Pilgrimage host enjoys duties, meeting people

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 2, 2010

NATCHEZ — Scott Smith is often introduced as the tourist who came to Natchez and stayed.

Smith, of Spring Hill, Tenn., had always fantasized about coming to Natchez, and when he finally did, he instantly fell in love because of the bond he already had developed with the bluff city.

“When I was 10, I would cut up and tear out pictures of Natchez — the homes and the people, whatever I found interesting,” Smith said. “I kept them in a box under my bed.

“While other boys were collecting baseball cards and pictures of cars, I had pictures of houses and hoopskirts. I know it is weird, but it is what happened.”

Smith had come near Natchez many times, without knowing it, as he drove through Louisiana to visit family in the Lake Charles area.

Six years ago, Smith was driving through Ferriday and decided to follow the sign to Natchez.

“I was thinking it was another couple hundred miles away — I had no idea where it fell because it is so remote from the interstate,” he said. “To realize, all these years, I’ve been passing it by, and it is, what, 10 miles away from Ferriday?”

Now, Smith is making up for lost time by spending both Spring and Fall Pilgrimages in Natchez hosting at many of the houses.

Randy and Helen Smith, who own Texada, ran into concerns that they wouldn’t be able to keep up their Pilgrimage commitment due to family obligations last spring. Because they knew Smith, they offered him a place to stay, so he could help out with the tourists.

“I come so much that this is now my home away from home,” Smith said. “I always claim them as my cousins even though we aren’t related — that is the beauty of being a Smith.”

This is the third year Smith has been volunteering some of his time as a tourist and the second year he has been coming for all of the weeks of both pilgrimages.

“The years just blend together,” Smith said. “I have met so many nice people and the city has such a lovely atmosphere, weather and outstanding food.”

“For a town this size, the cup sort of runs over for interesting people, from all facets of life.”

Natchez is the only city where he can walk around town dressed in his antebellum outfit and not get any looks, Smith said.

“It looks like Jiminy Cricket’s outfit,” Smith said. “One time, a tourist walked in and saw me in one of my outfits and thought I was a mannequin.”

Smith’s favorite Texada story is about Mr. Texada. In approximately 1810, Texada purchased an elephant to attract visitors to his business.

“One night, some people got the elephant drunk on whiskey and opened the gate,” Smith said. “The elephant ran through the streets creating havoc, and today, there is apparently still a law on the book that you can’t get your elephant drunk in the city limits.”

Smith is hosting at Texada, Green Leaves, Lansdowne, Routhland and The Elms.

One thing tourists always comment upon when they see Smith is that they love seeing a man involved in the Pilgrimage.

“When they come to Texada, they say I am the first man they’ve seen, and they like it,” he said. “At Texada, we have as many men as women hosting.”

Smith said a tradition was started last year and that it would continue in the future.

“I love talking to tourists and finding out where they are from and why they are here,” Smith said. “They make a special effort to learn about the history that is promoted here, and I love bringing the tales to life.”