Pondering Pulaski: Contemplating the Klan

October 30, 2007

Drove from Kingsport to the Jack Daniel’s distillery today, then headed west on U.S. 64 bound for Memphis. We stopped in Pulaski to get a photo of the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, and therein lies a tale.

In the days following the Civil War, this nefarious organization was allegedly conjured up by six bored Confederate veterans on Christmas Eve of 1865. The story (at least among white Southerners) goes that the young men really meant no harm in creating an organization with weird names and costumes. Covered with sheets, they pranced around on horseback on winter nights and just happened to notice that their actions scared the superstitious former slaves in and around Giles County.

Yeah. Right.

Somehow baser elements took hold of the Klan (again according to white gentry) and transformed it into a terrorist organization that ruled much of the Reconstruction South and was led by none other than Nathan Bedford Forrest, former slave merchant and tactical genius for the Confederacy. When he saw that Klan lawlessness might bring more Federal troops to the South, he disbanded the Klan, but, alas, it has never really died.

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Road trips and jerky and Dwight Yoakam

October 19, 2007

Since moving to Colorado, I have come to associate road trips with jerky. Out here, at least in the warmer months, purveyors of seasoned and dried meat park their vans along heavily traveled routes, with the more enterprising staking out a series of signs a la Burma Shave leading to the mobile store.

I’m getting ready to fly to Fort Myers, Florida then drive to Kingsport and across Tennessee, so I’ve got traveling and jerky on my mind. Metro Pulse has a good article on The Beef Jerky Outlet just off I-40 next to the Bass Pro Shop. Could there be a better location?

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Boy street preacher in Gatlinburg

October 18, 2007

The latest attraction in Gatlinburg tops anything conjured up by the Ripley’s Believe It or Not schlockmeisters. The Mountain Press brings the glad tidings of a seven year old boy preacher who stands on the streets of that exalted hamlet and informs people that they are going straight to hell if they don’t repent.

Some of us think that spending time in Gatlinburg and going to hell are redundant, but that’s beside the point.

Samuel Boutwell appears to be the latest version of Marjoe, the (in)famous boy preacher turned adult evangelical charlatan whose 1972 documentary won an Oscar. Young Brother Boutwell, so far, seems limited to several clips on YouTube. Samuel is from Brookhaven, Mississippi, has allegedly preached in New York at Ground Zero, and is home schooled–no surprise there.

Lord, Lord, you cannot make this stuff up.


Ernest Withers, photographer of Black life, dies at 85

October 16, 2007

The Memphis Commercial Appeal brings the sad news that photographer Ernest Withers has died at age 85. Quoted in the article, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art director Kaywin Feldman said, “Ernest Withers is internationally recognized as one of the most important American photographers of the 20th century. Not only did Withers capture iconic images of the civil rights movement, but he also produced important photographs of the Negro Baseball League, Memphis musicians and daily life for African-Americans in Memphis. We are proud to have almost 200 of Withers’ photographs in our permanent collection.”

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Photo of Elvis and BB King  © Ernest C. Withers courtesy of Panopticon Gallery, Boston.

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Tennessean Todd Helton Triumphant

October 16, 2007

Growing up in East Tennessee in the 1950s and ’60s, I never felt much of a lure from professional baseball. The Braves weren’t in Atlanta yet, and Cincinnati seemed like a long way off. My friends pulled for the New York Yankees, so I did, too, but with no real enthusiasm. When I moved to the Boston area, I gave my heart to the Red Sox, whose Fenway Park seemed to exemplify real baseball, not these pleasure palace ballparks with all the box seats.

We moved to Boulder, Colorado in 1992, and the very next spring entered a lottery and won tickets the the very first Colorado Rockies home game. It was held in Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, and 80,000 people were on hand–a record setting number of people to see a major league game. The very first Rockies batter to bat at home hit a home run. It was a wonderful day.

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Which came first, the window or the sign?

October 11, 2007

Walking in Chattanooga, I saw some odd window/sign juxtapositions.

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Walking in Chattanooga–Siskin religious art

October 11, 2007

Just across the street from the Chattanooga Convention Center is the Siskin Children’s Institute, a place dedicated to improving the quality of life for children with special needs and their families. You can hear the children playing and see some of them in wheelchairs.

Inside the building, however, is one of the biggest collections of religious art in Tennessee and a remarkable story behind it.

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