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From the Publisher's Desk – Wealth isn't counted in money (July 22, 2015 issue)

“You’re not from around here are you,?” would have been the typical question asked by many who saw the musicians at Food Lion last Friday.
Dressed in baggy, tattered clothing made entirely of multi-patched pieces to T-shirts and shorts, they caught your eye. Yet all three were smiling, happy and, seemingly, not a care in the world. Each played an instrument – ukulele, fiddle and guitar.
A few had gathered around to listen as they played and sang. When I came back out of the store, someone said “You need to get a picture of this for the paper.” I was thinking the same thing.
I spoke with the group and they seemed thrilled by the idea. It turns out they had just traveled from Hot Springs, N.C., across the Appalachian Trail, to Erwin. The day before they tried playing music outside of Walgreens but a storm brought a quick halt to that. They had stayed at a type of hostel locally, where a hot shower was a grateful welcome. A thing most of us take for granted.
I asked them where home is and they pointed to a few things in some pouches that were resting over by the wall of the store. You see, it turns out they didn’t have a home and hadn’t for years.
I have often admired people like that, especially those that can go off with no agenda and travel the world, while working a job for quick cash before moving on. Unfortunately, I am the type that has to have security. Even if the situation is bad, I stick it out because I am afraid of change.
The three were David, his sister Sarah, and her boyfriend, Matthew. They were also accompanied by two dogs, Cholula and Fuzz Master Mike. Sarah met her boyfriend in California.
“Where do you go from here?,” I asked them. It turns out that David was on his way back to Iowa, where his girlfriend and mother are. Sarah and Matthew think they will head north. “How will you get there?,”
I asked. Hopping a train was their response. They were hoping to catch a boxcar in town later that night.
I was reminded of the phrase “hobo.” I looked it up and found that it was a group of people who would travel from place to place, work some and move on. The trio played and sang, mostly original material.
The dogs had their packs strapped across their backs. “They have to carry their own weight,” said David. “It is amazing how just a little makes a big difference when you are carrying it on your back and walking.”
The three had been singing at the store for over an hour. With mandolin case open, they had been tipped a generous amount during that span.
David, who played the mandolin, showed me the markings on the instrument. It turns out it had been stolen in California by a gang who wrote various comments on it in a graffiti manner. The gang were later arrested for other crimes. One day, David was walking along and a man approached him, recognized him and said “Here is your instrument back.” The man had gotten out of jail and recognized David as the rightful owner. He knew it was his because of the unique way it was strung, a trademark of his style. However, he would never have known it from the newer markings.
I enjoyed talking to the three musicians and hearing their music. I admire their free nature and wish I could be more like them. Sometimes I worry over the fact that I base so much of my life on comfort and possessions.
In Ecclesiastes, chapter one, verse 14, Solomon says “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” I read that in today’s world, King Solomon would be worth billions. He asked for wisdom from God and those who would come to visit him for guidance brought rare and mighty gifts. Solomon became so immensely rich that all his cups were made of gold. His wealth was so great that gold and silver were as common in Jerusalem as stones. Yet, he realized that they were all vain and would pass.
The key is not in the natural wealth but in having enough and appreciating it and where it comes from. In many ways we are all wealthy.
Speaking of hobos, I went to the Clinchfield Railroad Museum, located beside the Unicoi County Heritage Museum, Saturday to make some photos of the “Hobo Dinner.” It was amazing.
With tents and tables set up on the grounds, it was the perfect setting for an delicious meal to benefit an amazing tribute to one of the greatest historical aspects of our county, the railroad. If you’ve not been to the museum or railroad museum, you must make the time. It is well worth your while. It is another one of those backyard treasures that too many take for granted.
With a meal consisting of soup beans, cornbread, coleslaw, potatoes and dessert, you couldn’t go wrong. It was also a good time to see some amazing folks who were helping with the event, Martha Erwin, R.O. Smith and Barbara Ollis. Martha is proud of the museum and proud of the railroad heritage. We are lucky to have someone with such enthusiasm overseeing the facility.
Hobos tended to hop a train to travel from town to town. I guess that is where the name of the meal came from. I know that whether you are hobo or not, Saturday’s event would be pleasing to all.