Wild River, Beloved Land

A year or so ago, I saw the movie “Wild River” (released in 1960).  As usual, the TV was on as background while I was doing other things, so I didn’t watch too closely, but I got the gist of the story.  A government official shows up in rural Tennessee and must convince a stubborn old woman, Ella Garth, to leave her home and her beloved land to make way for progress.

The movie takes place in the 1930s when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began damming up the Tennessee River and many of its tributaries, submerging land that had been in some families for generations under brand new lakes.  The purpose was to control rampant flooding and to provide power generation.  On its face, a boring story line… unless you lived it.  And the ending was pretty sad, no matter which side you were on.  There was a romantic subplot, but it struck me as an afterthought–and not particularly engaging–compared to the struggle between Ella and the government man, the river and the land.

The picture at the top of this post is of the Cherokee Reservoir, formed when TVA dammed the Holston River in the early 1940s to help meet energy demands at the start of World War II.  The islands in the picture used to be hilltops.  Now they are islands available for intrepid boater-campers to use for a day or an evening of secluded fun.  In the movie, Ella is buried in the old family plot on top of her island, the only piece of the Garth homestead to remain above water.

I took the shot from the Panther Creek State Park Overlook (I made it, Lynda!). Way in the distance on the right hand side you can see the Cumberland Gap, which Daniel Boone helped to clear in 1775, enabling easier passage across the Appalachians for settlers heading from Virginia into Kentucky and Tennessee, a critical peg in the progress of westward expansion.  A few miles from the state park is Morristown, home to the Crockett Tavern Museum (housed in a replica building representing the tavern run by Davy Crockett’s parents near this location in the 1790s).

fullsizerender-1585This rich mix of beauty, history, and storytelling (Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, hosts an annual Storytelling Festival early each October) is one of the things that attracts me so strongly to east Tennessee.  That, and the people.

A couple who befriended me in the campground this summer has taken me on several long drives so that I can enjoy the sights from the passenger seat and not worry about traffic and mountainous, winding roads.  They grew up in this area, and its hills and mountains, rivers and streams, roads and trails are mapped in their bones.  They are not content to sit put, enjoying the view from a distance, but instead are always going out on long drives into the heart of the countryside which, ever-changing, never grows old.  Fortunately for me, they are generous, friendly souls, willing and proud to share this piece of their earth, this piece of their heart.

Enough with the sentimentality!  To wrap up, here are two lovely campgrounds near TVA constructs for interested readers:

  1.  Watauga Dam Campground near Wilbur Dam outside of Elizabethton, TN (link:  wataugadam.com).  A TVA-run campground, it is very small (28 sites) and absolutely beautiful.  You need to travel quite a few miles down a winding, narrow road along the Watauga River to get to it.  The campground lies right on the riverside and has level, gravel sites with E/W hookups for $25-$27 per night.  Thoroughly secluded and peaceful, it also looks to be very well maintained.
  2. Panther Creek State Park Campground on Cherokee Lake, Morristown, TN (link:  tnstateparks.com/parks/campground/panther-creek).  The campground is small (50 sites), with E/W hookups for $20/night.  Some sites will only accommodate smaller rigs, but there are larger sites interspersed.  When making reservations, you might want to call and talk to someone familiar with the campground before picking your spot.  The campground isn’t on the lake but it is a short drive to the overlook, boat ramp, pool, playground, and many hiking, bicycling, and horse trails.  At over 1,400 acres, the park itself is huge and has much to offer.

Happy camping, happy campers.  May you ever be happily ensconced on the high ground, with loved ones and friends to share the view.

(Dedicated to Becky and Roger, Karen, and Jean, new friends and gracious travel-guides during my stay in their home, east Tennessee.)

Another Chapter Closes

Labor Day weekend.  Full campground.  Cooler nights and families desperate for s’mores whittled our firewood supply down three times over.  Maintenance hauled it in by the tractor load, and we delivered it by the golf cart load–my favorite job.  🙂

Aside from some unavoidable old-lady peevishness–brought on by campers who can’t walk on the roads but insist on the shortest path to wherever they are aiming even if it takes them within inches of my window–I have to admit it has been a wonderful weekend closing to this summer in Tennessee.  We didn’t have any trouble.  Not even one complaint, as far as I know.  Just kids flying around on their bikes, playing in the sandbox, tossing a football with dad; campers playing horseshoes, walking dogs, enjoying the pool; water lovers fishing and kayaking in the river that flows along the length of the park.  Families making memories.

Nevertheless, Dawny and I eagerly anticipate tomorrow, when 73 campers will pull out in a long, winding train back to their homes, their lives, their normalcy.  For then we will once again be free to walk the campground loop without fear of an off-leash or too-long-of-a leashed dog rushing us from between the endless rows of campers.  Dawny likes to walk through the park area just fine, but her true joy is keeping track of our immediate neighborhood in the campground, smelling all the news that is fit to piddle.  Boy, she is going to get a nose-full tomorrow!

Meanwhile, the signs of autumn hover over our heads in browning, slowly falling leaves.  In spots they crunch underfoot, announcing the coming season of quickening nightfalls and lazy-rising morns.  The promise of cozy, delectable holiday feasting wafts from the next fluttering page.

Soon enough, we will move on, too.  Close this little chapter and open another.  Until then, I look forward to enjoying the peace and quiet, as well as the vibrancy and color, that comes with early autumn in Tennessee.  It is a beautiful place and we are blessed to be here.

My hope for you is that your next season is as lovely and you are just as blessed.

A Better Place

My fellow camp host’s young daughter, Daisy, made the world a better place yesterday.

The pup in the picture to the left is a stray, wandering the roads around our campground and surrounding neighborhood for the past few months.  No one has been able to get within a hundred feet of him.  As soon as he spotted you, he would take off with lightning speed.  It was remarkable how fast he could run on his tiny legs, especially since one of them appeared to be injured, giving him a sorry limp when he wasn’t flying.

We wondered what his story might be.  Had he been abandoned?  Had he been abused, causing such absolute rejection of all friendly outreach, including bacon and other goodies offered by campers?  Maybe he had been born feral and never knew human touch, loving or otherwise.

Yesterday our head maintenance man found him inside the pool enclosure.  He closed a gate so the pup could not get out, then hung out around the fence line, occasionally trying to get closer to the frightened little captive, who maintained as much distance between them as the fencing allowed.

Enter Daisy.

Daisy and her mother saw the pup in the pool area and asked the maintenance man if Daisy could give it a try.  He let her into the gate.  She sat down.  The pup immediately came over and climbed into her lap.

The world’s measure of good and bad tipped ever so lovingly to the good side at that moment.

FullSizeRender-1537I could not have imagined the kind of transformation that took place before our eyes.  The pup, whom Daisy named Scrappy, melted into her arms as she carried him back to the campground.  He let people pet him without flinching.  He accepted being dunked in a big tub and scrubbed by Daisy’s parents until his fleas abandoned ship and drowned in Dawn dish detergent (Daisy’s mom knows all sorts of handy things).  He politely accepted a new purple collar and leash and proceeded to hop along on his three good legs as Daisy walked him through the campground.

We canvassed the campers and camp staff.  We searched our own hearts and household situations.  There did not seem to be a viable adopter on site for little Scrappy.  So we called a local rescue organization, Forgotten Angels.  Polly Rogers, their director, came over in person.  She took Scrappy to the vet right away.  The limp is the result of an old injury, including a broken pelvis bone that healed over.  He has skin irritation from fleas.  Otherwise, he looks to be in pretty good shape considering his recent lifestyle!

FullSizeRender-1541The vet also scanned Scrappy for chip information and discovered that he had been adopted out of a shelter as a puppy two years ago.  When that family was contacted, they claimed they had given him away to someone else after a year.  Due diligence done in establishing there was not a loving home in search of their lost dog, Polly will take good care of Scrappy until she finds his forever-family.

And that world scale?  It tipped a little bit more towards the light.

(Here is a link to Forgotten Angels for anyone looking to adopt a wonderful pet from the east Tennessee area:  http://forgottenangels.petfinder.com.  You can also find them by searching on Facebook for Forgotten Angels, Greeneville, TN.  If you are unable to adopt, please consider making a donation to an animal shelter or rescue organization close to your heart or home.  Donations to Forgotten Angels, a 501C3 organization, are tax deductible.)