The Cayce Musketeers in Florida, 1989 - 2011
by Ron Feldheim
The Smoky Mountains
I turned off the engine of my minivan and stepped out onto the stony “road.” I was joined by two of my adventuring companions. We did not plan to go adventuring. We planned to visit the scenic preserved community of Cataloochee, situated within the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was bewildered and felt as if I had stepped through the looking glass. This was surreal. Where did our nice paved road go? How did we end up on nothing more substantial than a path clinging to the side of a mountain, with no protective railing and a drop-off into oblivion?
On our left was the mountainside, covered in rocks of every size. Many had obviously slid or tumbled down the slope and piled up along the edge of our trail. Facing us was a hair-raising hairpin turn to the right. The nearly vertical slope provided tenuous support for our road. Down the middle of the acute turn poured a small stream, which, bolstered by recent rain showers, flowed broadly across the road and continued down the slope.
To make matters worse, the road narrowed at this point. I had a genuine concern that my car and all of its occupants would follow the water down the mountain. The spot where the water dropped over the edge was clearly eroding, and the whole wet composite looked quite insubstantial. On the right was the aforementioned drop-off to Kingdom Come. There was no room to turn the car around, backing up seemed treacherous, and going forward seemed sublimely ridiculous. And there was not another soul in sight.
The day had started off with the anticipation of some great sightseeing and camaraderie. We were staying at Margot’s chalet on Ski Mountain in Gatlinburg. “We” were the usual assemblage of Florida A.R.E. Core Team members, pejoratively referred to as part of The Florida Mafia. At the time Margot, Bob, Joan, Clara, and MaryAnn comprised the group. Later on Diane was added.
In various combinations over the years we would head to the chalet for work as well as R and R. For six years the Management Team met twice a year there, mid-spring and early fall, with one exception when we met in Knoxville. After we rotated off the Management Team we went either before or after the Core Team meetings a number of times. On this particular occasion, I think it was a post-Simpsonwood jaunt that included Margot, Clara, Joan, MaryAnn, and me.
The plan, suggested by Margot, was to visit a part of the Park that none of the rest of the group had even heard of, Cataloochee. Instead of entering the park by heading south on US 441, which was our usual route, we had to drive north, then east, then south. This would take us around the Park’s eastern boundary, perhaps a two-hour drive, to reach Cataloochee inside the Park.
We got underway after breakfast, and for a while enjoyed a pleasant and uneventful drive. Driving south along the eastern side of the Park, the road ran along the Park’s border like a football player running along the sideline trying to keep both feet inbound.
After a while the road turned southwest in a sweeping downhill curve. The middle of the curve was also the lowest point of the dark “holler” we had entered. The tall trees kept out much of the sunlight. On our left was a clearing with three outhouses. We made a split-second decision to avail ourselves of the facilities. So, we stopped and facilitated.
While I was waiting for the ladies I walked across the road and up a slight embankment in order to see what was beyond the low flagstone wall. I came upon a crude cemetery. Small stones in irregular rows were tended by short tufts of weeds and moss. I stepped through the gateway in the wall and had a most unexpected and memorable experience.
The cemetery was suffused with love. Love was a tangible presence that I could feel as I walked through it. It was like walking through a field of wildflowers where assorted colors, varied plants, differing heights, and individual fragrances tied together to make a single beautiful place. Excepting that this was a graveyard, such was the feeling of love that I felt as I visited each grave. In a magical way I could trace those feelings back to their origins, to the individuals who buried their family members and friends, as well as those who continue to care for the graveyard.
There was also sadness, yes, but it was a grey thread in a golden weave, surrounded and supported by something holy. Its presence was to be acknowledged, not suppressed, but at the same time it was uplifted by a profound tenderness; two chords creating holy harmony.
The grave markers were irregular pieces of flat field stone engraved by hand and laid flat into the earth. Here was evidence of hard times, limited healthcare, perhaps the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919. Side by side by side, the markers were mute testimony to baby after baby that died, child after child that failed to thrive or met some other untimely end; parents who lived out their lives in this isolated island of a community. There was also hope here. These hearty individuals continued to bear children, continued to eke out a living from the land. All of this was in the stones.
I crossed back to the car, and then brought my friends up to the graveyard. I wanted them to experience it for themselves. I don’t know if they felt the same things that I did, or had the same “knowing” that came to me, but everyone was moved by this encounter with something extraordinary.
We got back into the car and continued on our way. The road climbed up out of the hollow, and once over the crest we passed some scattered homes. I knew that here were the caretakers of the cemetery. It was a short time later that we found ourselves precipitously perched upon the precipice. I do not recall how we got into that predicament. One moment we were on a good paved road and the next moment we were on the verge of oblivion.
I walked out over the insubstantial land bridge, kicked a few rocks, bounced up and down a few times and decided we could drive across this. I asked the others what they wanted to do, and they all said that I should decide. Darn! I asked if they wanted to walk across and I would follow in the car. They said no, so we all got back into the car and set out once again.
With a prayer, I inched forward, as close to the wall as I could get, hoping this would have less impact on the road, reducing the possibility of it collapsing. The rest was anti-climactic. We rounded the turn safely, picked up a little speed, and found ourselves back on a paved surface. Shortly thereafter we rolled into Cataloochee, passing horseback riders, and stopping in front of some preserved houses and a little country church.
When we left we took a different route back to the chalet, opting to continue the circuit west to US 441 and north to Gatlinburg. We arrived back there in one piece, a little tired, but with some great memories. All in all, it was another typical adventure for the Cayce Musketeers.
Ron Feldheim has studied, promoted, and taught the Edgar Cayce Readings for over thirty years. Beginning with the formation of the Miami Council in 1980, Ron’s focus has been on organizing and developing local field programs. Ron expanded his role as a field volunteer when the Miami and Palm Beach Councils later merged to form the Gold Coast Team. At this same time, A.R.E. Headquarters chartered the Southeast Region, and Ron was invited to join the Region Core Team of active volunteers. He then became the first Chairman of the Region’s Management Team, and after a six-year stint developed the position of Retreat Coordinator. He has been a member of two A Search For God Study Groups.
Currently residing in Miami Beach, he is Area Team Coordinator and just completed a one-year term as Chairman of the Region’s Management Team. Ron is a speaker, writer, healer, and intuitive. Ron’s professional career has been in Clinical Microbiology and Information Technology.