We arrived in Southeastern Tennessee at dusk. Our cabin was covered in a thin layer of frost. But no snow.
I was hoping for snow.
My good friend, Jim, lives in this area and tells me they have a coyote problem. So I am keeping my eyes peeled for anything that resembles scavenging canines near our cabin.
I have always had a looming feeling that coyotes are going to be what finally kills me.
Anyway, we are in Tennessee for a getaway to celebrate our fifteen-year belated anniversary. After I finished unpacking, my wife insisted that I build a fire.
So, I went outside into the cold to get firewood. I loaded an armful, keeping a lookout for ravenous coyotes. I think I saw one or two on the roof, but I can’t be sure.
On my way back inside, my foot slipped on a piece of ice. I was airborne. The last thing I remember is watching hickory logs fly upward into the night.
When I awoke, I saw my old Little League coach, Mister Whiting, standing over me, smoking a cigarette.
He said: “Get on your feet, and quit whining or the coyotes will eat you!”
“Yessir,” I said.
Then he popped my rear and said, “Can’t never could! There is no ‘I’ in team! Quitters never win and winners never quit! Have you called your mama? I wish I could call mine!”
It was obviously a hallucination, Mister Whiting has been dead for many years. I can’t remember how he passed, it was either old age or coyotes.
I finally got a fire going. A roaring fire does something to the primitive man in me. I love a fireplace, and when I tend logs I do it with the sincerity I would use to guard a bank vault.
I kept looking out the window for snow, but no luck.
The next morning, my wife had a full day planned.
Many wives enjoy leisurely vacations, but not mine. My wife prefers intensive, white-knuckled, non-stop vacationing. Meaning: if vacationing were an actual televised sport, my wife would be doing commercials for Nike.
We ate a big breakfast at the Smokehouse Restaurant, then we went to Sequatchie Cove Farm to take a cheese-tasting tour.
The dairy farm was beautiful, peppered with cattle, sheep, and greenery. We sampled gourmet cheeses in the creamery. We ate an assortment of bleus, natural-rinds, and reblochons.
The tour guide told us the history of each cheese variety and explained which wines pair best with which cheeses. For example: a 1997 Beaujolais Nouveau would pair nicely with a savory semi-soft washed rind cheese wrapped in fig leaves.
When I raised my hand to ask the tour guide if they had a cheese that paired well with a 2019 Natural Light beer, my wife almost broke my ribs.
We ate so much artisan cheese it will be a wonder if my lower intestines ever function again.
Right after the cheese-tasting, my wife wanted to go to supper. I wasn’t hungry because I was still digesting a block of cheese the size of the Dave Clark Five. Nevertheless, I agreed.
So we drove to Monteagle, and ate a large supper of fried chicken, collards, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, apple pie, and ice cream. My wife had to call for a wheelbarrow to roll me to the car.
Thus, after a full day of eating and exploring the majesty of the Volunteer State, we were finally ready to do what all exhausted tourists do after a long day. We went shopping for cast iron cookware.
South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, is home to the Lodge Cast Iron Outlet, a factory store offering 9,300 design variations of your basic skillet.
They have skillets of every kind, from everyday casual skillets to stunning spring-formal skillets. They have skillets made in the shapes of a largemouth bass, skillet decor, pocket skillets, concealed-carry skillets, and skillets with Dolly Parton’s autograph imprinted on the bottoms. My wife bought two of every kind.
Finally, we got back to the cabin. I crawled into the bed and almost fell asleep. But it was short lived.
“Go build a fire,” my wife said. “I’m cold.”
Well, you don’t always win every battle in marriage. I went outside and collected firewood against my will. But I’m glad I did because I saw something breathtaking.
White flurries, falling from the sky.
My wish came true. The adult in me was filled with childhood wonder and it brought a smile to my cold cheeks. It’s impossible to look at snow and not feel grateful for good food, good cheese, kind people, and the basic joys of life. I couldn’t have been happier if you filled me with butter.
But when I turned to walk inside, I slipped on a patch of ice. I fell face first onto the gravel. I was knocked unconscious, then attacked by a pack of fifty bloodthirsty coyotes.
No, I’m only kidding. There were only forty-nine.
It’s been a great fifteen years, Jamie.