Monday, November 2, 2015

He Swept Me Off My Feet!

The first time I saw him my heart skipped a beat. 

It had been a long time since any other had this effect on me; I knew I could not let him get away from me without meeting him.

I was standing in front of the floral shop at Food City in Elizabethton waiting on an arrangement I had ordered. He had picked up his grocery cart at the front of the store and had rounded the corner, headed in my direction.

As he was strolling toward me my mind was racing. What could I do to get his attention? Should I quickly pay for my flowers and then follow him around as he shopped for his groceries until I ‘accidentally’ ran into him? I felt my face blush at the thought of that idea; I did not want him to think I was stalking him…he would probably shy away.

By this time he and his cart were about three feet from me my anxiety of missing this once in a blue moon chance overcame me. I garnered every bit of moxy I possessed and stepped out in front of his cart causing him to bump into me. A woman on a mission, I extended my hand.

“Hello. My name is Linda Blevins.”

He, too, held out his hand and in a very low, somewhat gruff voice said, “Hello ma’am. I am Mr. Lyons.”

I asked him if he knew how captivating he looked and if anyone had ever been as bold as I to step out and stop him just to meet him. “Yeah, there was a woman in Jonesborough who did the same thing”, he mumbled shyly.

Well, I told him, she must have been a writer as well and she must have, as I, felt she could not live another day if she could not take a photo and write a story about him.

“Yes ma’am, that’s right. She told me she was writing a book and was from Jonesboro.  So you write stories too?”

And that is how I came to meet Mr. Lyons, the Chimney Sweep.
That day I met him I knew what a Chimney Sweeper of the 1800’s looked like; he even wore a dapper black top hat rounding off the complete look. I must say I was fascinated. He was definitely a story waiting to be written.

He graciously gave me his phone number and I told him I would be in touch.

When I did call Mr. Lyons he agreed to come up to Misty Hollow. After all, I did have a chimney at Jakes Cabin that needed sweeping. When he arrived  we started chatting like we had been friends for a hundred years. As this delightful, small statured and charming man started carrying in his equipment and setting up, he kept me in stitches with his clever and funny remarks.

While he worked, I asked him, in the interest of writing his story, what was the most serious thing that ever happened to him during his long career of sweeping chimneys.

“Oh, that’s a easy one”, he responded quickly. “I do remember that day I was standin’ with one foot on the very top rung of a thirty foot ladder and the trick was to swing my other foot over to the roof to get to the chimney. Well, it did not work ‘cause I crashed to the ground and broke my back in two places. The next thing that happened I was in a hospital bed and learned the bad news. Now, my wife was in a hospital up in Virginia. She depended on me and here I laid with my back broke. I had to get outta there and get back to work! So I left that hospital early with a full back brace and went home and sat there in a chair, starin’ out the window for three days. Then it hit me, I gotta get up and start movin’ so first I walked just a bit around the house. Then I walked just a little bit more and then I got out and walked down the sidewalk. In seven days I was drivin’.”

At this point, I was stunned. What were you thinking, I asked this sweeper of chimneys, obviously a man who also swept away sound judgment when it came to his health and well-being.

“Well, I had nobody to help me, Linda. I was in a bad need of things from the grocery store and the only way I could get there was to drive. So from that first drive, I figured that a broken back could throw me to the ground but could not keep me there.”

I sat there in amazement listening to this crusty, pull-myself-up-by-the-bootstraps man-of-men and marveled. He continued.

“So, where I had been out of commission, seven days after the accident I was drivin’ and three months after that fall, I was back up on that ladder sweepin’ again.”

Oh holy cow! I told him I truly knew of no one in my lifetime that could have pulled that off.

Distressed by that story, I decided to switch gears.

“Mr. Lyons, do you have a light hearted story you could share? What about the funniest, or the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you in your long career.”

He brought his face out from that dark scary hole going up into my chimney and flashed me a big smile. I shot one back, not wanted to laugh out loud at the black soot on his nose and forehead.

“Oh yeah. Well, it was not funny at the time but lookin’ back on it, I do chuckle now and again. And it was definitely excitin’.

One day I had a appointment at a house and this was a old 1800’s house. Those houses have the ole timey dampers that you have to stick your whole head up in to. The lady of the house, like you, had never seen a chimney sweepin’ so she perched on the couch to watch. After gettin’ everything ready, I laid on the floor and then reached my whole head all the way up into that damper.”

I sat there on the sofa at Jakes Cabin, breathless, hanging on to every word this man was saying.

“Lo and behold! I came face to face with a huge blacksnake!

I jerked my heard out from there and gaspin’, told the lady what I had just witnessed. She thought my reaction was so darn funny she started cacklin’. She then asked me how the world we were goin’ to get that thing outta there and I told her to go get a sack. She did and when she came back I told her I was going to pull it out and she was to hold the sack open wide and catch it.”

Now, I am not a mean spirited person but I am a story writer and I could not contain myself.

“Oh, Mr. Lyons! Please tell me you accidentally dropped the snake on her for laughing at you!” I mean, you have to admit that would have been an incredible ending to this story.

“Nope, I didn’t. We got that six foot long bugger in the sack but by the time that job was finished, I felt like stickin’ her up that chimney!”

My buddy of soot and steel left that day with an appointment to come back and sweep Bear Cabin. I cannot wait. As he drove away, he left me with the gift of knowing I had made another new friend up here in these mountains I now call home.




  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Thank you so very much, Linda. I am always so glad for the kinds comments and the hope that I made someone smile.

  2. Replies
    1. Oh Emily Robin, coming from you...a professional writer, I am so honored over your comment. Bless you!

  3. What a great story. Love the picture too

    1. Brandy, you are so sweet to leave such warm comments regarding this story. Meeting Mr. Lyons was so much fun and yes, not only was he a story to be written, he was a photo to be taken! So glad you enjoyed it!

  4. What a great story. Love the picture too

  5. Excellent! Look forward to other stories!

    1. Patti-Jo, thank you so much for your gracious comments. It thrills me that you enjoy my stories.

  6. This is a really nice story, Mr Lyons seems like a lovely man with lots of exciting words to share. He looks like such an interesting character and definitely is a story to be written. I hope you meet again and learn all about him. There are many people in this world that we can learn an awful lot from.

    Ferdinand @ CCR and D