After an enjoyable visit to scenic Cades Cove in the Great Smokey Mountains last week, we were ready for lunch. The short drive into Townsend, Tenn., led us to a local diner along the river.
The “family restaurant” was just what we had in mind with sweet tea in Mason Jars and good home-style cooking. The young woman serving us did so with kindness and competence.
A large, round table near the fireplace was occupied by a collection of men surely known as “regulars.”
The place had that homey, warm feeling. Eclectic “art” was displayed randomly on the walls — with no hint of a decorator’s touch.
But then my eye landed on a sign that was intended as a joke. It made light of sexual harassment.
Then, as I prepared to pay our bill for the good meal, a large wooden paddle on the wall behind the register caught my attention. On it was painted the words: “Tennessee Wife Beater.”
The place I had entered feeling good became a place that left me saddened.
I didn’t mention anything at all about my observations to my wife or two daughters. But my love and respect for them had a lot to do with my changed feelings.
My only protest was a generous tip for the server who worked in a setting with such disregard for women.
Friends would be quick to affirm my overactive funny bone. I find humor in most places and am not easily offended.
And I realize that the silly sign and paddle do not give evidence that abuse of women is practiced or condoned in this little restaurant where everyone was so kind.
My best guess is that those items were nothing more than an attempt to be funny. For me, however, they were not.

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