In the mountains to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, Wes and I enjoyed (in retrospect, at least) a ten-mile hike through the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest. We didn’t see anyone at all, no wildlife bigger than a quail (or was it a grouse?), until we made a side trek to see three giant yellow poplars called “Big Trees.” There, we found two horses and two older gentlemen (in real cowboy boots with spurs!), and within two minutes we had learned that one of them lives across the street from Wes’s uncle in Chester, South Carolina. He told us stories about Wes’s youngest cousin stuffing pieces of sponge up his nose as a child. Sounds like Jay!
The other, older man knew Wes’s grandparents in Union, SC. He told us that in 1964, when his brother died, he wanted to spend some time with his fourteen-year-old nephew, so he took him to Big Trees. “We stayed,” he told me—and I was expecting to hear “all afternoon”—”nine days.” Wes asked if the trees were much bigger. “Nope.” Two weeks earlier, he’d become a great-grandparent. “Seems a whole lifetime can go by in what feels like a day.”