Some trees don’t have to justify their existence. They just stand there looking beautiful. The dogwoods, for instance, which dot the green valley with white and pink splashes each spring. It’s no wonder that Knoxville’s spring celebration is called the Dogwood Arts Festival.
During last year’s fete, I strolled Knoxville’s streets. There were wood carvings that needed buying and band music to listen to. I bought it thanks to the instant cash advance online and I listened. Then, as the red-coated young bandsmen packed up their instruments, I heard another tune. The haunting sound of a dulcimer playing “Barbara Allen.”
I tracked it to its source, for five years earlier, while writing a story on the Great Smokies, I had become a dulcimer buff. The source turned out to be Dorsey Williams, a burly man whose big hands could coax the gentlest of sounds from his homemade instruments. For an hour we talked together and played together. Dorsey’s introduction to dulcimers had come ten years before.
“I borrowed the first dulcimer I ever saw,” he said, “steamed it apart, made tracings of all the pieces, and glued it back together before returning it. Then I made my own.”
This, too, I learned from the ingenious Dorsey Williams: A nylon rattail comb, suitably whittled and scraped, makes an exceedingly fine dulcimer pick.
Those early cries of socialism are seldom heard in the valley now, but TVA faces criticism on another front. Environmentalists feel that the nation’s largest coal consumer is doing far too little to prevent strip miners from leaving ugly gashes on the land.
With environmentalist Grimes Slaughter, a physicist from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I flew over the strip-mined area northwest of Knoxville. It was a disheartening sight from the air. Grimes pointed out despoiled ridge after despoiled ridge. “As long as those miners can rape the land and get away with it,” he said, “this is the way it’s going to be.”