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A teller of tales: Town storyteller ready for new adventures

Jonesborough’s voices have been speaking through local storyteller Linda Poland for nearly a quarter of a century.
Now, after 25 years of leading tours and acting as Jonesborough’s preeminent sharer of tales, Poland is ready to move into the next chapter of her life.
“It’s time for a change,” Poland said.
But that doesn’t mean she’s leaving Jonesborough – or its residents, past and present – behind.
“I’m honoring the tours we already have on the books,” Poland promised. Her positive-theme column will continue in the Herald & Tribune. And she is by no means giving up storytelling.
But the experiences, both sweet and bittersweet, over the past 10 years have convinced her it’s time for a change.
A stroke and recovery many years ago taught her the value of community and family, as well as an inner strength she didn’t know she had – and her husband’s death in 2013 reminded her of the shortness of life, as well as the precious gift of each day with those you love.
She now wants, she said, to be able to share her stories in a different way.
A native of Florida, Poland came to the Johnson City/Jonesborough region as a young college student.
“My sister married a boy from Kingsport,” Poland explained. “So my parents and I came up to visit. I fell in love with the area.
“When I got home, I decided I didn’t want to go to the University of Miami anymore.”
Poland graduated from East Tennessee State University with a degree in psychology and a longing to travel. She took a job with American Express, relocating to several cities across the United States. Poland met Jim and married him in the early ‘70s.
“I could never get him to visit East Tennessee,” she recalled. But then, an invitation from some friends brought the couple to Tennessee in May – and Jim too fell in love.
The couple purchased the house in which Poland still lives.
“We didn’t even know where we were,” Poland said, recalling when they first saw the house. “We just knew we loved this house. It was in the middle of 8 acres.”
For a while, Poland – who had added working for a travel agency to her resume – had the freedom to stay home with her children, writing in her spare time.
Jonesborough and its collectino of stories had yet to figure into her plans. But the town was looking to start a tour program, she said
“I kind of knew Mrs. (Ruth) Broyles, and Mrs. Broyles knew I had worked in tourism,” Poland recalled.
Poland was hired as the town’s tour coordinator, and the voices began to speak.
There was Doc Byrd – Dr. George Byrd, local dentist – who took Poland under his wing.
“Nobody was telling me anything,” she said. “Until Doc Byrd took be around and introduced me.”
“I went around with Doc Byrd. And he was a character. He always wore straw hats in the summertime and fedoras in the winter time. He had a great laugh,” Poland said. “Doc Byrd took me under his wing.”
His phrase, “Tell her your stories. She won’t shame you,” has already become part of Jonesborough’s history.
There was Marcy Hawley, Sue Henley, Dorothy Wood and more who helped the new “redheaded streetwalker,” as she was christened, gather local tales and become a part of the town’s tapestry.
“We sat on the front porch with iced tea when it was hot, and we went inside for hot chocolate when it was cold,” Poland recalled. “All the sudden I just started really developing a love for the people and the town.”
In 2000, Poland branched out to create Positive Solutions tours. She worked hard not only to draw others into the captivating stories of Jonesborough, but to use those stories and this town as a basis for visitors to branch out and learn more about the region.
Now those tours will be at an end, though Positive Solutions will live on. Poland wants to share new stories she gathered while her husband was in the hospital. She wants the freedom to do what she needs to do without being tied to a tour schedule – like helping an out-of-state friend in need as she has currently been able to do. And she loves the idea of traveling – without having1 to look behind her to ensure the entire tour group is still following.
“I do want to write,” Poland said. And when it comes to her own story, she said, she’s eager to turn the page.