A&E Columns

This must be the place: ‘Little pink houses for you and me’

The annual Ramp Convention in Waynesville. Garret K. Woodward photo The annual Ramp Convention in Waynesville. Garret K. Woodward photo

Bearing witness to a few fine folks chomping down on handfuls of raw ramps last Sunday afternoon at American Legion Post 47 in Waynesville, it dawned on me that I’ve lost touch with this region. 

It’s not that I’ve stopped paying attention. Far from. I still write numerous stories each week, continually getting the word out about local bluegrass musicians and cloggers, heritage festivals, area fundraisers, family gatherings, farmer’s markets, beloved restaurants, backwoods characters, annual events of interest and seemingly everything else under the hot southern sun.

But, I guess what I’ve lost touch with is slowing it up, dropping it down a couple of gears and smelling the flowers along the road of life. Simply enjoying nothing and everything I may come across in our vast, bucolic backyard that is Haywood County and greater Western North Carolina.

You get so busy and consumed by assignments as a journalist with day-in-day-out responsibilities and priorities, where you find yourself realizing how much time has passed since you, well, took a moment to sit and watch a ramp eating competition. Or something like that. The compartmentalization of life, full tilt.

Nowadays, I’m pretty much on the road every weekend. Tracking down stories around Southern Appalachia and beyond for The Smoky Mountain News and our sister publication Smoky Mountain Living, not to mention doing articles for a bevy of our in-house travel publications — Blue Ridge Motorcycle Magazine, WNC Travel Guide, Beverly Hanks “Welcome” Guide, Haywood Chamber, etc.

And as a contributing writer for Rolling Stone and The Bluegrass Situation, whatever “free time” I may have is spent roaming the Southeast and as far away as California, Montana, Florida and Ontario, Canada, in an effort to document people, places and things that may be of interest to readers, either at home or abroad.

Related Items

It is, quite literally, a constant flow of work, where all I’m doing every single damn day is one of three things — traveling to an assignment, interviewing a subject or writing a piece on said subject to meet a usually tight deadline. However, I love this gig more than ever.

Thus, it was a refreshing feeling to find myself actually in town last Sunday. Sitting on my underutilized porch at my apartment in downtown Waynesville, I was texted about possibly meeting up at the 92nd annual Ramp Convention at the nearby American Legion. Well, heck, I’m around. Why not? I haven’t been to the Legion in years. See you there. Save me a seat, too.

Pulling into the packed parking lot on Legion Drive, the parking gods were looking kindly on me at that moment when an older gentleman backed out in what could only be stated as “prime real estate” — a shaded spot under a sweaty sun, right next the entrance to the Legion.

Wandering into the bar, numerous familiar figures lined the large horseshoe counter. Seat after seat of Haywood County’s finest. Faces and names I initially befriended over a decade ago when I would do boots on the ground community interest pieces. These circled dates on the calendar where generations of family members and lifelong friends would convene over pies, barbecue and sweet tea, all while “spilling the tea” about lord knows what.

Handshakes and bear hugs. Smiles and hearty laughter. Catching up about “this, that and other.” Updates about sick relatives. News about property sales or relocating further south. Mostly small talk, albeit genuine, about the state of things right here in our backyard. Talk of the upcoming presidential election, gas prices or a white-hot real estate market licking its lips over pristine farmland owned and operated by the kind souls sitting around the counter.

And yet, the overarching tone of the banter was merely that of appreciation of one another, here in this fleeting moment in time. Young and old and those somewhere in the middle of the journey of life, once again crossing paths to celebrate the sheer essence of being in the presence of salt of the earth human beings in all too crazy world of meaningless distraction and white noise.

Head out the back door for the baseball field bordering Green Hill Cemetery. No games in motion, just a slew of vendor tents and a concession stand. Way high up on the hillside stage was “local boy done good” Darren Nicholson and his murderers row of talented regional bluegrass and country musicians. The melodies echoed out of the PA speakers, ultimately radiating into the surrounding mountains and ether just beyond where the dirt turns to sky.

As I leaned against the bleachers and listened to Nicholson & Co. roll through the Buck Owens classic “Act Naturally,” an old buddy of mine tapped me on the shoulder to say hello. I turned around and he had a handful of freshly-plucked ramps. “Well, look at that bunch of ramps, my brother,” I said. He replied with a grin and chuckle, “Yep, it’s a bouquet of flowers for my future bride if I happen to finally meet her here today.”

Mosey over to the concession stand. Order two hot dogs. Chow down under the sunshine and humidity of a lazy Saturday afternoon. Another day in paradise right here in Haywood County. Sips of a cold Coors Light draft between bites of the dog slathered in mustard. A great day to be alive, eh? Channel the gratitude and share the vibe. Extend that hand of fellowship to the person next to you.

Not even a couple of minutes after Nicholson finished his set and packed up his gear, it started raining cats and dogs. The heavens above unleashed a short flood of thick raindrops and thunder. Back inside the lounge. 

And just in time, as the karaoke DJ on the small indoor stage announced on the microphone that “whoever wanted to sign up could do so now.” I moseyed on over and scribbled down the same song I always sing at karaoke, the 1969 country classic “Okie from Muskogee” by Merle Haggard.

Belt out the tune with gusto, “We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse and white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all.” End the number with a smattering of applause from those around the counter and in the dining area. Exit the stage. Shake a few more hands, pat a few more backs, all while plans were already in the works for another rendezvous at the American Legion.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

Leave a comment


  • The ramp fest was on SUNDAY May 5th... not "last Saturday"

    posted by E.B.F.

    Wednesday, 05/15/2024

  • The ramp fest was on SUNDAY May 5th... not Saturday.

    posted by E.B.F.

    Wednesday, 05/15/2024

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.