Friday, January 13, 2012

Wartrace - Part 1

When I woke up yesterday morning it was about 54 degrees and raining.
By early afternoon the temperature was dropping rapidly and the freezing rain had begun.
By late afternoon yesterday the temperature had dropped close to freezing and it began to snow.
I had high hopes that we would actually get some measurable snow but that did not happen.
When I woke up this morning the temperature outside was a cold 20 degrees but the thin layer of snow that we received overnight only partially covered the ground.
Tennessee uses weather words and phrases that I had never heard while living in Canada.
Tornadic activity.
Overnight we had a dusting of snow.
I wandered restlessly around the house all morning unsure of exactly what to do with myself.
As I passed through the kitchen on my 20th aimless trip through the house I looked through the doorway into the living room and saw my pup laying on the couch.
Oh jeez..........she looked exactly how I felt. 
She looked pitifully bored and after talking to her from the doorway while she continued to lay sullenly on the couch I made the decision to take her for a walk at Short Springs.
I told LC that James and I were headed for the trails, and he asked me if I wanted to go for a drive instead.
Sure.  On a cold, damp and bleak day I was up for a drive.
And apparently so was Jamie.
By the time LC and I had decided on a destination Jamie had wandered into the office and was alternately looking at both LC and me with unbridled anticipation on her face.
We had used all the correct and canine-recognized words.
And Jamie excitedly let us know that she was ready for a drive-walk-go.
Because drive-walk-go's are her favorite things.
Our destination was the small community of Wartrace (est. 1853).
Truthfully I knew absolutely nothing about Wartrace until today.
But today seemed like a fine day to see what I could find out.
Wartrace is a village of about 550 people and is located slightly off the beaten path, which does not adequately negate or excuse the fact that neither LC nor I had ever visited this place.
A place that is located only 25 minutes drive from Tullahoma.
As we slowly made our way to the outskirts of Wartrace this old clock was the first thing that we both saw.
Adjacent to the stand alone clock is a sign giving a brief history of the village. and the tiny Wartrace Visitors Center.............
We pulled the truck into a large and empty gravel parking lot at the far end of the square (that was actually shaped more like a "T" than a square), climbed out and immediately walked in different directions.
LC and James headed for the grass and then the "T" section of the downtown area.
After telling LC that I would meet him and James in just a few minutes, I immediately headed back the way we had come, crossing back over the tracks to take pictures of the two very old brick buildings we had seen as we headed into town.
Without looking too closely at the buildings I quickly snapped these pictures downtown as I headed for the tracks...........
This building was hugely interesting to me.
It was empty and unmarked, and as I took pictures of the building that was abandoned, very old and built of beautiful old brick I was enthralled with it.
Based on its appearance and proximity to the tracks I assumed that it was once a commercial building, and I found out later while talking to a store owner that it was indeed a flour mill at one time.
I loved the building.
The lines of it.  The alone-ness of it.  The aura and patina and feel of it.
Of everything I saw today in this small, quaint and very historic village, this building was the most compelling to me............
Moving away from the mill I continued on, heading for an empty-for-the-Winter fountain at a park across the road.
I looked briefly at the water fountain, snapped a picture of it and then finally focused all of my attention on this place.
A sign told me that the building was the Walking Horse Hotel.
My first reaction was pleasure at finding one more old and beautiful brick building.
My second reaction was confusion. 
I thought that Shelbyville was the Walking Horse capital - not Wartrace.
Why was the Walking Horse Hotel here?
I still do not know what the full story is, but I do know that after we left Wartrace we explored winding and hilly two-lane country roads and it is obvious that there are many horse farms in the area.
In the meantime, I looked closely at this historic hotel and decided that I liked it very much.
A picture of the hotel taken from across the street, and a link to more information on the hotel:
The water fountain............
As I read this sign I realized that there WAS one thing I knew about Wartrace.
Strolling Jim may have been the name of the first Tennessee Walking Horse but it is also the name of a notoriously difficult to race (and difficult to get into) 40 mile ultra run.
I have never tried it:
By this time I realized three things.
I was taking more time that I had planned and thought briefly about (and then quickly discounted) calling LC before turning my attention back to the hotel in front of me again.
That this was a very interesting and very pretty village.
That I felt the excitement of unexpected finds and unexpected adventure.
A bright red decorative feature on the wall of the hotel.
One of a few horse-related decorative touches..........
After looking over the exterior of the hotel I turned my attention back to the small community park located directly across the road.
A red caboose.
Very similar to the one on display in Tullahoma............
While looking at the monuments at the park LC called me to let me know he had put Jamie back in the truck and was now in a train model store.
I could tell by his voice that he was excited by what he had found and I told him that I was heading back that way and would meet him at the store.
As I bypassed the hotel one last time I snapped these pictures.
If you click on the link about the hotel above there is an additional link to the "ghostly past" of the hotel.
I also found this story online:

Patrick, Wartrace, Tennessee, Early 1980s,
I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and went to school with lots of the country music stars' kids. This afforded me some rather unique experiences and one of those is how I came to encounter a ghost. There is a hotel in Wartrace, Tennessee called the Walking Horse Hotel. I know it is still there because I visited it yesterday with my wife and kids on the way back to Atlanta from visiting family in Nashville. The property has changed dramatically on the inside, but as soon as I saw the outline of the building I knew that was it -- even after 20 years since my experience.
It was in the early 1980s and I was invited to go with some of my friends and one adult, the wife of a very prominent country music star, to stay New Year's Eve as the guests of the manager of unique hotel located in Tennessee -- Walking Horse country. We were to be the only people in the hotel as it was closed that evening. My friends had stayed there in the recent past and had some interesting experiences. This particular hotel was the resting place of “Strutting Jim,” one of the most famous Tennessee walking horses of all time. His trainer “Floyd” had lived in the hotel and sometime after the horses passing had died himself in his room on the 3rd floor of the 3-story hotel. Floyd was said to still be wandering the grounds and the halls of the hotel but our host George, the manager of the property, assured us that he was always friendly and had not harmed anyone.
We arrived mid evening after stopping for dinner on the way and enjoyed a nice quiet evening. We spent most of the evening looking at the amazing Walking Horse artwork that hung on almost every square inch of the lobby and main staircase. It was shortly after midnight, we had been listening to George’s tales of encounters from other guests when everyone started settling down to sleep. I was feeling a bit brave and still wasn’t as sold as the others on the authenticity of “Floyd the Ghost,” so I decided to go up and sit in his room on the third floor to see if anything would happen. I sat on the bed in the almost total darkness and waited for “Floyd.”
When I opened my eyes I was laying on the bed, still fully dressed in clothes and shoes and day was just breaking. I knew that I had fallen asleep and that there had been no visit from “Floyd.” I went downstairs to find George starting to put together breakfast and the others were just starting to mill about. George suggested we go out and see “Strutting Jim’s” grave marker and stretch our legs before breakfast. As we headed out to the back pasture to visit the stables and grave it all seemed strangely familiar. As we approached a fenced in area on the side of the pasture I stopped George and asked how long the English sheep dogs had lived there. He looked rather surprised as we had not been out here the night before and there had been no mention of the dogs, but sure enough they came running up to the fence and started barking and looking directly at me.
We then proceeded to the stables where the grave marker was and there were a few horses kept. As we approached one of the stales George told us all to stay clear of the big black one as he bit anyone he didn’t know. The black horse immediately came to me and started nuzzling my head with his and stamping his feet in excitement. We then walked over to the Grave marker and I lead the way as if I had been going there for years. By now even George was blown away with all of this and when asked, I responded that I slept in “Floyd’s” room but didn’t remember leaving the bed all night.
We all walked back to the hotel talking about the strange events and without asking I walked directly in the rear kitchen door like I owned the place. We had not been anywhere near this area of the hotel for our visit but I knew exactly where to go. We all sat down in the dining room and George asked who would like biscuits with honey to start. I jumped up and stated that these were the best biscuits in the world and everyone should have some. George asked how I knew this since this was my first visit and we had arrived after dinner the night before. I walked straight into the kitchen – opened a pantry – reached up to a tin on the third shelf and opened it up to reveal a tin full of the very biscuits.
That pretty much sealed the deal. It is my assumption that “Floyd” took me for a little spin the night before, using my body as a vehicle to get to his favorite places and get some of his favorite food. I am still not quite sure what to make of this incredible event, but I know that I now believe that there are some people who just aren’t ready to go on to heaven or whatever awaits them and they are still here on earth with us.
On my visit yesterday it was so disappointing to learn that the new proprietor had gutted the hotel, changed the entire layout -- losing the lobby and grand staircase, and didn’t believe that any of the tales about “Floyd” were anything more than poppycock. The entire feel of the place was different and I hope “Floyd” has moved on to his eternal resting place. I know the memory of that incredible day will always be with me.
Almost all buildings in the center of the village (including the hotel) displayed these signs.............
Heading back towards the center of the village to meet my Mountain Boy at the train model store.............
All of the buildings in the downtown of the village were very old, very historic, and contained wonderful architectural detail.
Most of them were still full of the old brick of the original construction, and it was easy to imagine these buildings that were located so close to the all-important railroad system being some of the first structures built in the community.................
The small green building is known as The Dixie Flyer and that is where I found LC, talking to the friendly owner and wandering around the small store smiling like a little kid.............
Once I had a good look around the store I could see why LC was so excited.
With throw-back 1920s, 30s and 40s music playing in the background, I walked around the small and colorful and friendly store taking in all railroad collectibles (as well as other toys and items from a bygone era) around me.
Toys, models, newspapers, fliers, banners, static and moving displays, paintings and posters.
It was a colorful, educational, friendly place to wander.
LC's interest rather than mine, but still a hugely interesting place to visit............
A very wonderful painting...........
Model planes hanging from the sky-colored ceiling.............
A sweet, friendly, easy-going visit to a store that celebrated a mode of travel that has (almost) gone by the wayside.
After we had taken a long look at everything the store had to offer, LC and the store owner continued their friendly conversation about trains that eventually led into conversation about music and ties to country and gospel singers.
I told LC to take his time and I was going to continue my wanderings around town.
More information on The Dixie Flyer:

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