We drove through the mountains on a narrow two lane road. The long ride from Memphis had placed us in the Smokey mountains at dusk and then night. We came into Bryson City and after finding a room for the night, went out for Mexican food. The whole mountain town is built on the sides of ridges. Driving up several switch backs, we were really high above the road we had come in on. We were here to ride on Great Smokey Mountain Railroad in the morning.
The train left the station at precisely at 10:30 am. We were comfortly seated in a climate controlled car with a meal served on the way. Shortly after leaving the station, a banjo player and guitar player entertained us with some blue grass.
Then there was Tim. He billed himself as a story teller and a mountain man. He talked about how many mountain peaks he had climbed. He had white hair and a white beard, that would have made Santa lust. His voice was that of a prophet. He roamed from car to car keeping the passengers amused. One rant was passionate about ginseng and how greedy people are stripping and depleting the forest of of such a powerful root.
The train stopped for an hour break at a park consisting of several restaurants, and a couple of wilderness outfitters. One hour later the whistle sounded and we all gathered for the return trip. At 3pm the train arrived back at the station and all passengers got off the train and funneled into a gift store.
As I was walking to retrieve my car, I saw Tim one last time. He was sitting in front of a storefront with the name, “Storytelling Center” sign behind him. I nodded and he nodded in return. Later I looked him up online. He is a man who is on a mission to keep alive the culture of the people of the Appalachia. He is located in the small mountain town of Bryson City and he works to make the world a better place. On the train he told stories with passion and a deep love for the mountains and the people there. He is a teacher, working to create grea
te understanding with every person he meets. What he is working on in is to make the world a better place one person at a time. So he hitched a ride on a tourist train and shared what he knew with people he didn’t know and created deeper understanding of the world we live in. I doubt I will ever be able to see ginseng again without seeing the fiery and wounded eyes of the story teller talking about the cost of greed.