Category Archives: Nostalgia

Tennessee Walking Horses

Tennessee Walking Horses have always been part of the fabric of life in Franklin. When I was growing up, horses were all around. And not just walkers, but hunter/jumpers, draft horses and ponies of all varieties were common sights. My aunt had two walking horses–Beulah and Polly. She’d breed them once a year to one of the local studs and the money she got from selling the foals always came in handy.

One of the most famous walking worse barns in the world was just a few blocks from the square. Harlinsdale Farm was home to Midnight Sun, a legendary horse and quite literally the foundation bloodline for most champions today. From a website about the horse:

He was the first stallion to become world champion of his kind.  That was in 1945 and 1946 at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration at Shelbyville, Tennessee.   Then he sired horses that were grand champions there seven times; grand-sired the supreme winner five times;  and was the great-grandsire of nearly EVERY year’s champion since that time. On only FOUR occasions since 1949,  have horses NOT descended from Midnight Sun, in a straight male line, been world champions of this breed.

Walking Horses were first bred by Southern planters looking for an easy-going horse with enough stamina to cover large tracts of land in a day. Variations with pacers, thoroughbred and Morgans eventually led to the breed we know today. The prized gait of the walking horse is its running walk. Here’s Midnight Sun several decades ago performing the gait that made him champion. Notice how his head bobs and how the rider doesn’t even move–he’s just gliding along.

Over the years, the running walk became more and more prized and more and more outlandish. It’s known as the “Big Lick” and truly, the bigger the better. Bigger prize money. Bigger stud fees.

And, unfortunately, a bigger temptation to abuse these animals. In past couple of weeks, a video has surfaced of a top trainer abusing his horses. Harsh chemicals are put on their feet to make them lift their legs higher. Weighted shoes and chains add to the pain. Even sadder, the horses are beaten when they can’t even stand.

I hope that once and for all the abusers are disgraced. It’s easy to say that everyone connected with walking horses is part of the problem, but I just don’t believe that. I’ve been at the shows and I’ve been in the barns.

As a lifelong horse-lover, and someone who grew up around Tennessee Walking Horses, this abuse makes sick and sad. Because you want to know what else walkers are known for other than their stamina and naturally flashy gait–they’re known for their sweet temperaments.

Like all gentle souls, they’re easily taken advantage of.

 

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New Year’s Day Black-Eyed Peas

One New Year’s tradition in the South is eating black-eyed peas for good luck.

Many decades ago I vacationed in San Antonio with my parents and younger sister. Our family vacations were all about food. I remember going to New Orleans for upscale seafood–we dined at Antoine’s one evening with a family friend who had his own waiter there. The gulf coast was for shrimp. And Texas was for then-exotic Mexican food.

One night at the Little Rhein Steakhhouse in San Antonio we were served an amuse-bouche of black-eyed peas. The whole family loved them and they were the highlight of the night. After we returned to Franklin, my mother wrote to the steakhouse for the recipe.

They responded with the following:

5 lb dried black-eyed peas

1.5 gallons water

2 cups chopped celery

1 cup chopped red bell pepper

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1 lb butter

1/2 cup Lowery’s seasonall

2 1/2 tablespoon salt

3/4 tablespoon garlic

1 tablespoon pepper

Soak peas for two hours. Place in ovenproof dish with all other ingredients. Cook at 325  for 2 hours.

So–you probably don’t want to cook five pounds of peas. I cook one or two and cut the recipe accordingly. Be warned–sometimes two hours isn’t enough.And I add a country ham hock.

My parents used to make this for New Year’s–they’d have an open house-type party where people could come have a drink, some peas and watch some football. Cumin was a foreign commodity and had to be purchased in Nashville.

So–if you’re in the mood for a New Year’s good luck charm, try the black-eyed peas.

And best to you in 2012.

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“A long, long time ago…I can still remember…”

I went to my high school reunion last Saturday night. Class of 1976–35 years ago.

We were a fractured class and I know that most of us left our small, private school with a sense of relief that those days were over.

Let me tell you how it began.

Private schools have long been part of life around here. Generations of families are loyal to one school or another. I would’ve loved to have gone to the school that my grandmother, father, brother, uncle and a host of  cousins attended, but it was boys only at the time and that made it off limits.

There were several venerable girls-only schools around, but they weren’t right either.

Then my parents learned that a friend of the family was starting a new school. A co-ed venture that would offer a well-rounded experience with emphasis on academics, athletics and spiritual life.

It was going to be a grassroots effort with no frills for the first few years. There was no cleaning staff and we students spent the last 15 minutes of the day doing chores. There was no cafeteria and the first year we either brought our lunch or placed an order first thing in the morning for McDonald’s. There was a strict dress code, and now I know that uniforms would’ve made our lives much easier.

At first there were only 4 classes–7-10 and about 150 kids. There were 9 faculty. The football team practiced in a cow pasture and one classmate who lived adjacent to the school was regularly pulled out of class to round up her horses that were loose on the  grounds.

The years went by and the school grew. Faculty were added. New buildings were built. And somewhere along the way the “spiritual” aspect became a little more pronounced. It was always a little more evangelical and Jesus-freakish than I and many of my friends were comfortable with. 

By the time we were seniors, our class was clearly divided–at least in my recollection. Cynics on one side. Optimists on the other. When it came time for our senior trip the school decided that our class, unlike all the others, would go to a state park about 75 miles away instead of Florida.

So we weren’t in a very good mood.

Then it rained.

So there was a collection raised and one boy who was of legal age (18 back then) drove to the nearest liquor store.

You can guess what happened next.

About half of us were sent home. I actually think we were the lucky ones. There were meetings with parents and there was even talk that we wouldn’t be allowed to graduate.

But in the end, we did graduate. And off we went, all too glad to have that episode over.

But isn’t it funny how you forgive and forget over time? I was genuinely glad to see the people I will always think of as boys and girls. Most of us were together for 6 years–the first class to go all the way through from 7th grade to 12th.

As one classmate put it Saturday, he didn’t appreciate the school then, but he certainly does now.

Here’s what I appreciate–no one at the school had a locker. We all had little cubby holes. We left our purses there most of the time and our books too. We didn’t worry one bit about someone stealing our stuff–it wasn’t even a possibility.

35 years is a long time. But the girls who were sweet then are still sweet today. Pretty ones are still pretty. Jocks still have the athletic air and the ones who were funny and smart are still funny and smart.

Here’s to seeing you all again for 40.

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The True Value of a First Edition

Last week I had my two year blogoversary. You forgot? That’s ok, so did I. But if you want to sent a present, let me know and I’ll give you my address.

Now…about first editions.

One of my most interesting blog buddies is The Unbearable Banishment, otherwise known as UB. A few days ago he wrote about one of his passions–collecting rare books. As a fellow book lover, I read with interest and got to thinking about some books in my own collection by Frank L. Baum, author of The Wizard of Oz. These books belonged to mother when she was a little girl in the 1930s and I found them one day when I was poking around in the upstairs of my grandmother’s (really) old house.

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I always wondered if they were first editions and if they had any value. I took some shots and sent them to UB.

 

I took advantage of his good nature and asked what he thought about my book.

 

I said to let me know if this was an imposition, and he assured me that it wasn’t.

He got back with me a few days later.

Considering its condition, this book, which very well may be a first edition,  is worth maybe $2oo. (And this one is in the best shape of the several I have.) Even if it was in mint condition, it would only be worth about $2,000.

But do you know what mint condition means? It means that no one ever read it. No one traveled back to Oz with Dorothy and went on new adventures with old friends like the Tin Man and Scarecrow and new ones like the Patchwork Girl. These Oz books were the first of the fanciful books I read…followed in short order by the Narnia tales and then the Lord of the Rings.

An unread book may have monetary value, but what about the value of imagination and even inspiration for someone destined to be a writer? Hard to put a price on that.

It’s been ages since I read these books and I need to find them a new home. I know a little girl that I think will be quite a reader in a few years. She’ll appreciate them for their stories and for their intended purpose–to be read.

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Barbecue–It’s a Noun, Not a Verb

Before Franklin got all chi-chi and Republican, it was just another small Southern town–albeit a really pretty one. On warm days when the car windows were down and house windows were up, there was a certain aroma that permeated the town.

Barbecue.

The gentle smoke curled around porches and patios and snaked its way through open screen doors.

In this one-horse town, there was only one place to buy barbecue–One Stop.

One Stop was the original 7/11…Mapco…BP…a convenience store before we knew they were called convenience stores.

It was right in town and the barbecue pit was in back. I don’t know where the pigs came from, or how it was made…I just knew that when barbecue was on the menu, you went to One Stop.

It was kinda dingy…kinda sketchy. You stopped there if you needed a quart of milk or a loaf of white bread.

Or barbecue.

You went in the front door to the back of the store. There was a window where you went to place your order. Please remember, these were simpler times. We didn’t have the choice of pulled or chopped…brisket or beef. This was just BARBECUE. You ordered a sandwich or a pound.

There was a red-headed black woman who took your order. After you stated the amount you wanted, she would bark at you:

Hotrmil?

We natives knew that she meant did you want hot or mild sauce. Hot being a vinegary thin sauce, mild being more catsupy.

No barbecue dinner was complete without corn light bread. I don’t know if this delicacy is found anywhere other than a 100 mile radius of Franklin. Essentially, it’s a cake-like sweet corn bread baked in a loaf pan. It’s a perfect accompaniment to the baked beans and slaw that are the traditional sides served with Middle Tennessee barbecue.

And that brings me back to my title–BARBECUE IS A NOUN, NOT A VERB.

When you cook a steak on the grill, you are not barbecuing it…you are grilling it. When you mix up ground beef with Sloppy Joe mix, you’re not making barbecue–you’re making … well, I don’t know what you call it, because I’ve never actually eaten a Sloppy Joe–but I know a woman who calls it barbecue. (She’s not from around here.)

Barbecue is what you get after you cook a pig for many hours over low heat. You really can’t do it at home. Sure, you can buy some sauce at the store and pour it over your grilled chicken, but it’s really not barbecue.

Sorry. It’s just not.

There’s more than one barbecue place in town now, and some are pretty good. But they’re awfully clean and the people who work there are just a little too perky.

No one ever barks “hotrmil” anymore.

I miss that.

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The Soon-To-Be-Extinct Southern Accent

Last Sunday two women I have known all my life–a family member and a family friend–stood in front of the church and read the Advent message for the day. As they were reading, I was struck  by the beauty of their accents. And saddened to realize that their unique way with words is disappearing.

There are as many types of Southern accents as there are snowflakes. Unfortunately, the one that most people outside the region know best  is from the Beverly Hillbillies and similiar drivel. Jed Clampitt’s “wheeee doggies” accent conjures up images of toothless,  backwoods, moonshine-making hicks. But there’s another accent all together. Part Scarlett O’Hara…part Steel Magnolias. Part something that’s indescribable–a sense of place.

Close you eyes and listen. These voices are cultured. They are educated. These are women who have lived in the same place for going on 80 years. Their words come out slowly and rounded and deliberately. There’s resonance and one syllable words become two.

It takes a little longer to get the blessing read, but it’s worth it. I could listen to them all day long.

Accents like these are becoming scarce. I don’t talk that way–I’ve lived in other places and watched way too much tv. It’s easy enough for outsiders to mimic a Southern accent for a while, but sooner or later, they falter. To speak like a native in Middle Tennessee, you have to know a few essentials:

  1. Any carbonated soft drink is a coke. A sprite is a coke. A root beer is a coke. Never ever a soda or pop.
  2. You water your garden with a hose pipe.
  3. You build your college bookshelves with Breeko Blocks, not cinder blocks.
  4. Barbecue is pork.
  5. You can’t make a sandwich without mayonnaise.

It seems to me that the more we promote diversity, the more alike we actually become. Twenty years from now, these wonderful accents will be gone. All the children will sound alike–like a network news anchor. I’ll close my eye and listen to them speak and not have a clue if they’re from Franklin, Tennessee or Franklin, Nebraska.

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The Flu Shot

One benefit of working where I do is that we get free flu shots every year. They set up little flu shot stations all around campus and you can just walk in, show your employee ID and walk away theoretically protected from whatever seasonal virus is out there.

At some point, they’ll have H1N1 vaccine available too, but they’re a little iffy on exactly when.

I walked across the street with two other colleagues this morning for my shot. I had even remembered to wear a top with easily rolled up sleeves. We three were the only ones there…no waiting.

Some of you may remember my fondness for needles. Actually, I’ve been poked and prodded so many times they don’t really bother me any more. That was not the case when I was younger.

Once when I was really young (so young that I don’t remember this, and it might not even be true but I think it is so I’m telling it anyhow*) my mother took me to the doctor. There was a shot involved. I took one look at the needle, started screaming and ran from the examination room back out into the waiting room. Somebody caught me and picked me up. That’s when it was discovered that I didn’t have any underwear on–I must’ve tried to dress myself and just forgot that particular item under my dress.

I also remember that the only downside to the beginning of summer meant shots–tetanus shots had to be taken before swimming, camp or any fun summer activities. I would literally dread them for days. I can still remember the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach at the thought of getting a shot.

But now, getting a flu shot is just no big deal. And that brings us back to today.

I rolled up my sleeve and looked away while the nurse started the injection.

“Oh my,” I heard her say.

“What?” I say.

“Oh, nothing…the plunger just sort of broke off.”

“Is the needle in my arm? Like, is it STUCK in my arm?”

“Mmmmmm…no, not really” she says. “Let me just reach right over here…” as she fumbles around on the table with the one hand that’s NOT holding the needle that’s stuck in my arm.

I look over at one friend whose eyes are the size of saucers. I look at the other one who has gone a little pale and decided that she’d get her shot sitting down.

“Can you get the needle out?”

“Mmmmmm…ahhh….now the medicine is going in…” she says. She removes the previously stuck needle and gives me a Halloween bandaid.

As we’re walking back to the office, I ask my friend what had happened. He told me that the plunger part of the syringe just broke and dropped right to the floor. And that the needle was indeed stuck in my arm.

So the moral of the story is this: the nurse lied. But, in all honesty, the shot didn’t hurt a bit.

*I tried to call Mother for confirmation, but she didn’t answer. Let’s just assume it’s true. 🙂

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