Cloggers with shoes from hell at The Carter Fold

December 3, 2010

I’ve been going to the Carter Fold just across the Virginia state line from Kingsport almost as long as it’s been in existence–a one-of-a-kind acoustic performance center built and run by the First Family of country music. From the start, audience members have been welcome to get up and clog along with the songs. For years, people danced in whatever shoes they had on–sneakers, cowboy boots, work boots, and you name it. Now, however, cloggers are showing up with tap shoes designed to make as much noise as possible. Finally, a band said “Enough!”

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Raising money and killing hogs

November 21, 2010

Andy Holt was the president of the University of Tennessee from 1959-1970. He was a wonderful storyteller, and could charm members of the state legislature–some of whose vision of an academic lecture was a football half-time locker room pep talk–into supporting higher education. Here is one of his great stories. Read the rest of this entry »

The governor and road striping

May 24, 2010

The New York Times reports that there is a shortage of the specialized yellow and white paint that adorns highways. A lack of methyl methacrylate, an evidently vital ingredient in the paint, is the culprit.

This brings to mind a story I’ve heard about Frank G. Clement, governor of Tennessee from 1953-1959 and 1963-1967. Seems that Governor Clement, who championed road-building, had a political crony who had bought too much of the costly road-striping paint and was whining about what to do with it. The governor, according to the tale, grew tired of the complaining and said something to the effect of “Hell, paint lines down the outer edge of the lanes!”

This was done all over the state, and soon Federal authorities noticed a sharp decline in single-vehicle accidents on Tennessee highways. This, according the story, is why most highways now have stripes on their outer edges.

Governor Clement is better remembered for a histrionic speech he gave at the 1956 Democratic Convention, which prompted a young Red Smith of the Times to write a wonderful lead: “The young governor of Tennessee, Frank G. Clement, slew the Republican party with the jawbone of an ass here last night . . . .”

But that’s another story.

Bedside Reading: Losing the News

September 7, 2009

Alex Jones, who was born and raised in Greeneville, Tennessee, has come out with a sobering look at the state of news in our country. He describes himself in the prologue of the book thusly: “I am in the fourth generation of a newspaper-owning family in Greeneville, Tennessee, and I knew the secret prides and anxieties that go with being in the clan that owns the local newspaper. My family still owns and operates the Greeneville Sun, circulation about 15,000, where my father is publisher and my two brothers and brother-in-law go to work every day.”

Losing the News

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Campaign to Protect Rural Tennessee?

April 12, 2009


Quick–where was this picture taken? Could be in East Tennessee or Middle Tennessee. No matter where it is, it’s a beautiful place, one that would be a joy to live near, commute alongside, or spend part of a vacation just driving past.

The photo was actually taken in the England, and it’s from the website of a remarkable group called The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).

And it’s just the kind of organization we need for Tennessee.

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The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore–and won’t anytime soon, either

February 18, 2009


Looks like Tennessee is not on the list for high speed train lines as a part of the Stimulus package. You’d think they’d have one from Nashville through Chattanooga and then to Atlanta.

Johnson City AIDS doc pens new book

February 16, 2009


In the early days of HIV/AIDS, Dr. Abraham Verghese was practicing in Johnson City, where he treated what most people would consider the least likely people to have AIDS–rural East Tennessee farmers and others. His first book, My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story, was a wonderful look at a physician encountering a mysterious disease as well as some funny stories about living in Johnson City.

Now he’s back with a new book, Cutting for Stone. The Washington Post has a great story on him today.

New suit and an old pro

January 24, 2009


While back in my old haunts for Christmas, Number One son, on the day he was due to fly back to Colorado, decided to look into buying his first suit. It wouldn’t be the first suit he has owned, but it would be the first one he paid for–a big difference. His grandparents recommended a Broad Street haberdashery called Blakely-Mitchell, a locally owned men’s clothing store. He had some time to kill, so off we went.

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Jokes that only Tennesseans get

November 29, 2008

I’ve just begun an on-site consulting job at a place where three other Tennesseans work–including my boss. It’s always a delight to discover former residents of the Volunteer State living west of the Mississippi. We talk about food, country relatives, and all manner of things. Best of all, I have a chance to tell jokes that I don’t normally tell in Colorado; people here just don’t get them. Here are three of the better ones, the first with a seasonal bent.


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Craft distillers not so numerous in the South

October 28, 2008

The spirit world is booming in these parlous times. According to an article in the Rocky Mountain News, craft distillers–small-time producers of whiskey, vodka, rum, and other spirits–are increasing in number across the country. “Foodies” are fueling this movement, which follows the craft brewing wave, and there’s one more factor as well: as people get older, they drink less but they drink better.

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