Bryson City Seasons — The Parade of the Century (Part 1)

This is from the thirty-fIfth 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.

THE PARADE OF THE CENTURY (PART 1)

We all loaded into our little yellow Toyota and drove down Hospital Hill to Mitch and Ray’s office and parked there. I carried Kate on my shoulders and Rick had Scott on his. Barb walked between us. The streets were packed with people waiting for the parade, and we worked our way up Everett Street, past Cope Chevrolet and Super Swain Drugs, then crossed the Tuckaseigee River bridge and walked past Fred Moody’s office and Bennett’s Drug Store.

It was 11:30, and the parade was about to start. The sun was scorching, so we crossed the street to stand under the awning in front of Charlie Robertson’s CPA office. We could hear the first band coming down Main Street. The music got louder and louder and the children got more and more excited as the Cherokee High School Band turned the corner. The crowd was six to eight people thick.

“I had no idea there were so many people who lived here,” Barb shouted to me.

“Me either.”

Once the parade started, we began our critique. The rescue squad float was wholly unimpressive—just the new inflatable rescue raft with several of the guys dressed up in wetsuits and pretending to paddle the raft down Everett Street. The Smoky Mountain mental health office’s “Crazy Float” was really just staff dressed up as crazy doctors and nurses riding in the back of a pickup truck. Doc John and Becky were, of course, riding on the Super Swain Drugs float. It was a rendition of the old-timey soda fountain, with high school girls dressed up in 1950s-style white shirts, poodle skirts, and bobby socks tossing candy to the kids. It was totally covered with carnations and other flowers.

“Maybe they’re the ones who purchased the flowers!” Rick yelled to me over the noise of the crowd.

The Shriner clowns on their miniature motorcycles followed them. The kids squealed in delight—both at the clowns and at the sheriff’s cavalry that followed. The horses were magnificent. We could hear the crowd murmuring even before the bright red Corvette convertible turned the corner by the courthouse. It was an impressive car, made more impressive by the roaring of the engine. However, the sight of John Cope sitting on the back waving to the crowd was not as impressive as John Mattox’s soda fountain girls!

Following the Robbinsville High School band came the church floats, all on the back of pickup trucks. The most impressive of the three church floats was the float from one of the Baptist churches, featuring a mock-up of the pearly gate and the pastor dressed up as Saint Peter himself. He was a very large man, and Barb shouted out, “That’s one impressive Saint Peter, don’t you think?”

I nodded my assent.

But by far the most impressive float was Clampitt Hardware’s flower-covered pickup truck. Rick leaned over to shout above the cheering of the crowds. “This must be the closest Bryson City is going to get to the Rose Parade.”

I smiled and nodded my head in agreement once again.

Barb leaned toward me and exclaimed, “Maybe that’s where the flowers from Libby’s went.” She was probably right.

Just before the final float appeared, the Swain County High School marching band—the pride of Swain County—paraded down the street. As good as the football team was year after year, the band was as good or better, and their halftime shows were always superb.

Following the band, there was a gap and a pause. Then came the last “float” around the corner. It was strikingly simple—just a motorized wheelchair decorated with red and blue streamers and balloons.

The young black man riding in the motorized wheelchair was strikingly handsome, and his smile was beaming as his eyes swept from one side of the road to the other. Behind the wheelchair walked an older African-American man and woman dressed in red, white, and blue, each waving to his or her side of the crowd.

“I bet they’re his parents!” Barb shouted.

I thought she was probably correct.

The young man was dressed in white shoes with a white shirt and pants. The blackness of his skin was a stark contrast to both the whiteness of his clothes and—as I looked around at the cheering crowd giving the Streeters a standing ovation—the whiteness of the crowd. It suddenly struck me how lily-white the town was— racially speaking. Other than Louise and her husband, Dr. Pat, and a couple of high school football players, I didn’t know any non– Caucasians in the town—or even in the county.

As the Streeters passed, the large crowd of locals continued to give this young man a standing ovation.

“They say he’ll never walk again,” Rick shouted near my ear.They said that about Kate! I thought to myself as I smiled.

I began to feel a bit of a chill and got up to walk into the house and pour myself a fresh cup of coffee. Barb came with me.

I had never heard of the Miss Flame contest. I had no idea what it was. But I was certain of two things—one, I didn’t want to know more, and two, I didn’t want to participate.

“Walt, this is going to be community service at its best. The rescue squad and fire department are having their first annual Fireman’s Day on July Fourth. Diana Clampitt and the fire department auxiliary are planning a really big event. And the highlight will be the Miss Flame contest. Best of all, we can do this together.” “Do what together?”

“Everyone is volunteering. The president of the bank, the mayor, several of the doctors and football coaches, the athletic director, and the director of the health department will all be participating. And it’s all to raise money for the fire department and the rescue squad.”

I was speechless as I poured us both a second cup of coffee. “And as a member of the rescue squad, you really do have to participate.”

“Whose idea was this?”

“Well, I think Diana Clampitt heard about it somewhere. All the wives have talked about it, and we think it’s a great idea. Will you do it? Please? Pretty please?”

“Barb, I don’t even know what it is.”

“Oh, it is no big deal.”

“So what is it?”

“Well, it is a beauty contest.”

“A beauty contest! What does that mean? We’re a bunch of men!”

“Not that afternoon.”

“What do you mean ‘not that afternoon’?”

“Well, that afternoon you gentlemen are going to be ladies. We’ll dress you all up like you are beautiful young women. The winner will be declared Miss Flame.”

Now I was in shock and speechless. I almost dropped my coffee cup. I’m sure my jaw had dropped open. “Dress up like ladies!” I could barely squeak out the words.

“Yes,” Barb matter-of-factly explained. “You are each going to dress up as ladies. There will be an evening gown competition, a bathing suit competition, and a brief onstage interview.”

“Ladies!” I groaned.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m going to be there to take care of you. I’ll show you how to do everything.”

I was nauseous and walked into the dining room to sit down. “There’s no way. Not me! Not in this lifetime!”

“Oh, just think about it a bit. It’s going to be fun,” Barb cried from the kitchen.

As I was continuing to whine, Rick knocked on the kitchen screen door. “Uncle Rick!” yelped Kate, who ran as fast as she could to the door to greet him.

“Hey, Rick,” called Barb. “Come on in.”

Rick came in and picked up Kate. “How you doing, Kate?” Kate gave him a big hug, and he walked through the kitchen into the dining room. “Where’s Walt?” he asked Barb.

“He’s either sitting or lying down in the dining room. I think he’s still in shock.”

“So you must have told him about Miss Flame?”

“This is not funny!” I called out from the dining room.

“Yes. And obviously, he didn’t take it very well,” Barb commented.

“Is he going to do it?” Rick asked.

“It isn’t looking very positive right now.”

“We’ll just give him time. He’ll come around.”

They both laughed. I pretended not to hear them. For now, I knew for sure that Rick had been in on this all along. He still wasn’t even a member of the rescue squad—well, at least he hadn’t gone through the initiation like I had the previous year. Now I even more wanted to be there when he went through it.

“Hey, Barb. Did you hear about who they’ve chosen to carry the Olympic torch in the parade?” asked Rick.

“No. Who is it?”

“Steve Streeter.”

“Who’s that?”

“He’s a kid from Sylva who played defensive back for Sylva. Then he went to play football at the University of North Carolina. He broke his neck playing there and is now a quadriplegic. So Swain County is honoring him today. I think the county is trying to make peace with the folks over in Jackson County—where he’s from.”

“Rick, you’re just too cynical,” Barb commented. “I think it’s a nice gesture.”

I was still lying on the floor, feeling very nauseated. Miss Flame! I thought. That’s not a nice gesture!

TO BE CONTINUED

PAST STORIES FROM BRYSON CITY SEASONS

  1. Dead Man Standing (Part 1) (Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. Eyes Wide Open (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. Auspicious Accidents (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. Answered Prayers (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4)
  5. Rotary Luncheon
  6. Death by Emotion (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  7. The Invitation (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Barbecue and Bacon (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. A Touchy Subject
  10. Family Time (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. Chicken Pops(Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Swain County Football (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Hospital Politics (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. The Bobcat Attacks (Part 1)(Part 2)
  15. Dungeons and Apples
  16. A Tale of Two Surgeons (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  17. Tanned Feets (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  18. Wise Counsel (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. An Anniversary to Remember (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Mrs. Black Fox (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. The Littlest Cherokee (Part 1)(Part 2)
  22. Christmas Firsts (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. The Silver Torpedo
  24. Another New Year’s Catch
  25. Turned Tables
  26. Doctor Dad (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  27. The Phone Tap (Part 1), (Part 2)
  28. Labor Pains (Part 1), (Part 2)
  29. Staph and Staff (Part 1), (Part 2)
  30. The Ribbon Cutting
  31. Mountain Breakfast
  32. Walkingstick (Part 1), (Part 2)
  33. One Big Fish
  34. Memorial Day (Part 1), (Part 2)

PAST STORIES FROM BRYSON CITY TALES

  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)  
  33. One Big Fish
  34. Memorial Day (Part 1); (Part 2)
  35. The Parade of the Century (Part 1)

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2019. 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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