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Rock City brings back happy memories for me. I remember going there with my family when I was a little girl. We never got far from reminders of Rock City when I was a girl. In the Southern vernacular, “there’s no tellin’ how many” Rock City barns we passed when we drove any distance at all.

<em>Rock City Barn. Courtesy: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.</em>
Rock City Barn. Courtesy: Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Garnet and Freida Carter founded Rock City in 1932 during the Great Depression. Tourists didn’t start pouring in immediately. To increase the count of visitors, Garnet hired sign painter Clark Byers to travel across the East, asking farmers if he could paint their barns in exchange for the privilege of adding the words “See Rock City” or some other slogan to their barn roof or one of its walls. By the time he retired three decades later, he had painted about 900 barns in 19 states. Of those 900 barns, about 80 remain. Tennessee has more than any other state.

My memories of seeing Rock City barns while I rode along in the back seat of my parents’ Ford Falcon and my memories of actually walking through the rock gardens myself are sweet, in spite of the fact that our visit to Rock City was the source of my only childhood nightmare that I still remember today.

Freida Utermoehlen Carter had a fascination with German folklore, and she collected statues of fairy tale characters. In the mid-1940s, she and Garnet added Fairyland Caverns to the attractions at Rock City. The source of my nightmare was inside Fairyland Caverns.

Visitors to Rock City walk through wide vistas in some sections and through narrow rock passageways in others. Fairyland Caverns is nestled inside an underground passage. As visitors follow that pathway, they peek into openings in the rocks where artists have illustrated fairy tales with elaborate dioramas. Here is the diorama of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

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As we entered Fairyland Caverns last Thursday, I teasingly asked Ray if he would protect me when we got to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I very much enjoyed my walk through Fairyland Caverns that night, just as I had many decades ago. I don’t know why the scene of Goldilocks and the Three Bears triggered a bad dream for me when I was a child, but it did. I will spare you the gory details. Let’s just say that in my dream, I ended up inside that cavern in the rock with those three bears and that one of the bears turned out not to be such a friendly bear after all.

This is how the Three Bears diorama looked last Thursday.

Charlene and the Three Bears

Ray and I were just being silly when he took this picture of “brave” me beside Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


It was easy to face my now-pretend fears last Thursday night. Real fears aren’t so easy, but God has real solutions for whatever fears you have.

Are you afraid you will not have what you need?

And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink,
and do not keep worrying.
For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek;
but your Father knows that you need these things.
Luke 12:29-30

Are you afraid of sin?

. . . if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin,
we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.
If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:7-9

Are you afraid of tragedy or death?

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor things present, nor things to come,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other created thing,
will be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

I pray we all enter the New Year with our fears safely in God’s hands.

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