Laetitia planned to go to Tennessee next, but the shortest way of going to her next destination, Kingsport, Tennessee, was through Big Stone Gap in the western tip of Virginia. Though it is an isolated mountain community of 5,000, it is known to millions of readers throughout the world through the novels of former resident, Adriana Trigiani, that include the titles Big Stone Gap, Big Cherry Holler, and Milk Glass Moon. Originally a coal-mining town, Big Stone Gap was the setting of a 1908 romance novel by John Fox Jr. entitled The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. Laetitia and her group made brief stops at the Jane Tolliver House, The Southwest Virginia Museum, and the coal mining museum before heading on to Kingsport.
Located at the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Holston River, Kingsport was an important port city during the nineteenth century for shipping goods by barge downriver to Knoxville, at the confluence of the Holston with the Tennessee River. It was also the scene of a Civil War battle. The group went to two Kingsport museums, the Allandale Mansion and the Mountain Heritage Farmstead Museum. Afterward at their motel bar, Laetitia heard a story that became the limerick of the day.
A Kingsport man who hunted raccoons had a black and tan hound. The dog lived in a doghouse with a run in the man’s yard. On the fence enclosing the run was a sign with the dog’s name, “Houdini.” An old man who went on a walk in the neighborhood every afternoon liked to torment the dog by coming up to the fence and poking at it with his cane. Usually, the racket made by the dog brought its owner or his wife out of the house, and they sent the old man on his way with a string of blistering invective. One day, however, when the owner and his wife weren’t home, the old man teased the dog until it had had enough. It cleared the fence and chased him down the street, grabbing the bottoms of his pants and worrying them until the fabric tore. When the old man finally escaped, his pants were in tatters. After that he chose a new route for his walk. What he didn’t know was that the dog got was named Houdini because of his skill in getting out of his pen.
An old man from the town of Kingsport
Liked to tease penned up dogs by report
‘Til Houdini, a hound
Cleared the fence with one bound
And shredded his pants just for sport.