In 1972, we traveled to Tennessee with my sister Judy and her family. After seeing Nashville and Chattanooga, they drove onto Florida, while Dad, Mom, Pat and I swung thru Virginia to see relatives there again.
The Country Western Hall of Fame must not have done much for me, because I don’t remember any of it. All I can see of it is the picture that someone took of Judy and Claude with two of their kids, Paula and Brian, in front of it. The young siblings were wearing matching outfits, Paula in pink of course and Brian in blue. The Wax Museum of Country Stars scared me; the figures looked so life-like. Either Pat or Dad kept saying, “Look at that. That figure just moved!”
Chattanooga was much more interesting.
Rock City, acres of rock gardens through wooded paths and narrow passages of solid rock, had been the dream of Frieda and Garnet Carter. They were also the ones who invented Tom Thumb golf, which would one day be known as Miniature Golf. Rock City also had Lover’s Leap, a rock outcropping several hundred feet above the valley floor. To get to it, a person had the choice of crossing a solid rock bridge or a Swing-Along bridge held up by cable. Naturally Pat charged across the swinging bridge with Dad swinging it all the way. I plodded across the rock bridge, scared enough by the distance to the chasm below that I certainly didn’t want to feel as if I would be tipped right off of it.
Following the beauty of the outdoors, the trail went indoors to Mother Goose Land, a cave-like place with cubby holes filled with figurines lite by Black Light. The figures were kind of lame, but the black light was astounding. We laughed at each other’s glow-in-the-dark teeth and at any white we had on our clothes. At that time, we were leading very sheltered lives.
Shortly after Chattanooga, Judy’s family headed south east, while we drove straight east to Virginia.
The first night we were on our own, we stayed in Cherokee, North Carolina, a little town on an Indian Reservation. Some time in the middle of the night, I woke up with a severe stomach ache. Soon, I was in the toilet with diarrhea – not a good thing in those close quarters. Next I was throwing up. Mom says she wasn’t overly concerned until I started passing blood, then it was time to pack up camp and find a hospital.
I don’t remember how we got to the hospital; all I remember is laying on a gurney in the Emergency Room. I slept on and off, while Mom sat at my side the entire night, and once when I was sleeping I dreamed about Cheerios. What in the world was up with that? And more importantly, why do I still remember that all these years later?