In 2008, shortly after the economy tanked, again, I was trying to think of an activity I could do with my nephew, age five, that was on the cheap. Decided to take him to Sam Houston Schoolhouse and Museum. While there, I found an out of print copy of the Blount County Historic Tour Guide that became our map on a three-year long odyssey. It shows 30+ stops depicting the history of Blount County. I have lived here for 25 years and had only been to four places on the list. Kane had been to the Little River Railroad Museum in Townsend with me two years earlier.
Sometimes it was more the journey than the destination. I used the word “map” loosely. The brochure designer had his heart in the right spot, but the dots showing the buildings could be off by a block or two or …. One day, with no address other than Big Springs Road, we tried to find the “Old Stone House”, the oldest house in the county, built in the late 1700’s. Never did locate it that day. Called the Visitor Center. They gave me some tips. Didn’t work out on the second try. Called the Historical Society. He made a call, and gave me some pointers. Nope. When we spent a morning at the Thompson Brown House getting a behind-the-scenes tour by a wonderfully accommodating woman, she gave me directions. She did a lot of hand waving to no effect. I am actually rather good at following a map, so after stopping at a gas station for further advice, and still coming up short, I did a U turn in the middle of the road and hopped out to talk to a Department of Transportation worker cutting grass on the right of way. He was clueless until I said this home had been in three states and a territory, North Carolina, the Lost State of Franklin, territory South of the River Ohio and our own lovely State of Tennessee. Bingo! “EVERYONE knows where THAT place is!” My suggestion is, when we pull out of the recession, maybe by 2020, the county pops for a marker.
I took Kane’s picture at each place but one. The Mead Haven/Cox House in Friendsville, had three very big dogs in the yard which was posted with some kind of electric doggie fence sign. I would open the car door, the dogs would stand up. I’d shut the car door, they sat down. Open the car door; put foot on ground, they advanced 50 feet. “Kane buddy,” I said, “time for your photo.” He shook his head. His momma didn’t raise no dummy. I bought a big piece of black foam core board and glued on the brochure and all our photos. Twenty-nine photos of Kane, and one of three very big dogs. We took the last tour today, Alcoa Aluminum Plant and the fountain they built for their workers in Springbrook Park. Actually talked about and saw the whole concept of a planned unit development. Many of the four-room houses are still standing with the original slate roofs from 80 years ago.
I am a list person, and while it was wonderful to finish our journey before Kane enters college and I start collecting Medicare, it’s kind of sad. Where do we go from here? History tour of Knoxville? Washington D.C.? The pyramids? Scratch the pyramids. We came back to our Smoky Mountain Bed and Breakfast and practiced making potato pancakes with stir fried apples. We listened to the news about Egypt and Libya while he grated potatoes and stirred the apples in the pan. For eight years old, he has an amazing grasp of world events and a memory like a steel trap. Wonder who learned more? Maybe the question should be, who will remember more! mizkathleen@ Gracehill