Travels with Boop

By Blaney Pridgen

All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views  and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser. 

My wife and I recently travelled on holiday. We passed through North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee over sixteen days. And, yes, we did all the right things to minimize exposure to the virus, same as we would have done around here. Nonetheless, we know we were at greater risk than holing up at Buncombe Street, the Bi-Lo and Dollar General. But more about that in a minute. First, I select one very strange experience to share…

Our haphazard navigation required passing through Sevierville and Pigeon Forge. Twice! It is difficult to figure out how a place like that would be a crown on the beautiful Smokey Mountains. No, “crown” is too good of a word. Let’s call that area a hat; better yet, let’s call it a bill cap, familiar to us all whether we wear one or not. That geographical and cultural oddity sits on the mountains like Buba’s cap. The last time I visited a similar place was on the coast of South Carolina well north of Charleston. Leaving the strip through Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, I marveled how that is in fact a destination for some folk, and not just a place to pass through as quickly as traffic allows.

We saw a several story facsimile of King Kong on an Empire State Building. We saw two large upside down constructions with questionable oddities inside. We saw pirate ship buildings and a restaurant in the shape of the Titanic. We saw all manner of eateries that are variations of Cracker Barrell and barbecue places,  only they were more outrageous in blatant sentimentality for some homespun frontier time. One of the miniature golf courses had a hole designed around a large devil’s head through whose angry gapping mouth one tees his ball. Then, there were the amusement park rides for the joys of children and the misery of grandparents. And then, there was the largest knife store in the world! The show stopper for me was the Civil War playhouse billing a performance that “would make you laugh and make you cry.” I could go on, perhaps laughing and crying. 

Another strange experience was how variously the masks and social distancing was (and was not) observed throughout the four states. Considering that we were among fellow travelers most of the time and they were from another state as we were, then the precautions are probably less effective and maybe even voided as population groups move about in the grand mix of things. A hermit in the backwoods of the Blue Ridge Mountains might catch a vapor of virus drifting over from Dollywood. Who knows?

I am continually amazed by the rich variety of cultures and the strip subcultures,

of races and mixed races, that make up our nation. We need to be a federally moderated democracy in a regulated capitalistic economy that also has some necessary socialism. That sounds messy and it is, but so is our population unevenly divided into so called sovereign  states. It is a delicate dance but if we don’t do it and make it work, then we will end killing each other like the Hatfield and McCoys, who also figure large in the Pigeon Ford world. We begin this grand experiment by individually giving the bums of our lives a break, because we each and all are somebody’s bum too. This includes peaceably voting and graciously accepting the outcomes and participating in the census, so we can know just how different we are, and needy.

It was good to come home to Edgefield. And, by the way, my nickname for my 

wife is “Boop,” otherwise known as Betsy. She tells me what to leave out in my editorials. Believe me you would thank her and I have more friends in the process.