Tennessee Mountain Stories

Out for a Stroll


Today we have walking tracks and treadmills in our homes or we drive to a gym to walk for our health.  Some of our larger (and generally northern) cities still have some foot traffic, but here in the south, we tend to drive to shop, drive to work, drive to church – wherever we are going, we’re going in a car, truck or SUV.  But it wasn’t too long ago that walking wasn’t a pastime or a form of exercise; walking was the means of getting where you needed to go.

                Last week we talked about the scarcity of cars on the plateau even well into the 1940’s and 1950’s.  But if you think about not owning a car, and not having any kind of public transit system, can you then imagine the walking part?

                Young folks always enjoy each other’s company.  They would walk miles and miles to go to revival services, picking up more kids as they went along.  The people in Martha Washington remember going to church in Hanging Limb and Muddy Pond – now that’s just about 9 miles, but you’ve gotta climb through an awfully steep hollow, crossing Hurricane Creek.  They also regularly trekked to Rinnie, requiring them to cross the hollow across Clear Creek to make that 7 mile trip.

                Today, the trip to Jamestown, Crossville, or Cookeville – those places where most people have to do business is a 30 minute drive with paved roads and 55 – 70 mph speeds.  But without a car, it was common to make the trip on foot.  The constables would in fact sometimes walk a prisoner to the jail in Jamestown. 

                Lelon Stepp found work in the Homestead (probably when the homestead was being built) and while he could stay there while he was working, he made his way home periodically.  On one trip, he bought his mother a stand of lard and headed home.  That 27 mile walk might be daunting enough, but with the addition of approximately 50 pounds of lard I can scarcely imagine it.  You may be thinking that 50 pounds isn’t so much; we commonly load a pack for hiking that heavy.  But a lard stand is bulky and awkward to carry.  He could only have hoisted it onto his shoulder.  That day, Lelon only had to walk as far as Isoline (15 miles from the Homestead), where he met a neighbor who gave him a ride the rest of the way home to Martha Washington.

                We read in The Bible of Jesus and His disciples walking great distances to preach and teach.  We know that Paul, Silas, Barnabas and Timothy set out on foot on great missionary journeys.  We can look at the maps, and even pictures of the Israeli Mountains.  But it becomes reality when we know the hills and hollows that surround the Cumberland Plateau and we think of our family and neighbors who started out without a concern or complaint for making the trip.  How many of us would sit down and pout if we couldn’t get to the grocery store without a long walk?  Can you imagine our teenagers’ response if we told them the mall was just a jolly 20 mile walk away?  There is certainly a lesson to be learned from these folks, and we should remember them the next time we are stuck in slow moving traffic while sitting in the comfort of our automobiles.