Every artifact in the exhibit was selected, and blessed, by the Cherokee people.

The Smoky Mountain Heritage Center sits at the base of the Smokies (bet you didn’t see that one coming) about 45 minutes or so from the house. The Center is expansive with three galleries and includes a living history village, but because the forecast rain was moving in (and we were getting hungry) we explored only the charming small seasonal model train exhibit and a fraction of the permanent collection.

The train exhibit is in its second season; the tour conductor, pun intended, is hoping the trend will continue given its popularity. The largest of the three train sets focused on the felling history of Townsend, Tennessee, where the Center is located. Between 1901 and 1939 the Townsend company essentially deforested this region of the Smokies, as there was money to be made in lumber. Thankfully most of the trees were replanted and the area is once again lush.

The Cherokee exhibit is detailed, so we focused mainly on the early history, dating back to 9,000-10,000 B.C. and the formation of Clans.

Standard “Hunter” tools from natural resources, of course. Weighted nets and basket traps to catch fish; sharp tools whittled from antlers, horns, and bones. The Blow Gun seemed novel; though, it was the primary weapon of choice for small game. Makes sense when you think about it.

Handwoven household-use baskets are objects of art in their own right.

Just like the Hapsburgs. Many Cherokee families had two styles of homes: one for winter (to contain heat); and one for summer, for the cooler air to circulate through.

Just a little bit about Sequoyah, developer of the Cherokee alphabet.  There is an entire museum devoted to Sequoyah not too far from Knoxville that is on the exploration list, so, more to follow.

To complete this visit we also learned about the Cherokee Clans, which are hereditary and matrilineal. How marriages were regulated we found interesting, too: Cherokee could not marry someone from within their Father’s or Mother’s Clan as all members were considered family.

All of this written and studied upon, I think I would have liked to either be in the Blue Clan (healers, medicine people for children); or the Bird Clan (messengers). Though, “I am from Wild Potato Clan” is certainly a conversation starter.

We always prefer to leave a museum or palace or wherever with unanswered questions, and that was the case on this visit. Further exploration is most certainly in order. Another preference is to time our touring to wrap up around the midday meal. Luckily for a us a small, family-owned restaurant was nearby.

Tony ordered a burger, as the restaurant is a “Certified Angus Restaurant,” which means, well, just that. I went a little more local with a Fried Bologna Sandwich! An American take on a Leberkäse Semmel, and it was Yum. Why yes, there were even sliced pickles on my sandwich. My side of (fried) Okra bites was exceptional, too: crispy and light, and with the right balance of okra and breading.

The waitress talked us into the Fried Green Tomatoes, informing us that they were her favorite item on the menu. Concerned about the portion size I asked how large the order was, and she replied, “Not large at all. Me and my husband easily share them.”  We will eventually learn.

The tomatoes were packed for take-away and became half of our supper that evening, the other half being a large, leafy green salad. Everything in moderation.