Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Yarn Exchange celebrates friendship


It’s 1862, and you live in a duplex on Main street, Jonesborough. Your best friend shares the same duplex, and you even share the same attic space. Your children and her children have grown up together. But tensions are mounting at this address as the war escalates. Both husbands are fighting, but neither are on the same side. How can this friendship possibly endure?

It’s May 22, 1906, and a story about you is printed in the Washington Post, describing you as the “notorious dwarf moonshiner”, who was being arraigned in Federal Court for shooting and killing a man. The man you shot took joy in picking you up and throwing you, because as a little person of only forty-six inches tall and weighing sixty pounds, you were seen as a novelty, and not a person. You had endured this treatment until the man decided to throw you into a fire. IN shooting him, you were saving your own life. After the trial, you are befriended by a City Marshall in Jonesboro, a large man of stature, who gainfully employs you to help him campaign- with the difference in your sizes drawing attention from crowds. The employment leads to a friendship between two unlikely partners- a known moonshiner, and a man of the law.

It’s 1980, and you’re a sixth grader, when part way through the year, a new student arrives. She is taller than most in the class, even the boys, and comes from somewhere else. She doesn’t speak English well, but you remember being stationed in another country where you didn’t speak the language well, either. You also know what it is like to not fit in. Her name is Hoang Duong. But she tells you that you say her last name like Wong. It is getting close to Christmas, and you want to include Hoang in the gift exchange with your friends. She has not had a lot of luck making friends, yet. You ask your mother to take you to the PX to get one more present with your babysitting money. “A present for who?” Mother asks. “My new friend, Hoang.” You reply. “Oh, where is she from?” your mother prods on, while your father sits silently working on his crossword puzzle. You don’t answer immediately, then stumble out the words, “I can’t say.” Your mother asks why, and you whisper, “Is Vietnam still a bad word?”

It’s 2016, and your kidneys have stopped functioning. So far, family and friends have not proven to be a good match. People are willing to help, but their chemistry just doesn’t mix with yours. The doctor’s prognosis is bleak, when a familiar name appears as a match. You have not heard from him in years, and he now lives in Texas, but he took a test to see if he could be a match, and it came back positive. An old friend from middle school is willing to sacrifice one of his own kidneys for you. In doing so, he becomes more than an old friend, but a permanent part of you for the rest of your days.

Friendship. A state of mutual love and affection, outside of family relations. This month’s Yarn Exchange Radio Show, performed live at the International Storytelling Center, is filled with stories of incredible- and even unlikely- friendships throughout the ages of Jonesborough’s founding. Some fraught with struggle, even touching on being illegal, but all filled with love, and a hope for a brighter future. These stories and many more will be performed Sept. 25 at 7 p.m..

Tickets to this live performance, based on real stories from Jonesborough and the region, are $5 and available online at or by calling the Historic Visitors Center at (423)753-1010. Seating is limited, and reservations are highly suggested. For more information, contact director Jules Corriere at [email protected] or call (423)794-6320.