Dolly and Me

My rendezvous with Dolly Parton

Because of my obsession with canoeing, people have accused me of being two-dimensional. But then, they’ve said the same thing about Dolly. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Conrad)

Because of my obsession with canoeing, people have accused me of being two-dimensional. But then, they’ve said the same thing about Dolly. (Photo courtesy of Gretchen Conrad)

I first laid eyes on her 35 years ago, the first time I canoed the Mohican River. Through the shadows of a late afternoon – and the fog of too many beers – I saw her standing in the window of an A-frame house high above the riverbank.

I didn’t realize it was Dolly Parton then. Just some lady admiring the riverscape, deep in thought perhaps. So much so that she didn’t notice me. Otherwise, she surely would have waved back when I waved to her.

Over the years, I grew older and wiser – and soberer — and realized she wasn’t real. Just a cardboard standup of Dolly Parton placed in the window to amuse canoeists. Still, I longed to meet her.

I’d come to know the owners of the house, the Conrads. Every time I paddled by I hoped to catch them at home so I could visit Dolly.

Finally, it happened. On Wednesday I was paddling by – en route from Charles Mill Dam to Mohawk Dam – and noticed smoke at the rear of the house. Which meant someone was home or the house was on fire. Either way, I had to investigate.

I shouted up to the house. Gretchen Conrad hollered back.

I beached my canoe on a small gravel bar and climbed up the steep bank through poison ivy and multiflora rose. Anything for a chance to meet Dolly.

The Conrads treated me to a brat and a beer. Then came the real treat. Gretchen brought Dolly up from the basement, where they had been storing her. (Presumably along with the John Wayne standup who later joined her in the window of the A-frame.)

After visiting with Dolly and posing for a photo, I pried myself away and continued downstream. To camp … and dream of sweet Dolly.

 

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