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An Open Letter & Open Report / Mom’s Going Home Celebration In East Tennessee

June 7, 2018: Mom’s Going Home Celebration In East Tennessee

Dear Miss Lunelle,

I would arrive in Johnson City, Tennessee, early, where I would await to rendezvous with you and Mr. McCallister for our journey to Mountain City, Tennessee to make the final arrangements for mom’s funeral on Monday, June 4, 2018.

I would drive over to what used to be Dixie BBQ Restaurant, now Nick’s, as I had done thousands of times before Mr. Howell sold it. Today would be my first time back since the sale. On those occasions, I would park in the restaurant lot, grab up the Southern Cross and either march up the road four or five miles, or post the colors in the public easement outside the restaurant, or do both.

However, on this day, I surmised that since I did not know the new owner, I should go inside the restaurant, introduce myself and tell him or her of my intentions and seek permission to park my car in their lot as I had done so many times before. Upon entering the establishment, I would ask the young girl behind the counter if the owner was in and if I could speak with him or her?

Her reply was that the owner was not there, but his son was. After what seemed like an eternity of standing at the counter, she would return from the kitchen area and report to me that he was busy, and that it would be 30-40 minutes before he could speak to me. I would give her my business card that has a photo of myself don in the Southern soldier’s uniform with the Southern Cross in hand, and ask her to relay my intentions and request to park. She and a young man would return with the message that this was unacceptable to the owner’s son because Sunday was their busiest day and that a car taking up space and not being a patron was too much to bear.

I thanked them, parked my car in the Tennessee DOT visitor section of their parking lot, and posted the Southern Cross in the public easement outside the restaurant. About 30 minutes later, a middle aged white man that I surmised to be a waiter, cook, or dish washer came to where I stood… “Sir, while I am a fan of the Rebel flag, and don’t have anything against it, we can’t have you standing outside this establishment because some of our patrons might be offended by it.” “Sir,” I would reply, “I am standing the public easement, expressing my 1st Amendment right, and I am not going anywhere until I am good and ready.”

His demeanor immediately changed. “Well, we have already called the police,” he angrily retorted, “and I suggest for your better good that you git before they git here.” “God bless you sir,” would come my reply. “However, let me reiterate, I am going nowhere and shall await Johnson City’s finest.”

Angrily he stomped off. Some three hours later after greeting many of these patrons, some of whom I had greeted many times over the years, posing for pictures with them, hugging them, and recanting my debacle with the new owner, you and Mr. McCallister would arrive, park in the restaurant lot, and I would tell the aforementioned story. And, you would ask how I was doing? Tired, hungry and somewhat disappointed was my reply.

And, I must say I was somewhat surprised when you said, “Lets go inside the restaurant and be patrons!” “Not in there, Ms. Lunelle” would be my stubborn reply. You had that “Ms. Lunelle” look on your face and that twinkle in your eye. “Lets take the high road, HK!” And, I surmised, as Mr. Mack and I had done on more than one of these occasions, “Ms. Lunelle knows best!”

I would march back up the hill, retrieve my car, park it in the restaurant, because now I was to become a patron. Over the many years that I had come into this building, I had always been treated like royalty, but I must say that the treatment that was now being laid upon you, Mr. McCallister and myself far surpassed that; it was a one hundred and eighty degree turn around from what I received several hours earlier. As we exited the establishment with the staff still fussing all over us, and me with my huge to go cup of ice tea, my thoughts were … Ms. Lunelle’s High Road.

Mr. McCallister and I in front of Nick’s after supper

We would make our way on to Mountain City where, upon arriving at the funeral home where mom’s body lie in state, don in my special Dixie Outfitters shirt, I would post the Southern Cross, waving and greeting the citizens who passed by. I know mom would have been proud.

Shortly thereafter, we would make our way up the road to the beautiful historic city of Abingdon, Virginia to the Washington County Court House where we would visit the Confederate soldier’s Cenotaph.

Abingdon, VA in front of the Washington Co. Courthouse

And to the delight of the many who passed by, I would post once again the Southern Cross, posing for photos and waving. One curious gentleman asked, “Is this a stunt?” and after I explained what the flag meant to me, gave me a hug and invited me to visit his studio, which I accepted after we had supper at the Dinosaur watering hole (Martha Washington Hotel). I know that as mom was looking down from Heaven, she was so happy to see us having such a wonderful time as we had come to celebrate her life!

I was so honored and proud to be selected by you, Ms. Lunelle, to be one of the pallbearers for Mom, and even more proud to be don in the uniform of the Southern soldier and to have his colors posted at Mom’s graveside ceremony in Doe Valley, as Pastor Morrell presided over it. I know that Mom would have been so proud. And, I can’t help but think that she had something to do with the wind that kept the colors standing tall during the entire ceremony.

I would tell all those gathered at the graveside ceremony that “I loved Mom because I knew that Mom loved me.” And now I know that she is in Heaven, and that God loves her because he knows that she loves Him! God bless you, and many thanks for allowing me to share a part in your mom’s life here on earth!

Your Brother,