Friday, September 12, 2008

Of Dulcimers and Dolly

Up until this afternoon, I thought I had packed everything from my personal belongings that I would need. But when I talked to the staff at Wood 'N Strings Dulcimer Shop in Townsend, TN, I knew I had forgotten one thing--my hammer dulcimer.

When I saw this display of these beautiful-sounding instruments, I realized that those dreams of learning how to play "Simple Gifts" still had a prominent place in my mind. When I was told that I could be taught to play one of their instruments "in five minutes," I groaned. If only, . . . .

Many times I had started and re-started on Lesson #1 ("O Them Golden Slippers") only to put the dulcimer away after getting through a couple of choruses. I was told that "Golden Slippers" was the national anthem of dulcimer players, leading to the following question: "How many dulcimer players does it take to play "Golden Slippers"? Apparently, all of them."

Mike Clemmer has been making dulcimers for over 20 years. The picture on the left shows some of the dulcimers he has built (from left to right: the mountain dulcimer, the "banjo dulcimer," and the Tennessee dulcimer). The banjo dulcimer is Mike's own creation; it is strummed like a dulcimer, but sounds like a banjo.

The unusual instrument on the right is called a "courting dulcimer." The name derives from its use. When a young man would court a young woman, her parents would leave them alone with the dulcimer. As long as they heard the two dulcimers, they knew that all was well.

On our return to the campground, we took a slight detour to see the building that had caught our attention on our drive into Sevierville, the Sevier County Courthouse (side view shown in this photo). It was completed in 1895, and an historical marker near the Courhouse recognizes Isaac Dockery, an African American brick mason in Sevierville, who manufactured the bricks.

The centerpiece of the courthouse is the Seth Thomas clock, located in the 130ft tall tower and is still in flawless operation today. Storm clouds to the south added a striking background to this view of the tower as sundown neared.

As I walked around to the front of the Courthouse, I noticed two statues on either side of the steps leading to the entrance. To the left was the statue of an eagle, a plaque honoring members of the military, and the American flag.

To the right was a statue honoring . . . Dolly Parton.

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