Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Souls And Freedom

On a cold and rainy late Fall day earlier in the week, I tagged along with my gun loving Mountain Boy to the near-by town of Manchester to visit his favorite gun loving store.
It is a pawn shop called Tollivers, located in the main square of town, and in addition to a huge supply of guns it contains all of the other typical junk/stuff/treasures you would expect to find in such stores.
The place is always packed full of men who love to fondle manly gear, wander and look, and generally joke and talk and visit in those ways that men have with each other.
I walked into the place for only a minute before smilingly telling my Mountain Boy to take his time, and that I was going to walk around the square and take pictures.
Manchester is a small town of a little over 10,000 people.
The town has seen a good influx of money over the past few years due to the hugely successful annual outdoor concert event known as Bonnaroo:
After being away from the area for a couple of years my first trip back through Manchester not long after we arrived back in Tennessee showed me that businesses on the major commercial strip adjacent to the interstate are booming.
However, on a grey and wet day, while my favorite person was busy fondling big guns, I realized that the Manchester town square was most definitely on the decline.
Half of the stores were empty.  Other store fronts have now been revamped into legal and accounting offices. 
And the pawn shop was the largest and certainly the busiest business in view.
Across the road from the pawn shop was a lovely, old, historic but slightly run down building that acts as the Coffee County Courthouse.
I walked to the front and then the back doors of the building at different times during my brief walk around the square but both sets of doors were locked and I could not walk inside the building..............
Monuments recognizing and remembering those who have fallen during far too many wars...........
Some history about Manchester:

Due to its location well west of the Atlantic Ocean and north of the Gulf of Mexico, it may surprise some to know that Manchester’s history goes back 2000 years (and maybe more) to the times when ancient Native Americans roamed and ruled the Tennessee hills. The earliest evidence of human life in the Manchester area is dated to 2000 years ago at Old Stone Fort, a Native American site located at the confluence of the Little Duck and Duck rivers. As the rivers close in on one another, the elevation of the actual fort does not change, providing a great elevation change at the west end of the fort down to the rivers. This natural land formation coupled with man-made mounds on top of these cliffs made for great protection against neighboring tribes. The 50-acre hilltop enclosure is believed to have served as a central ceremonial gathering place for some 500 years.
Advancing some 1300 years, Coffee County came into existence on January 8, 1836 as parts of four neighboring counties - Franklin to the south, Bedford to the west, Warren to the northeast and Grundy to the southeast. A battle ensued over the naming of the county between Coffee and Webster. The name "Webster" comes from the then Speaker of the State Senate and resident of the Noah community. "Coffee" is the name of General John Coffee who was a close friend of then President Andrew Jackson. Coffee was regarded as a hero of the War of 1812 and the Creek (Indian) War. In the end, the state legislature named the county "Coffee" over "Webster", but by the closest of margins - one vote.
In another naming change, there was a small village very close to the site of the proposed county seat: Mitchellsville. That name would be changed to Manchester, after the industrial city of Manchester, England. It was believed that the Tennessee version of it’s English cousin would mimic its relative in becoming an industrial city due to its proximity to the aforementioned waterways of the area. Also making its way though history was another small village called "Stone Fort." Stone Fort had already jumped on the industrial track before Manchester and had several water powered milling operations from 1836-1840. One of those installations’ remnants (an old paper mill) is still very visible inside Old Stone Fort State Park.
Through the years, Manchester has also had size battles as well as name changes. Due to its proximity to the center of the new county, Hillsboro (then called "Pond Spring") gave Manchester a tough race for the county seat. Hillsboro was actually larger than Manchester at the time. The other village in the county was Tullahoma, nestled at the junction of two major railway lines.
The Civil War did not leave Manchester and Coffee County unscathed. In June of 1863, Union forces came southward from their victory at the battle of Murfreesboro and engaged Confederate forces in northwestern Coffee County. Though it was a small battle in terms of the outcome of the war, it was the first time that Spencer repeating rifles were used (7 to be specific). Severely outnumbered, the Union troops were still able to route their opponents en route to the next big battle of the war, Chattanooga, TN.
While still walking in the cold drizzle reading the war memorials and monuments surrounding the courthouse I came across this.
It is a dedication to a young 22 year old boy - man - soldier from Manchester.
His name was Brian Schoff and he was an army private based in Fort Campbell KY.
He was killed on January 28, 2006 in Iraq as a result of an IED explosion.............
A view of one of the quiet streets in a mostly non-descript square...........
But a very old and historic court house in the center of the square that is only one step away from being stunningly gorgeous............
A Christmas wreath decorating the door of a law office...........
My truck parked outside Tollivers.
In addition to the store in the picture, Tollivers also owns another store offering more pawn items on the corner of this same block as well as a huge warehouse not far from the square containing larger items such as boats and four wheelers.
The biggest and most successful commercial business on the square............
Only one of many modest Christmas decorations in the center of town.........
At the edge of the town square is a small park that contains very sweet elements, including a water fountain and band shelter.............
A grey town on a grey day.............
Although I saw occasional holiday decorations during my short downtown walk, what really caught my attention were these two stores located close to the "tiny town park".
One contained whimsical window displays in addition to wall-to-wall lights while the second had beautifully decorated Christmas wreaths and trees outside their doors...........
One wonderful addition to the otherwise almost bleak and monochromatic color scheme of the square.
This American flag, burgundy paint and welcome sign were all located on the wall of one of the corner buildings...........
While still struggling (and still unsuccessfully) trying to find a new name for this already named and then renamed blog I did some random searches on the Internet about the state of Tennessee.
I found this in my cyber travels.
It is the official state poem and was written by Tennessee native, Vice Admiral William Lawrence.

About Vice Admiral Lawrence:
The official Tennessee Poem, "Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee", by Vice-Admiral William P. Lawrence, was adopted in 1973. This poem was composed by William Lawrence, in his head, while held in solitary confinement in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. During the Vietnam War, Lawrence spent almost six years as a prisoner of war (POW) at the infamous Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton).

Oh Tennessee, My Tennessee
by Vice-Admiral William Lawrence

Oh Tennessee, my Tennessee
What love and pride I feel for thee.
You proud ole state, the volunteer,
Your proud traditions I hold dear.

I revere your heroes
Who bravely fought our country's foes.
Renowned statesmen, so wise and strong,
Who served our country well and long.

I thrill at thoughts of mountains grand;
Rolling green hills and fertile farm land;
Earth rich with stone, mineral and ore;
Forests dense and wild flowers galore;

Powerful rivers that bring us light;
Deep lakes with fish and fowl in flight;
Thriving cities and industries;
Fine schools and universities;

Strong folks of pioneer descent,
Simple, honest, and reverent.
Beauty and hospitality
Are the hallmarks of Tennessee.

And o'er the world as I may roam,
No place exceeds my boyhood home.
And oh how much I long to see
My native land, my Tennessee.

Rest in peace Brian............

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sherwood Tennessee - Part 2

We had been exploring for quite a few hours - driving, walking, talking, picture taking, greatly loving our trip for so many unexpected reasons.
But we were all three beginning to get tired and it really was time to begin thinking of making our way home.
My Mountain Boy had plugged in the GPS, feeling confident that there must be a road somewhere in the area that would lead us home and that did not include retracing our steps back up to Sewanee.
I was still really enjoying this unexpectedly beautiful and quiet section of flat farm land surrounded by the mountains and hills of southern TN and norther AL, but my testosterone filled male partner was now fully focused on TomTom and was slapping him on the side, compelling our satellite driven piece of purchased merchandise to find a way back home, that did not include doing what I had done the previous day.
Namely to turn back after admitting defeat.................
Hwy 56 is a fairly flat two lane road that parallels the railroad tracks.
Not far from the Alabama line we actually passed across those tracks and drove beyond a very large rock quarry.
The day before (after I had finished visiting the Natural Bridge in Sewanee) I came to learn that the state line is only another mile beyond the tracks.
By this time in our drive my Mountain Boy had reluctantly come to the same conclusion that I had.
That there was no secondary road in this part of BFE Tennessee that would circle us back towards home.
That unless we wanted to drive much further South and take a very scenic (as in lengthy) way home, heading back to the mountain was the only way to go.
Hwy 56 had chewed up and spit out one more victim.
Holy smokes!  What a great, wonderful and weird highway!
I deliberately did not show LC where I turned around the day before because I was curious to see how far he would travel before doing the same thing.
He turned around one driveway before I did................
As we headed reluctantly but good naturedly back towards the mountain LC and I both looked to the right and saw the same interesting rock face jutting out from a hillside.
We began looking for a side road that would take us closer to this rock face, and as we approached Sherwood again (and the mining company we had stopped at an hour or so before) we pulled off the highway and headed down a gravel road behind the mine............
We quickly lost sight of the rock face but did come across evidence of a small logging business in the area............
We had turned off the highway and taken a gravel road that circled back and behind the mining company.
Looking at the back of some of the old and wonderful but also crumbling buildings from the old mine that was in existence from the late 1800's into the mid 1900's.............
And finally, after a very long and exciting day, LC and James and I made one last stop on that same gravel side road in Sherwood before making our way home in earnest..............
This cemetery is mostly unkempt but also had a very serene quality about it.
Surrounded by beautiful hills the cemetery sat on top of one of those hills, alone and solitary and a testament to those who lived in this area in the past.
The stones told the stories of those who called this place home with dates ranging from the early-1800's to early 1900's.
Some of the markers were still in very good physical shape.
Some were in very poor shape.
And many grave markers were not headstones in the familiar and common sense of the word.
They were simply large rocks embedded into the dirt.
Left to indicate the life and death of people who's names I will never know.
One particular area of the graveyard gave me pause.
Three grave sites.
Side by side.
Each marker indicating name and years of life.
All with the same last name.
One last link about the small and historic community of Sherwood:

 I learned what is obvious to a child. That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time. That each day should be spent finding beauty in flowers and poetry and talking to animals. That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered..........Nicholas Sparks