Pilgrimage hosts handle odd visitor questionsPublished 12:05am Friday, March 29, 2013
NATCHEZ — Pilgrimage visitors say the darndest things.
Two children who toured The Towers years ago gave Ginger Hyland some advice she still remembers to this day.
When Hyland, who owns The Towers, was giving her introductory speech to a group of tourists, one 7-year-old girl was so fascinated by the story of General Ulysses S. Grant.
“They said that General Grant rode his horse up and down the main hallway on Christmas Eve and promised he would come back every Christmas Eve,” Hyland said. “So you know what else they say is that General Grant haunts the main hallway.
“I have been here six Christmases, and I’m sorry to say I have never seen General Grant, but maybe this year will be different.”
After hearing Hyland’s story, the little girl on tour told her that if she wanted to see Grant then she would have to stay up all Christmas Eve.
“I got a kick out of that, so I started telling her part to the rest of the groups,” Hyland said. “Well, there was another girl on another tour a few days later who didn’t care for that idea.”
Once the girl heard the suggested plan, Hyland said she crossed her arms and told her that action would result in serious consequences.
“She said, ‘You can’t do that because if you stay up then Santa Claus won’t come,’” Hyland said, while laughing at the two girls’ stories. “That was probably one of the funniest moments during the tours.”
Such stories, and often some strange questions, that Hyland said forces her to stay on her toes during Pilgrimage.
“People ask all kinds of questions, but the one I got the other day was, ‘Who will you leave (the house) to when you die?’” Hyland said. “I started laughing, but they kind of waited for me to actually answer the question.”
For Greenlea owner Stella Carby, the majority of the questions she fields from visitors aren’t always necessarily about the house.
“Sometimes they’re more interested in our family than the house,” Carby said. “They’ll even ask if we live somewhere else during Pilgrimage and just come back when it’s not on tour.”
Decorating the walls and various rooms of the house are photos and different items from Carby’s children and their various roles in the Historic Natchez Tableaux.
Abigail Jenkins Healy, who also hosts at Hawthorne, Elgin Plantation and Hope Farm, said the questions she answers most at Greenlea are about the Carby family.
“Sometimes it’s hard for them to believe that they actually live a daily existence in this house,” Healy said. “They’ll say, ‘Well where do they really sleep?’ and I’ll say, ‘In that bed you just saw.’”
But it was a question Healy received on a step-on bus tour several years ago that she recalls as one of her more light-hearted guide moments.
“A man on the bus tour asked, ‘When do they hang the moss?’” Healy said. “I thought the question was asked facetiously, so I answered it kind of sarcastically.
“I said, ‘Well the fire department comes out with the ladders, and they start on the back streets first to not disturb traffic.’”
As she continued answering the question, Healy began realizing that the man who asked the question wasn’t catching on to her satirical answer.
“When I saw he was listening to my answer very seriously, I stopped and said, ‘No, no, no,’” Healy said laughing. “There was one man on the back of the bus who caught on and thought it was hysterical.”
But whether it’s a light-hearted question or a more serious one, Healy said she always does her best to be a source of information for visitors.
“I know what I know, but I enjoy talking to other people, finding out where they are from and just answering all the questions they have,” Healy said. “That’s why I’m here.”