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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

“Just What Does It Take To Become Adopted?”

Most everyone in Wears Valley knows something or at least a little something about Wears Valley Ranch. Founded approximately 20 years ago by Jim and Susan Wood, the Ranch’s story is nothing less than miraculous, and if you are really interested in how the land was given to the Ranch (one lady owned the land as well as more land adjoining the National Park), there are several short books which tell the story. Just let me know, and I will be glad to give you one of those books.

“Just What Does It Take To Become Adopted?”

The first year we lived here, we were trying to start up a small restaurant (“Mountain Tymes” for those of you who may remember). One day a big white man walked into the door of the restaurant with a cute little black boy (Preston). They looked like Mutt and Jeff. It turns out that both of Preston’s parents had died leaving him basically as an orphan. The white man knew Preston through a sports league in Birmingham and also knew of the fine ministry performed by the WVRanch (becoming home to children from bad situations but not bad children). On that particular summer day when I met him, Preston was arriving to make Wears Valley Ranch his home.

Preston lived at the Ranch and graduated from St. Andrews School there a few years ago. He is presently attending Lee University, and is now the adopted son of Jim and Susan Wood. How did that happen?

One day Preston was riding along in a car with the Woods as they were discussing their plans to adopt two brothers and a sister from Romania. Preston listened with interest as Jim and Susan excitedly shared with him their plans to bring these siblings to Wears Valley and add them to their family (the Woods already had three biological sons of their own).

Preston thought for a few minutes and then asked Jim and Susan this question: “Just what does it take to become adopted?” Taken by surprise the Woods immediately answered Preston’s question not only with words but with actions. They began the adoption process, and today the Woods family consists of Jim and Susan, their three sons, two daughters-in-law, two grandchildren and another due next month, Stephen, Elizabeth and Peter (Romanian siblings), and Preston. Truly a family made by God.

The Ranch children continue to thrive. I am honored to know several who have reached adulthood and are productive and successful young adults. Preston is one of those. There are also several younger ones presently “at home on the Ranch.” Would you like to get to know some of these precious children? Would you like to support the Ranch in its endeavors? If so, please let me know. It would be an honor to show you around the Ranch, introduce you to the Woods, the children, the house parents, and the staff members who all work so diligently in behalf of these children.

And, by the way, there is now an active non-denominational church located on the Ranch property. It is Christ Covenant Church. Jim Wood is the pastor, and Sunday services are at 10:30 a.m. Come any time!


One of my most pleasurable activities is visiting on my front porch with friends and neighbors. Many of these folks are just like me, people who have fallen in love with Wears Valley and have bought property here, whether it is to live here full-time, part-time, or as an investment.

And then there are “the locals,” the dear folks who befriended and welcomed my family and me when we chose to make the Valley our home over twelve years ago. I can still remember when the late Ina Bryan and our “new friend” Judy Roland (formerly of Georgia) came up to the porch for a visit. Ina had never seen the Valley from the angle of our house, and I really enjoyed her pointing out to me various peoples’ homes and farms.

On another visit with Ina, I asked her if she grew up here (in Wears Valley). She said, “Oh, no.” That surprised me since I had assumed she had lived here her whole life. Naturally, I asked her, “So where did you grow up?” And Ina quickly replied, “Happy Hollow.”

Now Ina’s answer really made me stop and think. In my mind Happy Hollow was a part of Wears Valley just the same as say the Thunder Mountain neighborhood is. But not to Ina…when she grew up here it was a long ways from Happy Hollow to Wears Valley!

Pondering our conversation later, I really understood Ina’s perspective. I, too, grew up in a little small town in rural Mississippi. When we had the opportunity to go to the next town over (10 miles away), that was a real treat. And if you went on a weekday, you must really need to do or get something badly. No one ever drove that ten miles unless there was an important reason to do so!

Some rural areas like Wears Valley and Happy Hollow have seen a lot of growth; others like my Mississippi hometown have not. What has not changed, though, and the major reason I am honored to call Wears Valley home, are the people like Ina and W.B. Bryan. Wonderful, salt of the earth folks who have blessed me by being my “friends and neighbors.”

About Fran: Fran Troxler, husband David, and their 5 children moved to the Valley in Jan. 1999. The children have attended Wearwood Elementary School and Gatlinburg-Pittman High School. Fran is the owner of East Tennessee Realty Group. She lives in the Hideaway Mountain Subdivision off Little Cove Road.