“You Gotta Turn Around”

My husband (Prit), our oldest son (John), and I were visiting some friends in Beattyville, KY for a few days earlier this summer. Our hostess, Cecille, told us that there were some places nearby where we could go sightseeing. “You can go visit Happy Top,” she said. “It’s just up the mountain, not too far from here.’’ We had heard of the infamous Rocky Top, Tenn., but we had never heard of Happy Top, Ky. Our curiosity being aroused, we set off to visit this tourist attraction. The directions Cecille gave us were relatively simple. However, on our way up the mountain, we were busy talking and didn’t see the sign pointing the way to Happy Top. Realizing before long that we had gone too far, we decided that we had better pull over and ask someone for guidance.

My husband spotted a lady coming out of her house to check her mailbox and pulled the jeep over to ask her directions. “Excuse me, Miss, can you tell us the way to Happy Top?’’ Perhaps this lady thought these North Carolinians were real simpletons for having missed the very obvious sign planted right by the side of the road (yes, I checked on the way back down). But whatever was going through her mind, she took our question very seriously.

She placed her hands on the passenger door and said in her thick Kentucky accent, “You gotta turn around and you gotta go back. You done gone too far. And when you get back down the mountain, you’re gonna see a row of three brick houses — boom, boom, boom!’

She sliced her hand through the air three times for emphasis.

“When you see those three houses, don’t go any further. You’re gonna turn right at that road that’s right before them houses, and when you go up that road, you’ll pass the First Church Assembly of God (I looked, and no such church bears that name by the way). You’re gonna take that road straight up and it’ll take you all the way to Happy Top.’’ And while we sat there completely mesmerized by this woman’s utmost sincerity, she finished it off by instructing us one last time (no, I’m not exaggerating!) — “BUT, you gotta turn around and you gotta go back!’’ The price of our trip to Kentucky was worth it just to meet this woman who cared so much about us not losing our way.

I’ve told this story so many times since about visiting Happy Top and our encounter with the Kentucky woman (who looked much like Loretta Lynn, by the way, except for her shoulder length hair). We have had many laughs about how serious she was about something that was not really life-altering. But, when I think of this strong woman who cared so much about us not getting lost again, I am so keenly aware and ashamed of how much less I have cared about others reaching a much more important destination than that of Happy Top. We’re all heading toward one place or another. Heaven is very real and so is Hell. Where is the sense of urgency among us Christians to keep others from losing their way?

The view from Happy Top.

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