I have found it is a small world filled with God-intended serendipity, chance meetings, somehow meant to be. Coincidences? Are there coincidences in life or is there a sixth sense guiding us? In The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield writes about coincidences. I have always been interested in Teilhard de Chardin’s “sixth sense,” the concept of common intelligence, serendipity and coincidences in the evolution of humans. It just seems too obvious that there is some kind of a master plan out there. Such has been my life and such was my Chance meeting with Hampton.
I met old man Hampton yesterday. It was a chance meeting. I had been up to the Carl Sandburg home place in Flat Rock and our tour guide had said to be sure that you stop by “The Bakery” in downtown Flat Rock.
Well it was not hard to find because downtown Flat Rock is the Bakery. I went in through the very unassuming side entrance door underneath a rather small sign “The Bakery.” I was delighted. It’s a neat little bustling deli-type place with homemade bread, homemade sandwiches and a wood-fired pizza oven. Ahhh! The smell of delicious was in the air.
With a sandwich and one of those iced bottle Mexican Cokes in hand, I looked around for a seat. It’s two in the afternoon in small town North Carolina and the place is jam packed – What’s that all about? I finally settled into a table for two next to two at a table by the window, by the creek. That’s where I met old man Hampton.
“Waddy Hampton Hudson III, most folks call me Hampton, I'm Hampton like the Inn.”
“Tom, Tom Tenbrunsel, down from Weaverville.” We shook hands, juxed across tables.
I was alone and I really do hate to eat by myself. “What you got there, fella?” Hampton pops right-up, nosey-like, as I sat down to enjoy the long-time famous flat rock Bakery’s ham and cheese and spinach sandwich on homemade multigrain, taking a long draw on my icy-cold Mexican long neck. “The midnight special,” I joked. To whit he replied, “Well, shine the light on me!” Hampton was not going to let me suffer eating alone.
I was looking forward to biting into my sandwich. Hampton had already fumbled around to box his pizza but had not yet closed the lid. He was not about to go. He was curious about me, I think, about who I was, from where and about what I was about. Waddy Hampton like Will Rogers, never met a stranger!
I say “old man” respectfully. Hampton sports a young challenging 80, in 2018. He was a small statured fellow with a wily smile and the woman across the table, his younger acting wife. It also appeared Hampton had had a stroke of some type that appeared to affect him physically but certainly not mentally. It certainly didn’t affect his sense of humor. Perhaps this man, an adventurer as I found out, had been slowed a bit, but the sparkle in his eye and that sort of determined, engaging look told me this old boy “weren’t ne’re” finished!
I mean we were in close quarters cause they stack ‘em in tight no matter the time a day at the Flat Rock Bakery. Sensing this gentleman’s wily sense of humor, I casually reached for a slice of Waddy’s wood fired pizza arms length. “Huh?” was his reaction, “Draw back a nub, son!”
I was grinning like a Cheshire cat and Hampton was too. He was there with Elsie, a great looking gal for Hampton, chipper, cheery, with an engaging personality. “Awe, Hampton, share; the boy looks hungry,” she jumped right in the middle of male humor. Hampton had not chosen a wall-flower as a mate.
They both had complemented my boyish humor, referring to me as “the younger.” Making a huge dent in my Bakery sub, I mouthful-ed purposely, “Jeet here offin’?” And not missing a beat Hampton replies, “Yep! Jew!” We spoke the same language.
Hampton asked Elsie to get him something from up at the counter that would’ve taken an hour for him to rise up and fetch. Elsie had just left the table. I leaned over at Hampton, making serious progress on my footlong, “You know (smiling), she’s not coming back! She’s politely gone to fetch something fer ya, but you’ll never see her again; she won’t be back!” Hampton grinning came right back at me with, “She’s got no choice; I’m too doggone good!”
Striking up casual conversation, Hampton and I, with Elsie holding her own, traveled through story after story, after intriguing story. I’ve affected a lot of people that-a-way, and I love listening to their stories.
We found we had walked similar pathways, albeit on separate paths. We covered jobs, kids, cycling, trout fishing, hiking, reminiscing like two old friends reunited, enjoying the story, the humor, the memories and the moment – catching up, if you will.
Hampton grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina. He spent his summers in Montreat, North Carolina (one of five colleges he attended). He was a corpsman in the Navy out of Stockton “ship’s graveyard,” California. One day, Hampton was preparing a patient for surgery and as Hampton tells it, the patient said, “You’re shaking and I’m shaking; one of us has to stop!” It was Hampton’s first surgery.
Hampton enjoyed all the outdoor sports, hiking and canoeing and fishing all over the country. Later Hampton became the Park Ranger for Cape Lookout, NC. One story he tells is about the time he was hiking with his younger son in Pisgah Forest and got lost. Dusk turned to pitch dark and “darn if my flashlight weren’t giving out! So I turned it on and off occasionally. One time I turned it on and was two feet from a cliff!” Someone upstairs has been looking after Hampton his whole life – and he knows and respects Him. Hampton is a Christian. At any rate, he and his son made their way somewhat safely into a ditch up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and “a ranger came just then and gave us a ride.”
Hampton was a youth counselor at Parkway Hospital in Western North Carolina and worked with kids with severe behavioral problems. “Positive rewards works much better than negative. I remember telling an oppositional child one time how better he was; he had only acted out 12 minutes that time! I learned counseling at the Presbyterian Seminary.” Hampton’s grandfather had founded 45 Presbyterian Churches in China in 47 years. Again, Hampton and I shared the same clinical psychology pathway. His sense of person came natural, I had to play the grad school game to git mine.
Hampton worked in Weaverville (my home place now) for a spell where his cousin, Colonel Colin Hudson (former Chief Scientist for the US Army Weapons Command and later Special Projects Manager for John Deere) owned the John Deere Franchise.
Come to find out Hampton knows all those fellas at the “Curtis Wright Outfitters and Fly Fishing Guides” on Main Street, Weaverville, my favorite store in town. “Tell all ‘em fellers ‘hi’ for me,” Hampton offered as if we knew each other a lifetime and he had just been in the store.
Hampton even owned a bicycle shop (another coincidence) in Hendersonville, NC. He even knew “the two young fellers,” owners of Carolina Fatz bike shop, Jason and Keith, who, by chance, are building me an electric assist bicycle! “Well, I'll be darn. Tell them boys ‘hi’ for me too. Small world ain’t it, Tom?”
We had just swapped Appalachian hiking stories, when I pipe up, “Hampton, I need a bike to lift me up to the Blue Ridge in my older age, onward and upwards towards the highest peak in the Eastern Range, right outside my window in Weaverville.” “You know I knew old man Mitchell’s daughter, he said!” “Waddy, who don’t you know?” He just grinned. Hampton has walked most every trail in these hills and fished the abundant trout streams - and then some. He marveled that I had Cross-Country skied across the State of Michigan back in 1981.
With a geologic history reaching way back before my time, Mount Mitchell stands ever skyward, watching over this peaceful range running all the way up the eastern United States with Blue Ridge roads that will 🎶take you home, Mountain Mama; take you home, country road🎶
Hampton and I had shared a dozen stories that day. And I am reflecting on how storytelling is a window into a person’s soul. A’ways into our two hour lunch conversation and outta the blue, Hampton shares the story about how he became reunited with his estranged son after untold misgivings. Years came between Hampton and his son. They were back in sync. The point to me was Hampton’s eyes were tear-redish and filled with love and joy over the reunion. By sharing that story with me, now a not so stranger stranger, Hampton was made whole. It was good for Hampton’s soul – and for mine! Elsie patiently empathetically listened quietly letting Hampton tell his tale. We had bonded, the gentleman from Weaverville and the newcomer. Hampton’s story is that he has had many wide and varied experiences in life and is truly Renaissance Man, a jack of all trades
Then Hampton, on a lighter side, relayed how he and Elsie met and got engaged. They used “Christian Mingle!” My God, I thought, internet dating at his age? I thought dating services were bunk? Not for Hampton! “It took me six states and two dates to find her. After seeing hiking sticks on her front porch! I knew she was the one. Next day I took her up to Daniel’s Ridge Waterfall in the Pisgah National Forest and asked her to marry me!” Pisgah is loaded with gorgeous waterfalls, the most famous of which is “Bridal Falls” from the movie, Last of the Mohicans!
Elsie said, “I couldn’t believe it! He proposed! Hampton proposed twenty-four hours after we had met in person. Lordy, I turned around, looked up and and asked God for guidance. I turn right back around and said, “Yes!” Hampton and Elsie have been married for four years and reside in Brevard, North Carolina, just the other side of Hendersonville, NC. Their story is still unfolding. They are in Love. There will be more stories to tell.
Hampton, albeit a world traveler, is a local. I don’t know yet; but I’m going to find out more about Hampton because he’s a storyteller and so am I, and storytelling is becoming a lost art. To me it is the journey and the story that enrich the world, not technology.
Hampton and I agreed outside the Bakery as we were departing our separate ways, to meet in Weaverville soon, and “continue our conversation, Tom,” and share life’s experiences and tell more stories.
I like old Hampton. It is a small world with a lot of good people and a lot of good stories to share.
“The world is round so that friendship may encircle it.” Chardin
From “Hampton,” My Wrinkle in Time: My Memoirs©️ by Tom Tenbrunsel , to be published 2023.