Tennessee Christmas Memories

December 8, 2009

Sometime after Thanksgiving every year, my paternal grandfather would go to a grocery store and purchase an entire crate each of apples, tangerines, and oranges. I remember going with him once, and the manager of the store escorted us through the swinging doors at the back into the inner sanctum, a place I had never been, where Granddaddy made his selections. At the time, I thought this a most extravagant set of purchases. He would also buy peppermint stick candy and another kind of stick candy with the curious name of horehound. Read the rest of this entry »

Labor Day Spiritual Thoughts

September 7, 2009

One of the most attention-getting posts on this blog is this one about buying your own moonshine still. The lead article in today’s Salon.com is titled “Moonshine Returns,” and a trip to my local liquor store revealed a display from Leopold Bros, a craft distiller in Denver. I feel like the spirit world is compelling me to opine.

Leopold whiskey

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Robert Plant on East Tennessee tourism

July 24, 2008

In an interview in Nashville Scene, Robert Plant talks about Cumberland Gap and other places he’s seen in Tennessee and in the South. Writer Rob Trucks quotes Plant as saying: “You know, this motel where I just pulled in to talk to you, there’s a jacket on the wall where the guy’s granddaddy who owns the place got shot by the sheriff for his moonshine thing. And it’s a little valley off the Cumberland Gap, and it’s still all there. It’s grandfathers, grandparents—it’s frontier stuff. And some of the songs that we visit, the performances, you know, it’s all about beginnings.”

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Thunder Road at 50

June 23, 2008

Thunder Road, the 1950s movie and a hit recording, is 50 years old this week. The black and white film cast Hollywood bad ass Robert Mitchum as the “mountain boy” who out-drove and out-fought the law.

Jack Neely of Metro Pulse had a great article on the movie, and today the News Sentinel weighs in as well.

I’ve had a few experiences with moonshine. When I was a little boy living on the Johnson City Highway, the police pulled over a truck with a load of corn and found moonshine buried in the back. My father an uncle bought a farm on which we found the remnants of a still, and one of their employees confessed to making ‘shine when he was young. He said that someone kept stealing his mash just when he was about to distill it, so he put a couple of dead rats in there to convince them not to do that any more. He laughed and said the rats might have improved the taste.

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.

Keeping the Circle Unbroken: Trouble at the Carter Fold

April 13, 2008

My previous post looked at the difficulties facing the Museum of Appalachia, whose founder, John Rice Irwin, hopes to strengthen his creation before handing it off to his descendants. Now, from the Bristol Herald Courier, comes a sad story of strife at the Carter Family Fold. Seems that the board of directors of the Fold have voted Dale Jett, son of the late Jeanette Carter, off the board.

Jeanette Carter and her chow-chow. Photo by Larry Smith

The late Jeanette Carter

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Land of the Smokies: a review

December 27, 2007

Tim Hollis has written a wonderful book on the various–and mostly long gone–roadside attractions of Tennessee and North Carolina. His Land of the Smokies covers territory from Boone, North Carolina through the towns around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain. The book, published by the University of Memphis Press, is filled with a delightful collection of color photos, postcards, and various brochures from places such as Ghost Town in the Sky, Frontier Land, and Silver Dollar City.


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Mexican Coke–legal and good for what ails you

August 16, 2007

When I was a child, the standard remedy in our household for an upset stomach was Coca-Cola and saltine crackers. That time I tried to drive and chew Red Man tobacco at the same time and hit a bump and swallowed a mouthful of juice, I stopped at a store right fast and drank a Coke and ate some crackers. It worked, and I didn’t get sick.


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The Expanding Universe of Billy Tripp

August 16, 2007

Old friend Franklin Jones told me about a Jackson Sun piece on Brownsville’s Billy Tripp, the greatest practitioner of outsider art in the state. Tripp created his Mind Field, a seven-story steel structure incorporating found objects such as a fire tower and various symbols that represent periods of his life and tributes to other people. It is the largest work of art in Tennessee, and it grows bigger every week.


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Hitting the road for culinary tourism

August 3, 2007

They call it “culinary tourism,” the practice of traveling to an area to sample the local food. People have been going to places like Provence or Italy to do this for years, and only recently has the practice gotten much attention in the South, most notably through the efforts of the Southern Foodways Alliance.

For anyone prowling the foodways of Southern Appalachia, your backwoods baedeker should be Fred Sauceman’s wonderful pair of books. Both are entitled The Place Setting, and both are published by Mercer University Press.


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Country Ham Pizza

July 21, 2007

I just had some reheated pizza for lunch. It was “Quattro Formaggio with Prosciutto,” or, as I would have called it many moons ago,”four cheeses with country ham.” I grew up eating country ham. My grandfather would kill hogs in late fall, rub the hams with a sugar and salt mixture, and hang them up to cure in the family smokehouse. Even though it was called a smokehouse, he never smoked meat, nor did most East Tennessee families.


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