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- This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we see what's new at the Nashville Zoo, including a new animal med center, then we'll explore a Victorian mansion for overnight stays in Memphis, we go to a Bon Aqua mecca of storytelling and wind up for lunch at the Country Diner in Cunningham! All that on this edition of Tennessee Crossroads, I'm Joe Elmore and you're sure welcome. The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is one of the mid-South's favorite family destinations. We're goin' there on our first story to take in a couple of new attractions. But our main mission is to go behind the scenes at a new medical facility, a place where the patients are often wild, dangerous animals. Seven miles from downtown, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is a 200-acre nature preserve. Home to nearly 2800 animals and 365 species, it's a nationally accredited, progressive zoological park that's constantly evolving to enrich folk public enjoyment and conservation. Newer exhibits like Tiger Crossroads offer visitors up close and cageless views of rare Sumatran tigers from Indonesia. This exhibit was a long-time dream of Rick Schwartz, the zoo's President and CEO. - If we're gonna invest the time and the money and the effort into building these exhibits, we wanna do so with endangered species. Species that need conservation work. - [Joe] Next door, you're suddenly transported to Peru to follow the trek of Andean bears. - From the moment you walk in, you feel like you're in a Peruvian village with a lodge and lots of different things to see. - Jim Bartud, the zoo's marketing and PR guy showed us around this wide open exhibit that's a big hit with guests. - [Jim] And then you look through glass up the hillside into an area that's an acre large, and we have two Andean bears in there, then they have this huge area that they can roam around in, trees that they can climb in, rocks that they can climb on, all of that stuff. - Like humans, animals of all sizes and species need exceptional medical care. That brings us to the highlight of our visit. Now here's where you can enjoy a window into the world of animal medicine. It's the HTA Healthcare Veterinary Center and I think we're just in time to witness a physical exam of a clouded leopard. And it begins in the pharmacy where Dr. Heather Robertson and her staff prepare anesthesia to ensure the animal has a nice nap during the procedure. - So it's a one injection. It's a semi-reversible protocol and it goes pretty quick, it's very predictable so actually he'll go down really fast, actually. Oh, hi, big buddy! - [Joe] Next, a trip to the holding area were Ethan, the patient, waits with his keeper. - Thank you. - [Joe] Heather drives a pole syringe first so she can inject the animal while he's inside his crate. - This is hard when they're almost so sweet. Let's go this... - [Joe] Finally, the sleeping clouded leopard is moved to one of the modern treatment rooms. - [Heather] So depending on the animal, first we wanna make sure that the staff's safe, so if it's a dangerous animal we always take that into account first, so how are we gonna get to the animal safely and keep the staff safe and then from that, it's just making sure that we're handling the animal the easiest and safest way. So I'm placin' a microchip just so we can always identify him. - [Joe] So how does this compare to a human physical exam? - We're doin' the same thing that your doctor would do for you, so checking blood work, doin' the physical exam. We do sometimes add X-rays or dentals 'cause we're kind of an all-in-one practice so if we need to do a dental exam or a dental cleaning, a tooth extraction or something that we might find while they're out, we'll do that while they're under here today. Looks great, though, perfect teeth! - [Joe] By now, an audience has gathered outside on the observation deck. This is the feature that makes the vet center a popular attraction for the public. - [Heather] They took some getting used to, for sure, when you come in and you have about 50 or a 100 people staring at you through the windows but after the first few times, we just kinda go about and do our thing and know they're out there and we have an interpreter out there that always engaged the guests and let them know what's going on. - [Joe] A camera's mounted above the table connected to the monitors that offer viewers an even closer look at all the action. - So right now, the jugular vein, we do this in dogs, too, and cats in private practice but that's one of the larger veins and a little more accessible than some of the other veins so we'll try to get blood from that. These are vaccines just like your domestic cats, they get very similar vaccines. - [Joe] The treatment room also features ultrasound for examining the cat's vital organs in real time. - And it's got water. - [Nurse] And here we go! - All right, so now we're gonna take him and move him over to X-ray. - [Joe] Here, Heather and company can move Ethan around to gather X-rays from every vital position. - [Heather] So what I'm lookin' at here is you can see heart, this is the trachea, these are the lungs. So after we're done, we'll give him a reversal so he'll wake up pretty quickly. And then we just monitor and make sure that they get up and recover without any issue. We'll put him back in his holding area where he's comfortable so he'll go to sleep there and wake up there and usually they recover pretty quickly. - [Zookeeper] There she goes! Hi, sweetness. Heather's also in charge of the animal nursery rooms. Your guests can observe the care and feeding of newer arrivals like this month-old clouded kitty. By the way, the Nashville Zoo has an unsurpassed record for its captive breeding of clouded leopards. A big part of its ongoing mission of conservation. - We're not just displaying these animals, we're really trying to make that connection and teach people what they themselves can do to help preserve endangered species around the world. - The next time you decide to spend the night in Memphis and wanna pamper yourself, you might consider our next destination. Danielle Allen explores a Victorian mansion in the Bluff City that offers both modern conveniences and old-world charm. - [Danielle] Here's a place where you can step into the 19th century and lay down in modern luxury. The James Lee House in midtown Memphis was built in the 1800s. Today, it's a bed and breakfast with a distinct style. - [Owner] Now, we try to, on the first floor, to bring the house back to what it would have looked like in 1872 when the house was completed. We're very blessed that some key features like these beautiful mirrors, all of the fireplaces are original so we didn't have to go shopping for those. - [Danielle] This B&B is owned by Jose Velasquez and his wife, Jennifer. They make sure the house pays homage to the past and the present. - We have one picture of the house in 1890 in this room that gave us kind of a vision of what the room at least looked like and so we tried to do that in this room and in the dining room. And then we had a lot of freedom in the bedrooms on the second floor and the third floor to really bring together history, luxury and the 21st century amenities. - [Danielle] Oh, and did we mention the bathrooms? - [Jose] The bathrooms are not only luxury bathrooms, but really exude the kind of grandeur of a house like this but with everything new. - [Danielle] With the living area that holds true to the style of the 19th century and bedrooms that rival any luxury hotel, the James Lee House is more than just a place to stay. For many, it's one of the highlights of their vacation. But if you think the decor is intriguing, you should hear the history. - [Jose] Well, the house was added on to expand it three times. The very back of the house was truly built in 1848 and it was a simple farmhouse. If you can imagine in 1848, this was farmland outside of the city of Memphis. Just a few years later in 1852, Mr. Charles Wesley Goyer built another small farmhouse. In fact, the dining room that you see right behind me was the second house that was built here in 1852 and those houses sat next to each other for about 10 years and then they were joined together just for practical purposes so they didn't have to go outside to go to the other part of the house. - [Danielle] The expansions to the house were completed in 1872. The property would eventually be owned by three different families and later served as the Memphis College of Art but when the school moved to a new location, this house that was once bustling with activity grew silent. - [Jose] So the house was vacant for 56 years. During that time, the folks that run the museum next door were very good caretakers and just really did everything they could to keep the house from really falling apart. Had they not intervened from time to time during those 50 years, the house probably would not be here. - [Danielle] Fortunately it was still here and in 2011, Jose and Jennifer bought the abandoned house from the city of Memphis. They spent two years planning the renovation but they only had one year to complete the project. It wasn't easy but they got it done. - [Jose] This room was probably one of the most challenging things dealing with the plaster, dealing with the beautiful ornate moldings. I kind of assumed that would be a little bit easier to replace, recreate the pieces that were missing and it became really a significant challenge. We went through two plaster experts that were not able to do the project and after that I was very concerned that we would end up with those gaps and the space and that we would have to call them character. - [Danielle] As for the third floor, that's the space Jose and Jennifer call home. This allows them to be available to their guest any time of the day which is something Jose is very proud of. - One of the things that I think we have the luxury, in a sense, of being able to bring to the B&B experience is that this is all I do. This is my full-time job and I am here 24/7 for our guests. So you really will have, in the experience of staying here with us, the ability to have a Memphis experience, specifically formulated for you and for what you want to do while you're here. - [Danielle] And if what you want is a gourmet breakfast, well, you're in luck. There's a passion for cooking in this house and it's evident every time you sit at the table. - [Jose] We both work every morning to create something new. If you stayed with us 10 days, you're gonna have a different breakfast everyday, a three-course meal that's prepared just for you. If you have dietary restrictions, just simply don't like some things, we work with you to make sure that those things are not in front of you in the table and that you have a very special breakfast every morning. - [Danielle] This family has wanted to own a bed and breakfast for years and the James Lee House is the perfect place to live out their dream. It's also the perfect spot for travelers to experience luxury and Southern hospitality. - That interaction, individual interaction, with folks, and helping them have the most unique and exciting experience in Memphis possible so that when they leave here, most of the time there's a hug, there's, "You've got my address, "when you're in London next time, come and visit us," There aren't many jobs out there that afford you that kind of opportunity to enjoy people, to make new friends and to also really put your city, that you're very proud of at the top of the list for all these folks. And so I mean, what else would you wanna do? - Thanks, Danielle. For many of us, there's a special place around which our personal universe seems to revolve. For the late Johnny Cash, it was a farm community in Bon Aqua. A place where Johnny's legend and memory lives on. Here's Rob Wilds with the story. ♪ Well, I woke up Sunday morning ♪ ♪ With no way to hold my head, that didn't hurt ♪ - [Rob] At the Crossroads in the community of Bon Aqua, there is a lovingly restored building. Looks good now, but you should've seen it a while back! - This building was probably within six months, a clapsy. - [Robs] So Brian Oxley decided to restore it. But why? Realtors were sure this place was destined to be bulldozed. Well, I need to go back a bit for that part of the story. Back into the 1970s. When Johnny Cash bought a nearby farm. - [Brian] He referred to this place as the center of his universe. - [Rob] I should tell you a thing or two about Brian Oxley before I go on. The son of a missionary, he spent much of his life in Japan, became a very successful businessman, write and filmmaker and frankly, didn't give much thought to Johnny Cash. But the farm helped change that. - This is a 1847 Civil War period home. Has his bedroom intact, his library intact. This is where the girls, his daughters and his son really got to know their dad. - [Rob] As Brian and his family explored the Cash farm, they found what most of us would call a treasure. - [Brian] We found a VHS tape, and we looked at this tape and it was about a 20-year in the music business surprise party for Johnny Cash. And so I was like, "This is fantastic, where did it happen?" - [Rob] Which brings us back to the crossroads in Bon Aqua. This is where that party happened and where Brian decided to open a storyteller's museum. - [Brian] This is where he reached out to the local people, to the farmers and so forth and every other Saturday, he would have Saturday Night in Hickman County. People could come here for free. And it always had this beautiful music. ♪ Sunday mornin' comin' down ♪ - [Brian] So this is not a museum, you just walk around and look at the pictures and the artifacts. We have music all the time people are here. - [Rob] The whole building has a story to tell and not just through music. - [Brian] That stained glass came from the oldest black-owned business in Memphis. It was a funeral home. And they probably had a chapel and they were tearin' it down so we had the stained glass. But right off to my left, we have John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace and we have the first hymnal that ever published-- Now, I'm not saying I have the one and only, it's the first edition of the hymnal. Only hymnal that has Amazing Grace. There's not a country music singer that hasn't sung Amazing Grace. ♪ I'd get it one piece at a time ♪ ♪ And it wouldn't cost me a dime ♪ - [Rob] What country music fan hasn't heard this song? ♪ I'm gonna ride around in style ♪ ♪ I'm gonna drive everybody wild ♪ ♪ 'Cause I'll have the only one there is around ♪ - [Brian] What I love about it, it's a story. It's a story song. The Storyteller's Museum. We have the car right over here. People cannot believe that that car is in Hickman County. - [Rob] This is a story about the Storyteller's Musuem, yeah but it is not the story, oh, no. There are so many. You'll have to come here to experience those and when you do, don't forget the farm. - [Brian] We call the farm what they call in Ireland, thin space. It has a spiritual feel to it, like heaven and earth is kinda close. - [Rob] It does seem that way. And if you're quiet and listen with more than your ears, who knows what you might hear? And what Johnny Cash called the center of his universe. - Have you ever passed a place like a roadside diner time after time and said to yourself, "Someday I'm gonna stop there." Well, for Ken Wilshire, that place was on Highway 13 in the middle of Tennessee. When Ken finally did stop at the Country Diner, here's what he discovered. - [Ken] There's just not much along this stretch of Highway 13 in Cunningham, Tennessee. Well, except for one very popular local landmark. Since 1948, it's been the Country Diner. And what a place it is. Its simple stone exterior is deceiving though. Once inside, you'll see why. Customers will find it overflowing with the basics of life. Food, family, fellowship and love. - I came to work at 14 years old. And then I bought the restaurant in 1976. I worked for 'em 15 years and then I bought the restaurant. I just work everyday. - [Ken] Yes, since she was 14 years old, Betty Jo Atkins has lived her life putting smiles on her customers' faces and hearts. Plus, she's given this tiny community a place to gather and bond. - [Betty Jo] Oh, my husband-to-be! Did they interview you? - [Ken] For most folks, getting to work around two o'clock every morning and cooking over a hot grill all day would be quite a struggle. - Trish, get this. - [Ken] But Betty Jo seems to never wind down. - I have to make my coffee, I have to empty dishwashers, and I'm always ready to open when I turn the sign on. I've got my bacon cooked, my sausage cooked, and all I have to do is cook eggs! - [Ken] Well, while she might get up with the chickens, she certainly keeps them busy by flipping and scrambling over a thousand eggs a week. And when she plates them, she adds fresh country ham, bacon and sausage till mid-morning when it's getting close to lunchtime. - We serve sandwiches, steaks and seafoods, barbecue, but no vegetables because this is in the country and people have vegetables at home and they want something to eat that they don't have at home all the time. - Well, that's if you don't count the lettuce, tomatoes, French fries and hash browns, it's all Southern comfort food. So if you're lookin' for crepes or crème brûlée for dessert, forget it. It's cake and cake and more cake. Would you pass me one of those cupcakes? All right! - Here you go! - Thank you! But today is Thursday cake day. There's also a Monday homemade cookie day, just add pies and some of the most decadent handmade milkshakes you will find south of the Cumberland River and your sweet tooth will be happy. Oh, yes, if you're a newcomer to the Country Diner, there's a box of candy just for you! - Y'all have never been here before? - Hello, we have! - Well, some time ago. - Okay, I have some homemade peppermint candies. All you have to do is pull it down. I am evidently the mouse ! - [Ken] As you can see, no one's a stranger at the Country Diner and no one leaves hungry. Since Betty Jo does all the cooking, her family helps her do the rest. Her sister Wilma, brother Donald, sister-in-law Elaine and might as well be family member Trish, provide the five-star customer service. And if you notice that the counter and in the dining room, customers are actually talking to one another. The only music is provided by Buck and Scottie who stopped in today with the guitar. ♪ I could get by ♪ - [Ken] You see, there's no wifi or TV here to distract their conversations. - We don't have wifi, we talk to each other. No television. When I worked for them, they had a television that sat on the milking machine and by the time that the program was going real good, it was time to close and everybody wanted to continue watching their program. And I said, if I ever owned the restaurant, there'd never be a television in here. Everybody's okay, they just talk. - [Ken] Don Hayes has been coming in here daily since the 1960s. - Just enjoy it. I just enjoy the company out here, enjoy the people that comes out here, we all pick on each other. We're just a big family. Everybody knows everybody. - [Ken] It may be once in a while or three times a day when they visit the diner, but customers are drawn to Betty Jo's wit, charm and charisma. - I've danced with her out here. We had a little music, these boys played music. Her and I get dance. I thought maybe did have somethin' today but I guess ain't nobody dancin' today. - [Ken] Did he say no dancing today? Well, just wait. Not only does Betty Jo waltz around the kitchen and dining room like a teenager at a school dance, when she isn't cooking or cutting up with her customers, she's ready to cut a rug! - What're we gonna do? - You do one... - Two. - Two-- - Three. - And one back. - One back. - Two fold. - Two fold. - [Ken] With a big smile, Betty Jo says she's 33 years old. Well, maybe she feels like she's 33 and not that she would stretch the truth a bit after her 56 years at the diner, she does embellish the menu's nutritional value. - Oh, we take the calories out of all of our food. Yup. - [Ken] Well, maybe there are a few calories here and there with a dash of cholesterol and a pinch of sodium, but the most beneficial part of eating at the Country Diner is the heart-healthy helping of hugs, smiles and laughs. They're all served in a friendly, down-to-earth, feel-good family atmosphere spiced up by Betty Jo Atkins. - I hug all the married men and I don't speak to the women! Daddy had a hard time with me! He said it was a storm when I was born and it had been a storm ever since. Yup. - Hard to believe our time is up but we got time to tell you about our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org where you can see more Tennessee Crossroads. Of course, follow us on Facebook and join us next week. I'll see you then.
May 16, 2019
Season 32 | Episode 46
On Nashville Public Television's Tennessee Crossroads, we start our adventure with a visit to the Nashville Zoo's veterinary center. Following that, we check into a Memphis mansion turned B&B. Next, we shuffle over to the Storyteller's Museum in Bon Aqua to see Johnny Cash's 'Center of the Universe'. Finally, we stop for a bite at the Country Diner Restaurant in Cunningham.