The Little People I Discovered in Chattanooga, Tennessee

On my last trip, the wife and I visited Tennessee and everyone told me I was tall. Even though I’ve been getting that comment all of my life, It happened a lot more often during this trip.  Maybe in Texas people are expected to be huge, I don’t know, but I felt like a sideshow attraction. Being a frustrated writer, I had to come up with a more fun explanation.

So, allow me to show you our trip and also let you in on a little secret I learned.


We stayed in a Victorian era train car that had been converted into a hotel room. It’s smaller than it looks, and I banged my head on many things. The water from the showerhead hit me square in the belly. Washing my face wasn’t easy.

We went to Ruby Falls, which is a huge, underground waterfall. It’s very neat. For some reason, every Baby Boomer in our tour group felt like they needed to photograph every square inch of the place with their phones and tablets. Sure, their generation likes to complain about “those darned kids and their cell phones,” but they were the ones holding us up at every turn.

But, more importantly, the caverns leading to the waterfall aren’t very tall.

 Along the way, we were told that the first people to find Ruby Falls traveled through these tiny passages. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but that passage is a foot tall at best. Really–someone crawled through that? Something didn’t seem right.
Then we visited Rock City, a wonderful trail through huge rocks, up high in a mountain. I pretended to be Indiana Jones. As usual.
It’s a beautiful place. Gnomes, eh? Hmmmm…
Visiting that place is sort of like walking through Middle-Earth.
With ridiculously tiny paths.
Who can fit in there?
Fat Man Squeeze. That’s funny. Also, if you’re tall you can’t get through unless you crouch low while walking sideways. Try it sometime. Not as easy as it sounds.
Ooh, Fairyland Caverns! That sounds like a good place to take kids!
Mildly creepy…
Gnomes are watching you sleep! Ok. That’s, uh…hmm…
Gnome hipsters.
Probably inventing Pabst.
Always watching.

While walking through this collection of strange scenes I finally understood all that I had seen.

The creepy menagerie of gnomes that is totally not fit for kids. The tiny walkways and impossibly small tunnels. The way everyone treated my meager 6’6″ like a band of lilliputians surrounding Gulliver.

There was only one explanation: the town was built by gnomes that have learned to live as humans.

I was not walking through a roadside attraction, but a museum detailing the fantastic legacy of these people.

It was obvious to me that the locals were still adjusting to being normal sized. But how did these gnomes grow into human-sized people? I wasn’t sure  until I found this provocative box in the lobby of a hotel that explained everything…

 “I wish I was big…”


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