July 3-4, 2012 – Red Bay, Alabama almost to Nashville, Tennessee
July 3 – I started out to drive the Natchez Trace Parkway from the Tennessee border to Nashville. I didn’t quite make it all the way, but I’ll pick up the last 40 miles when I’m camped up around Nashville.
The Trace is a nice drive. The speed limit if 50 so you can dawdle along and enjoy the scenery. My 1st detour off the Trace was to Lawrenceburg where David Crockett – better known as Davy Crocket of coonskin cap and Alamo fame – lived. There is a monument to him and a replica of his cabin which I missed. In 1817, at the age of 31, David Crockett came to Lawrence County and served as a justice of the peace, a colonel of the militia and as a state representative. He established a powdermill, gristmill and distillery.
There is also a Mexican War Monument which is one of only 2 such monuments in the state. It was erected in 1849 in tribute to the memory of the “Lawrenceburg Blues” and Captain William B. Allen who fought in the Mexican War.
Lawrenceburg has been recognized by the US Congress, as well as the Gospel Music Association as the “Birthplace of Southern Gospel Music”. They hold an annual festival which draws musicians and gospel fans from around the world.
This area has a large Old Order Amish population, and there were several selling veggies along the highway. I stopped and bought some tomatoes. I got some purple tomatoes which I haven’t tried yet.
Back on the Trace, my next stop was at the Meriwether Lewis National Monument. His death along the Trace is one of the great American mysteries. The leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition is buried on the Old Natchez Trace near Hohenwald where a monument marks his grave. On October 11, 1809, while traveling to Washington to meet with President Madison and carrying the expedition journals, Lewis died of gunshot wounds at Grinder’s Stand on the Natchez Trace. Whatever the facts surrounding his death, his sudden and tragic demise at an obscure place in a remote wilderness ended the career of one of the nation’s most noted explorers.
In the park around the Monument, they had planted some new trees. All of them were surrounded by what looked like green garbage bags except that they were putting water into them. I stopped to ask the ranger what they were. They are called treegators (website www.treegator.com ). They hold 20 gallons of water and continuously water the trees for 5 to 9 hours. You just zip, fill with water and walk away. It waters deeply around the entire tree and conserves water because you lose almost nothing to evaporation. They said you only have to water about once a week with this system. So, those of you who are facing water restrictions and want to keep your trees alive, this might be an answer.
I continued up the Trace as far as the road to Centerville where I left the Trace to go to Centerville and Grinder’s Switch. Those of you who are familiar with Cousin Minnie Pearl know that she was from Grinder’s Switch as was Brother Maybob and a whole cast of characters which she created based on real people she knew. She was born Sarah Ophelia Colley, daughter of a well-to-do Centerville lumberman. She studied theater in college – Ward-Belmont College which was at the time Nashville's most prestigious school for young ladies. Her comedic talents appeared while on tour with a theater company. On the road she visited local groups to promote upcoming performances by playing a down-home, man-crazy spinster named Minnie Pearl from Grinder’s Switch, Tennessee. Through the Grand Ole Opry and television exposure, she made the tiny town of Grinder’s Switch famous and became country music’s favorite comedienne for her loving parody of the Southern culture and personalities she knew back home. It took a bit of doing to find the remnants of Grinder’s Switch. There is only a sign and an abandoned house which is located across the road from the switching yards which gave its name to the little settlement.
There is a Grinder’s Switch winery, so, of course, I had to visit that. They had 2 dry red wines and an unoaked chardonnay. I got a couple of bottles of one of the reds for myself and the unoaked chardonnay for Patsy. It was almost as difficult to find the winery as it was to find Grinder’s Switch. My GPS dumped me in the country in a field.
By this time it was getting late so I decided not to travel the rest of the Natchez Trace and to head generally for home. I stopped in Columbia, but I couldn’t find any sign which proclaimed that they are the Mule Capital of the World although several brochures state that. However, "Mule Day" in Columbia, Tennessee has been a tradition since around 1840, when the first Monday in April brought huge crowds to the animal livestock show and Mule Day Market (originally called 'Breeder's Day'). Mules were such a big business in Maury (pronounced Murray) County, that at one time, the Columbia Mule Day had the distinction of being one of the largest livestock markets in the world. Mule Day, with its festive air eventually evolved into what is now an almost week-long celebration of the mule. Thousands of visitors come to Columbia to take part in the numerous activities ranging from working mule and best of breed events, to horse shows, arts and crafts booths, and a flea market.
The Duck River runs through this entire area. It played a significant role in bringing settlers to this part of Tennessee and served as part of the boundary set for the Cherokee in the 1806 Land Treaty. It continues to serve as the sole water source for 200,000 people in the area, including General Motor’s Spring Hill plant. Maintaining the river’s water quality is equally essential to wildlife, human residents and the local economy. This river is home to more species of fish than all of Europe. It holds over 50 species of freshwater mussels and 151 species of fish, making it one of the most biologically diverse rivers in North America. Endangered species include the Birdwing Pearly Mussel and Pygmy Madtom fish. The Pygmy Madtom is found only in Tennessee’s Duck and Clinch Rivers worldwide, and is an indicator species for river conditions, as it is very sensitive to toxic chemicals and increased sedimentation.
Just down the road from Columbia is Mount Pleasant where the Rattle and Snap house is located. William Polk, original owner of the property, won 5,648 acres of land in a game of chance called “Rattle and Snap” and divided it between his 4 sons. George Polk built a mansion named after the game. It is known as one of the best examples of Greek Revival residential architecture in the country. It is private property and has a huge NO TRESPASSING sign at the road. It is surrounded by trees and not very visible from the road.
Mt. Pleasant was established in 1824 and began as an agricultural town. Settlers flocked to this area and its fertile soil became legendary. Farmers were amazed at the harvest that continued in abundance, year after year. What they didn’t know then was that their farms were situated over the world’s largest deposit of phosphate, a powerful fertilizer. Phosphate ore in Mt. Pleasant was 1st discovered in 1888 and sparked a booming new industry in phosphate mining. It drew workers from 25 states and 10 countries. Today, it is a quaint small town.
From there I headed for the house and got here just a little after dark.
July 4 – Today I’ve spent doing absolutely nothing. I’ve watched a little TV, played some solitaire on the computer, took a nap, edited my pictures and wrote this entry for the blog.
I watched part of the Capitol 4th and some of the Macy’s fireworks in NYC. NYC had much better fireworks than DC and far better cameramen at capturing the explosions.