Bryson City Seasons — Wise Counsel (Part 1)

This is from the eighteenth chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Seasons, which is the sequel to Bryson City TalesI hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends and family to join us.


Like most married couples, Barb and I always considered our wedding anniversary to be a special day. And in November we would concelebrate our tenth anniversary.

The planning for that special week was going exceptionally well. The furniture was at Sally’s—as were the airline tickets and confirmations for all of our reservations. My accomplices, Rick and Sally, had been able to keep a secret—which, I was learning, was a rare talent in Bryson City!

One evening, with Dorinda taking care of the kids, Barb and I went up to the Hemlock Inn for dinner.

John and Ella Jo Shell would invite us to join their guests for dinner several times a year. Their dining hall was always packed. Each of the seven tables had eight chairs around it. John greeted each arrival at the door and directed them to their assigned table. Seating and eating were strictly family style—with John arranging and rearranging the inn’s guests at each meal, guaranteeing a variety of conversation with people from all over the country.

John and Ella Jo always took pleasure in sprinkling “locals” in with their guests—and we enjoyed being considered locals.

As guests gathered at the tables that evening, the servers brought out large platters and bowls filled with fried chicken, green beans with ham hocks, ham that could easily be cut with a fork, creamy potatoes with brown and sawmill gravies, candied carrots, and a basketful of steaming-hot yeast rolls with local clover and wildflower honey but- ter and an assortment of homemade toppings and jams. At the ping of a small bell, John said grace, and then we all enjoyed a delectable dinner and fabulous fellowship.

An elderly man sitting next to us leaned over to Barb and inquired, “You young people here for your honeymoon?”

Barb and I laughed, and he looked a bit surprised.

“We were newlyweds,” Barb responded.

“Were?” the man’s wife asked.

“Yes,” I answered, “but that was ten years ago!”

“Ah,” she commented, “you must have married very young. And ten years? Can that be true?”

“You’re so kind,” Barb remarked. “And the truth is, we’re leaving on our anniversary trip next weekend.”

“Where are you going?”

Barb turned to look at me and smiled. “You’ll have to ask him. He hasn’t told me just yet.”

“Don’t you think you should?” the man asked me.

I nodded. “Okay, I will.”

Barb looked at me with surprise. “You will?”

“Yep,” I answered. “After all, I’ve got to tell you sometime. And we need to pack the right stuff, don’t we?”

Barb chuckled. “You’re finally learning!”

I looked at our dinner companions. “What she’s referring to is the fact that I didn’t tell her where we were going on our honeymoon, and she wasn’t able to pack exactly what she needed.”

“So where are you taking her?” the woman asked.

“Well, first we’re going back to our honeymoon hotel–the Polynesian Resort at Disney World. I’ve talked to the manager, and they’ve scheduled us to stay in the very same room in which we spent our honeymoon.”

“Oh, that’s sweet!” the woman exclaimed.

Barb looked surprised. She had let it be known that Walt Disney World would not have been her top choice for a honeymoon location in the first place.

“That’s not all,” I explained. I looked around. By now, all of our tablemates were listening to the conversation.

Then we fly to Miami to catch a cruise ship for a seven-day Caribbean cruise.”

A small round of applause broke out at the table, and Barb smiled.

“Now you’re talking!” the woman exclaimed.

“You are educable!” Barb added, smiling.

Peals of laughter echoed around the table.

After dinner, Barb and I walked outside to sit on the deck of he inn overlooking the Alarka Mountains. This particular night we had to wear light coats, as the evening air was cool. So we just sat beside each other, gently rocking in the rocking chairs and lis- tening to the evening sounds as we viewed the spectacular vista.

“A penny for your thoughts,” Barb whispered.

“I was just thinking about our marriage—especially over the last three years.”

Barb reached out to take my hand. “It hasn’t been easy, has it?”

I shook my head. “Barb, besides being a single parent or losing a child to death, I’m not sure there’s greater stress on a mar- riage than raising a child with a disability. And you’ve done such a marvelous job.”

“We’ve come a long way, Walt. I’m pleased with that. But raising a strong-willed boy isn’t easy either.”

I laughed.

“What’s so funny about that?”

“I was just thinking about the evening I found you nearly at the end of your rope.”

“You could tell?”

“You bet I could!”


“Well, besides the fact that you were nearly in tears at the kitchen sink, there were the two wooden spoons—one stuck in each back pocket of your jeans. I could tell it hadn’t been a good day—for you or for Scott!”

Barb laughed. “I think Scripture saved his life that day.”

“Really? Which one?”

“Exodus 20, verse 13.”

“Got me!” I confessed. “What does that verse say?”

“Seems to me it’s a key verse in parenting.”

“You’ve still got me stumped, honey.”

Barb chuckled. “It says, ‘You shall not murder.’”

We laughed and then rocked a bit more. My admiration for her as a woman, a wife, and a mother continued to grow.

My thoughts raced back to when Barb and I met. We were in kindergarten—at five years of age. We each had three siblings and professional moms who set aside their careers when we were young to devote energy and love to raise us.

Our parents practiced strict discipline and had high expectations for us. We were required to eat breakfast and supper with the family. We took vacations together and developed family holiday traditions. Not only were our parents committed to us; our extended families—aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents—encouraged, nurtured, admonished, supported, loved, and protected us as well.

We truly were blessed to have been raised in nurturing families—and to have parents who were committed to each other for life.

The word divorce was never in their vocabulary. No matter how tough things might be, staying together as a family was a high priority.

These commitments to family and marriage provided a strong model and foundation for Barb and me.


  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1)(Part 2)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  30. The Showdown (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  31. The Initiation (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  32. Home at Last (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2017. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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