When I saw him, he was walking down a back road in Sevier County, Tennessee. He was about a block away from a food distribution point for those in need. His path was leading him towards the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
“I just got out of jail,” he told me. I asked, “Why?” He then started to describe a rocky relationship with his ex-girlfriend. He told me the charge was domestic violence and that he spent several weeks behind bars for a crime that he said, “I didn’t do anything.”
As he was talking I noticed his camouflage sea bag on his back. I asked, “So, you’re homeless now?” He replied in the affirmative telling me how he was staying with a couple he had just met. “They stole my wallet and everything,” he said. “I don’t even have my driver’s license,” he mumbled. “Do you have a tent,” I asked with curiosity? As he talked his salt and pepper hair blew in the slight mountain breeze, “I don’t, I hope to find somewhere to stay up the road,” he stated. I confirmed, “So everything you have is on your back?” He looked to the side as if he were searching for something… “Yes, everything.”
As for Sevier County in East Tennessee, it is made up of about 90,000 residents. The county has an interesting history. It was once part of the Chiaha domain, which is now underwater in the area of the Douglas Dam and the French Broad River. Hernando de Soto stumbled upon the Native American area in the mid 1500’s. Chiaha was the first fortified town that the de Soto expedition encountered.
I have a feeling this traveler I met knows a little about the Indian heritage in the region as he wore a single leaf from his necklace.