing near the trout pond listening to the rain pattering on the tin roof over me. The tapping of rain on the metal coinsides with the gentle rhythm of falling water as it touches down onto the surface of the pond. Everything smells fresh and clean. The passing breeze carries the fragrance of pine to me. The rain is quickening now and tiny song birds are darting from tree to tree avoiding the rain One little bird chirps incessantly. He will not give up. It seems the harder it rains, the louder he chirps. Occasionally he will ruffle up his feathers and shake himself madly to rid himself of the water on his feathers. A Kingfisher darts wildly toward an exceptionally green hardwood and dissappears into the foilage. There is so much to observe if one would only slow down and see. People in a hurry look; but they do not see. Too many schedules. Too many places to get to. It is better to see what you're looking at rather than look at what you're seeing. Sort of like a car at an intersection whose driver looks both ways, pulls out and is hit by an on coming truck. He looked both ways, but did not see anything. He should have seen the truck coming. Anyway, I guess one must be inclined toward things natural in order to "see" and enjoy them. I do wish Douglas was here with me. I want him here walking about sniffing new things and laying here by the swing I'm sitting on. I truly enjoy making him happy. Each time I go on an overnight on the motorcycle, I get a guilt feeling. He watches me intently as I strap the tent and sleeping bag on the bike. He knows that when I put the helmet on he is not going. I open the gate, walk through it and step to the bike and look back. He is lying on his stomach with both front paws extended to the front. His chin rests on his fore legs and he stares at me. As I drive away, he doesn't move. He lies there watching until I am out of sight. He touches my heart, that dog! If I put my fedora on my head and grab my camera he becomes excited and emits low happy growls. He knows he's going to the woods or to the lake. I will take him to Chilhowee Lake with me on the boat tomorrow when I get home. I miss him so much. My little boy and dear friend. Tennessee conjors up mental pictures of Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, log cabins and corn fields surrounded by forests; endless, beautiful Blue Ridge mountains hemmed in with fog; men dressed in coverall jeans with shoulder straps and shirtless, plowing fields or chopping down trees. The truth is that even though Tennessee, especially East Tennessee, is undergoing a population explosion caused by the migration of folks from other states; real, authentic "people of the earth" Tennesseans can be found on the perimeters of the up scale establishment. A drive on the back roads near the mountains will unveil the real Tennessee. Some roads will carry one to what seems like another time. Aged buildings propped up and wired together are still used for storage and as cattle barns or grain and hay storage The old wood shake roofs have long rotted away and have been replaced by tin. The tin in many cases , is rusting away it is so old. Many of the old barns are collapsed, yet still one can see fresh mowed hay under the fallen roofs. They use it until it is no more. Money is scarce. It seems as though nothing is thrown away. These old barns and cabins, fields of hay and grain and an old 30 year old John Deere tractors lend a flavor to the word Tennessee that can actually be tasted. Dollywood, Sevierville and their associated traffic jambs and tourists attractions are not Tennessee in my mind. They are an expanded Disneyworld gone whild. They are designed to attract tourists. And thats OK.. There's nothing wrong with collecting a tourist dollar or two. But it saddens me to think that the tourist impression of Tennessee is founded upon their experience at Pigeon Forge, Cherokee and Gatlinburg. Tennessee to me is Davy Crockett who was butchered at the Alamo in a cowerdly fashion by Mexicans. It is Alvin York who single handedly captured a company of German soldiers and silenced more than one machine gun nest alone during WWII. She is Daniel Boone leading pioneer family's through the Cumberland Gap and she is the American family hacking their way across a wilderness bearing their children along the way. Her ground became sacred after thousands of Blue and Gray fell on her grasses in a most horrible war! I wish the tourists could read the inscriptions on cemetery tombstones. They are inscribed by proud people. People of the earth People who are not embarrassed to write on marble for all to see, their heart felt thoughts. Tennessee has captured my imagination and my heart. It still holds untouched wild country hidden off the tourist path. But the places will not stay wild forever. The relentless land speculators are intruding into Tennessee's wild places at an alarming rate of speed. The dollar rules in this day and age. The wilderness will fall someday for sure. Not in my life time, I'm happy to say. But it will be diminished to small tracts of wild places, like in Pennsylvania. But, then, thats progress. I'll roam the lakes and mountains with Douglas until I can not any longer. And that will be the start of another story. The Magic Carpet