TENNESSEE TRAVELS

I was still a “babe in the woods.”

Well, not quite. Maybe a sophomore in high school, but when I think about it now, yeah, I was a babe in the woods.

Dad’s most recent far-flung, money making idea was to buy and sell Tennessee Walking Horses. I’ve written about this before, but it’s been a while. Indulge me, if you would.

There we were, at an auction in Lewisburg, TN. “We” ? Dad, me and sister Sue. Did any of us know what we were doing ? Hell no! We were fish outta water. Newly transformed dairy farmers, having barely kicked the cow shit off our shoes. But, there we were… the next venture. We had sold the cattle herd.

I sure as hell knew how to ride, though. Years of dairying hadn’t precluded a lot of time in the saddle. Not to mention, it was much easier to get excited over horses than Holsteins.

The next day, another auction, this one in much vaunted Franklin, TN. The auctioneers were getting to know Dad. Each time the gavel hammered the block in his favor, the auctioneer would devolve from his rhythmic rattle saying, ” SOLD ! New Jersey bound”.

This was fun, especially when the owners would let me take their steeds for a spin just prior to entry into the sale ring. It was a good test of a horse’s temperament, what with the fray outside the sales tent. If a horse was behaving there, it always would.

I’ll never forget that trip and others like it in our early horse days. Middle Tennessee was intriguing. In much later days, Judy and I would explore down there. We’d drive from town to distant town, quite taken with the vastness of it all. Some were towns that time seemed to have forgotten.

Wartrace was one of them. Of course, the train whistled through Wartrace, a sort of signature quality of many little settlements betwixt the hills. If there was ever a reason for the train to stop here, it was no longer obvious. All that can be said now is that a train screams through Wartrace a few times a day.

A handsome old hotel building needs work, but tries to whisper about a time when Wartrace bustled.

The unknowing visitor wouldn’t suspect that here is the home of the world famous Gallagher guitar, hand made in an inconspicuous location in town.

A noted bluegrass performer, Doc Watson, sings the praises of the Gallagher guitar. It “rings like a bell”, he would say.

Armed with a road atlas, Judy and I venture further into the middle of middle Tennessee. The names of these tiny whistles tops pique the curiosity. Where the Hell is Flat Creek ? Deason ? Bell Buckle ?

In some cases, even when we’ve followed the map, there is little indication that our destination is before us. We were supposed to be in Bugscuffle ! Yes, two roads crossed. Beyond that, the green grasses undulated in the breeze. There was no sign of civilization. Anywhere! At least there was a stop sign.

How could Bugscuffle be on the map with no further indication that it even exists ? We had to get to the bottom of this. Maybe somebody back in Wartrace would know. We turned around.

An old duffer sat on a bench back in Wartrace. He was whittling, a common, peaceful pastime in these parts. He was the picture of deferential Southern courtesy. The surrounding Cedar shavings indicated that he’d been whittling for a while.

He momentarily discontinued the stroke of his little pen knife upon our question. He rested his whittling hand on his lap and looked at us curiously.

“Bugscuffle”, he replied in questioning tone. “What in the world would ya wanna go to Bugscuffle fer ?”

I was beginning to recognize the logic that underpinned his question!

“Well, because it’s there”, I said.

My answer must have seemed smartalecy, but he nudged his hand toward a southwesterly road.

“Down there” was about all we got from him.

“Thank you kindly “, we obliged.

We retraced the road that delivered us. The crossroads we’re still there, the orchard grass still waving in the wind. I had to imagine that the traces of Bugscuffle were as elusive as they’d ever been.

What ever happened here ? A whimsical name for sure. Or, was there a skirmish here ? One of those fleeting engagements that barely traces its origin to our time of “civil” upheaval?

It did happen here, you know. Or, maybe it was just a couple of pesky locusts who fought to their bitter end . Let’s hope it was the later.

Bugscuffle, we came to see you because you were there. We were glad of it !

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