August 31, 2021
If you’re on Facebook, you probably already know that my husband Bret and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary in the Smokies last week. It was the first time since our wedding that we were able to take a trip on our actual anniversary. Our honeymoon consisted of a one night stay in the Missouri Ozarks, with stops at Bridal Cave, which just happened to be nearby, and a fish hatchery which just happened to be on the way to our little apartment in Bolivar, MO. (This little side trip clued me in on what life with a wildlife guy would be like.) Bret had to be at Southwest Baptist College to begin his junior year on Monday. Little did we know that he would have to be at school around our anniversary every year thereafter, since he had not received his calling to be a professor quite yet.
Sometime in the first early years of marriage, we decided to go on a vacation. We were basically broke all the time back then, so we made it a camping trip to the Smoky Mountains National Park. I had wanted to go there ever since reading Christy by Catherine Marshall, and Bret wanted to go there because it is the Salamander Capital of the World! We made a few stops along the way, including Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. As we approached the entrance to the national park, we were already excited to see the mountains in the distance, but as soon as we saw the Little Pigeon river, we were astounded. We stopped at every little overlook to take pictures with Bret’s grandpa’s old camera using slide film. We stayed three days on that trip, moving our campsite each day, which wasn’t my favorite part. We have a slide somewhere showing me trying to cook on our little camp stove in the rain on top of one of the mountains. I was not a happy camper, but I was a happy sightseer! A couple of years later, we made another trip from Arkansas where Bret was in grad school, and stayed the whole week in the Smokies, sleeping in the same campground the whole time. That was much less trouble.
At some point while Bret was in school, we did some dreaming about where we might want to live someday. Our first choice was somewhere within 100 miles of the Smokies. Second choice was Arkansas. We considered Idaho, just because it sounded exotic, but we decided that would be way too far from family in Missouri. Mississippi was nowhere on our list, but William Carey College in Hattiesburg was the first to offer Bret a position as a professor, so we packed up our few possessions, our dog, and our baby daughter, and away we went. Although the people were lovely with their southern drawl and hospitality, the climate and landscape was not our favorite. Bret could be happy anywhere, but Debbie really needed some autumn color, winter snow, and a lot less steamy heat to keep her happy. She prodded Bret to look into going somewhere else, and four years later he saw a posting for a vertebrate professor at a place called Cumberland College in Williamsburg, KY. When he returned from his interview, he told me the school was in “a dumpy little town.” I said, “I don’t care. Get me out of here!” And that’s how God answered our young married longing to live close to the Smokies.
I wish I could say we have made dozens of trips down to our favorite place in the mountains, but life revved up once we had three daughters, so we’ve not visited as often as we would have liked. Whenever we go, though, the same “Wow! Look at that!” and “Ooooooooweeeeeeee! That’s gorgeous!” come out of our mouths. Living in hilly Corbin continues to be sweet, as we’ve made this our home, with many friends and a church family whom we love so much. And we’re only 148 miles from the Smokies!