Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Tuesday 3rd May 2011

We drove north, through Louisiana, through Mississppi and Alabama. We were very fortunate to miss by a few days the terrible storms that have ripped through the south-east.

Just over the Alabama border and into Tennessee, we arrived at Eastfield Farm, a pureblood Angus Cattle farm, outside the town of Shelbyville. I was a bit nervous as we drove up the long drive. After all, we had invited ourselves, at only a couple of weeks' notice - and to cap it off, over Easter Sunday, something I only realised shortly before our arrival. But Gardiner and Claudia warmly weclomed us, and treated us far better than we deserved over the following three days. We had the run of a lovely private home, were fed truly delicious homecooked food, including beef from the farm and were taken on an outing to Nashville and on a farm safari (in respect of both, more later). We also liberally loaded up the washing machine and pestered the resident domestic animals. There was Minnie, the ginger house cat, who veered from very wary to very affectionate and back again from hour to hour. There was Cindy, the elderly barn dog, possibly the happiest dog I've encountered. I once spied her, standing alone outside gazing across the herb garden, simply wagging her tail at nothing in particular. There were the three farm cats, all of whom leapt out of the same stable as we inspected the show barn, tumbling over each other, batting paws, purring and running after affection. And there was Faust, a stocky Rottweiler who bounds about excitedly, throwing his bulk around like a bull in a china shop, yet breaking nothing. To get attention, he simply barrels towards you, head down, until he butts you. When you pet him, he growls with satisfaction.

About 15 minutes away from the farm, in the town of Lynchburg, is the Jack Daniel distillery. I have often stood on tube platforms in London, and gazed vacantly over the rails at sepia advertisements for Jack Daniel's, which go on about the distillery and the good ole boys who work there. I didn't think I'd ever end up visiting, particularly as I don't drink the stuff. But we went, and took an excellent free tour around the place, guided by one of those good ole boys, Billy, complete with huge beard, baseball cap and dungarees. The tour is mainly about smells (some of which are excpetionally potent), as Lynchburg is in a dry county, and alcohol can neither be served nor sold (although the distillery's gift shop has found a loophole if you want to take a bottle away with you).

That afternoon, G & C took us to Nashville, where we ate a fine meal in the lobby of the Opryland Hotel, a huge maze of conservatories, featuring fountains, mock streets and plenty of foliage. Bar the absence of slot machines, it wouldn't be out of place in Vegas. Following the meal, we attended the legendary Grand Ole Opry. This Country (there was no Western) extravaganza is split into 4 sections, each of which is hosted by a different Country star and contains acts by a huge number of musicians. In London a big gig with numerous acts happens so rarely as to be a notable occasion, normally taking place to commemorate something or someone. But in Music City this happens every week and has done for decades. The evening started with 90 year old Little Jimmy Dickens, studded in rhinestone from his socks to his Stetson, and ended 2 hours later with big country star Martina McBride (me neither), via, amongst others, some great bluegrass (fiddles, banjo, harmonica), some balls-aching gospel (it was Easter) and some amazing square/clog dancing. It was great entertainment.

The Grand Ole Oprey, along with our distillery trip earlier gave me a very brief feel for what the South is about - that and the publication I picked up for a dollar at a gas station on the way back to the farm. This was a newspaper called "Just Busted", 12 pages of mugshots, locals who have been arrested for all sorts of misdemeanours - public drunkenness, domestic assault, all sorts of driving offences, theft, trespass, leaving the scene of an accident, attempted murder. Some of the brief descriptions below the mug tell a whole story. Beneath one gentleman: "public drunk trespass bribery". Every now and again "Just Busted" reminds you that these people have merely been detained and are all innocent until proven guilty. However section headings such as "Weekly Traffick" (drug related arrests), "Sticky Fingers" (theft arrests) and "Ready 2 Rumble" (Assault & Battery arrests) suggest that the paper may not practice what it preaches.

On Easter Sunday we went on a farm safari. Gardener drove us the length and breadth of the farm, past curious cattle (photographed by us through the window of the car), some of whom were munching on the lush grass while others wallowed in pools or the creeks that trickle through the farm under elm and sycamore. We observed the terrifying tenaciousness of the South American fire ants, that have reached Tennessee and terrified wild turkeys scurrying for cover. The tour also took us out of the farm into Shelbyville, with its semi-abandoned downtown (most of the businesses have moved out to cluster around the Wal-Mart) built down the road, pretty town square (typical of Southern towns) and, as Claudie informed us, scene of public lynching in living memory. A happier location is the huge complex set up for "The Celebration", a Walking Horse festival that takes place every year in the town.

The above doesn't do justice to the warmth and kindness of our hosts and the lovely time we had on the farm, benefitting from all the peace and comfort of a pastoral idyll and doing absolutely none of the hard work required to run a cattle farm.

Pureblood Angus

157 - posted at 15:43:10


I hope you will keep a copy of just busted as a souvenir. The challenge is, of course, to get yourself featured in it.
Ps. Christopher and jens, thank you for your comment on the blog and wishes, glad to hear we are in good company on our travels through the atlas. I hope you are both well and will no doubt see you on our return.

1: (anonymous) - 22:28:45 on Tuesday 3rd May 2011 (permalink)

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